The role of group action in street work

Edwin de Boevé et Philippon Toussaint, 2012

As part of work with street children, group and community-based action has increasingly developed over the past twenty years, both in Vietnam and other countries of South East Asia. The setting up of shelters for young people in dire need of care and guidance requires the
joint organisation of a common life as well as group activities in order to improve their living environment. For young people in high risk street situations, group action constitutes a way of opening up a meeting place, for sharing experiences and social integration, through
sporting, artistic and cultural activities as well as through socio-professional learning and social empowerment. These activities are held regularly or during major events. Seldom do group activities fulfil only one goal. Learning magic tricks, taking part in a hip hop
dance group, working in sewing workshops, producing artwork (painting, sand drawings, etc.). These kinds of group activities pursue not only an educational goal, pleasure and social integration, but also have therapeutic attributes: soothing stress, mental and physical suffering, aggression, improving self confidence and trust in others.

As for group actions carried out in public areas or in the street, this is a specific street work method for coming into contact with young people, in particular those who do not come out of their shells. We don’t force anybody to do anything; there is no obligation and no rules. The mere presence of young people in and around the activity is enough. If they are wary, if they watch us, that’s normal! If they do not want to be part of the team yet, it doesn’t matter! If they do not feel comfortable, give them time. The group must be patient and respect the
principles of approach: the group remains available and waits for the right moment when a connection is made between the young person and the street workers. In practice, Vietnamese street workers are not concerned about methodology; they act according to the principles they have acquired through experience, principles which are shared in other countries of the world, as we can see in this publication.

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