I’m Yousif Tamim and I have been part of the Streetwork team as a youth worker in the Barnardos Sydney Metro Youth Centre for 3 months. At Streetwork, we connect with vulnerable and homeless young people at risk of drug and alcohol abuse and help them overcome different challenges they’re facing.
I’m originally from South Sudan but moved to Egypt and then eventually to Australia to escape war. Life was very hard in Sudan and my parents were scared that we would be made to fight in the war so they sold what they could to get us passports as quickly as possible. I’m very grateful to be living in a wonderful place that’s safe and free. Now, I want to give back to the country that we now call home.
I remember coming to Australia without knowing a word of English so we would learn by catching the train so we could listen to people talk. As a child growing up, I was always drawn to helping people. I helped in a church, volunteered as a bilingual worker because I speak multiple languages (Arabic, Denka, Farsi, Swahili etc.) and worked as a youth worker for 13 years organising camps and workshops for migrant kids to help them settle in the community.
When I joined Barnardos, I immediately felt like I was amongst family. The first people I met were Zoe, Chantelle and Vik, who were so warm and welcoming. I feel so fortunate to work in a supportive and collaborative environment, while being able to do something I have so much passion for. The kids we work with struggle with serious issues like joblessness, homelessness, family problems, trauma, and anxiety at such a young age with no one to turn to for help. People assume that they can’t be helped because they’re violent or always in trouble. Because of this, they lose all hope for the future, and turn to drugs, alcohol, and violence to cope.
We know that these young people don’t usually look for help so we would have to go to places where they normally hang out to just try to start a conversation – be it shopping malls, alleyways, parks, and even graveyards. The common phrases we hear from these young people are: ‘I feel trapped’, ‘I have no one’, ‘no one cares’ and ‘life’s too hard so what’s the point’.
What inspires me to get up every day is being able to see big and positive changes in the young people that we support. We will help them with whatever they need with no judgement. If they’re homeless, we’ll help them find a place to stay. If they’re falling behind in school, we’ll provide counselling and educational support. We’ll even teach them the safe and right way to use syringes. They know they can call us anytime and we’ll be there for them. Since Barnardos has a very good reputation, we are also called by schools, parents, and the police to help young people that need support.
Young people are our future and I’m very proud to be part of a respected organisation that does the vital work of guiding young people towards the right path. I see all of us in Barnardos as fingers that make up a hand. Each finger has a different shape and length – they can’t do much alone but when we (the fingers) work together as a hand, we can do anything.