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Meet the family: Josh Vossen, Hamilton Street Youth Work Coordinator

Josh Vossen is Zeal Hamilton’s Street Youth Work Coordinator, Office Manager, and dad. We had a chat to him about youth work, self care and the future of the SYW project in Hamilton.

How did you first get involved with Zeal?

Josh: I applied to manage Zeal’s Street Youth Work launch in Hamilton in October 2016. I was in a little bit of a worn out and tired mental state but Matt & Lehi saw enough in me to give me the chance to take the new project forward which I am forever grateful for. Zeal was the perfect place to find myself again and outwork my passion for youth and leading change.

What does your typical day at Zeal look like?

Josh: An hour of peace and quiet before everyone trickles in. A coffee, bread, or a cream donut for breakfast. From there it’s a mixture of borderline jokes, hassling Lehi, deep and meaningfuls, singing, screaming, and complaining about receipts. I juggle both the Street Youth Work gig and Office Management, so balancing both keeps me pretty reactionary most of the time. I try and play Dad somewhat, supporting everyone and just doing what needs doing to achieve the vision while keeping things awkwardly light-hearted.

What do you do in your spare time?

Josh: Finishing off a Bachelor’s degree currently in my spare time alongside Zeal which has been a juggle, so excited to finish that at the end of the year. I’m happy chilling at home watching sport or getting out and playing one. Rachael & I involve in a C3 church plant in Cambridge and she enjoys adventures so we pop here and there with a camera from time to time.

What are the plans for Street Youth Work for the remainder of the year?

Josh: SYW has largely been a little isolated from Zeal as we get out in the community with disconnected young people. With some changes in our local context we have the opportunity to reshape its application to be a little bit more Zeal-centric which I’m excited about. We’ll continue to respond to community needs and events on weekends, while also putting more energy into the afterschool CBD environment during weekdays. I see it as Zeal with shoes on so can’t wait to take it to more Hamilton young people.

What do you think is the biggest barrier for young people connecting to their community?

Josh: Young people are inherently responsive to good things, they’re hungry for belonging, for purpose, for identity, and acceptance. The issue is communities don’t also communicate or embody these things toward young people, rather they’d viewed as problems, who’s contribution is controlled and minimized. Organisations like Zeal are vital in building the bridge between community and young people, and SYW illustrated how you can change feelings of disconnection into tangible belonging to a space or community.

What’s some advice you would pass on to someone wanting to work with youth?

Josh: Humility; to know your strengths and to know your weaknesses; understanding yourself is the greatest tool in life, it unlocks your amazing and unique strengths and minimizes the risk you’ll get in the way of progress. Servitude; to remove your own aspirations and identity from the task at hand and respond solely to the needs of others. Courage; to lead young people with conviction and clarity toward the vision of a better future you carry.

How do you go about making connections with young people on the street?

Josh: As a team we’ve just tried to use tools that different young people can identify with. We don’t take ourselves too seriously which helps young people relate to us, and the best youth work starts with team chemistry so we’ve focussed on that too. Personally, I’ve had to find my own ‘crutch’ that I can rely on as a tool for connection; no matter how tough things get I can always practice my dribble or tell a bad joke. Fundamentally it’s just about getting over yourself for the sake of the vision; get over fear, insecurity, embarrassment, and embrace what you need to be for the young person.

What’s your number one self-care tip?

1a. Understanding how our strengths can be a vice if not managed well. I’m responsible, but this is not helpful if I’m constantly burdened by it.
1b. Maintain a healthy perspective. We are so much more than our work; we are husbands, sons, mothers, friends, so investing in ourselves and those around us beyond our working environments enriches our lives.