Identifying problems before they cannot be addressed helps us build sustainable African youth organisations, girls’ clubs and youth work.

Some strategies that may help prevent burnout,and vicarious and secondary trauma include:

  • Actively managing and reducing a youth worker’s responsibilities.
  • Talking to team members or a supervisor on a regular basis could be a mentoring or coaching activity.
  • Taking breaks in between mentees or other activities.
  • Be mindful of your own trauma history and how it may interact with your clients’ trauma.
  • Seeking treatment, such as counselling, for a personal history of trauma.
  • Practising good self-care, including taking lunch breaks, getting adequate sleep, and carving out spare time for hobbies, friends, and family. Establishing good work-life boundaries, such as not taking work calls at home, or only designating a certain number of hours a week to volunteering in the youth club.

Supportive Youth Organisations

An important part of your training and supervision of youth workers, whether staff or volunteers, must be to tell them to speak up if they, their supervisors or colleagues feel that they are overwhelmed: 

  • Their training should clarify that there is no shame in being exhausted from your work, even if these incidents are very common.
  • They should be clear about who to speak to if they are experiencing any of the symptoms above.
  • They should know that they can ask for help, a break if needed, or a reduction or change of tasks.
  • Youth workers could be encouraged to discuss their challenges in this area, and a group discussion could be facilitated.
  • Self-care should not be seen as self-indulgence. If we truly value people, this includes our youth workers and the young people we work with.
  • Encourage staff to take breaks during the day.
  • Direct people to useful resources, such as:

Reflection Questions

  1. Reflect on the content above. How many of these already happen in your organisation?
  2.  What can you do to provide better support to your youth workers or better care for your own needs?
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