UK YCW President Danny Curtin has called on dioceses to develop ways to reach out to the huge numbers of young people living poverty, facing hardship, lacking opportunities and suffering isolation.
The call comes on the day the new 'Get Fair' Campaign is launched, bringing together more than 50 organisations seeking to eradicate poverty by 2020. As a member of the coalition YCW is concerned to draw attention to the plight of hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults living in poverty, and is particularly encouraging the Church to make a special effort over the coming months.
Danny Curtin (29), YCW national president said: "I am constantly shocked at the real level of poverty in the UK. 12.8 million people, by the government's own measuring, live in poverty. That's not just a statistic. It means people don't have enough money to live on. They can't afford to eat properly, stay in education, keep warm in the winter or get access to services which many of us take for granted. This is why its time to get fair in the UK."
"Many people don't even think poverty exists when really it is in every community in the country", Curtin continued. "Young people are in particular risk of getting into poverty. A quarter of all our teenagers do not get even a basic qualification. The unemployment rate is four times higher amongst young adults than other ages and one in five of all young people in their early twenties live in poverty. Every fifth young adult you see is poor. Think about that. That's what the Get Fair campaign wants to address".
Working in East London the YCW is seeing first hand the effects of poverty. Arniel, aged 20, had to leave school at 16 and work two jobs, supplementing his single mother's income, so as to help clothe his younger brother. Mog Harris (27), YCW development worker in East London explains "When we met Arniel he had very little sense of self worth or hope about the future. His confidence was non-existent even though he is such a talented young man. In other circumstances those talents would have already been developed. Instead he was unable to see the bigger picture and the many opportunities which should have been open to him."
The YCW has begun a group with Arniel. Mog continued "Now he is in a YCW group Arniel is slowly being helped to see that he is worth something and can make an incredible difference."
In an article to be published in 'Real Life', the YCW journal, Danny Curtin questions the scope of the outreach the Church makes to young people. "Our Catholic Youth ministry tends to attract a disproportionate number of socially included, financially comfortable, educated young people. For example, I am sure that most of the young adults who went to WYD in Sydney go to university, are there at present, or have already got their degree. They are reflective of the young adults who are active in our parishes. Yet only 39% of young people actually go to university. I don't believe we are engaging the huge numbers of young people struggling in life, suffering real isolation and deprivation. It is time to look at our own work, develop new initiates and get fair about our approach."
In a letter this week to each bishop in England and Wales Danny writes: "I would particularly encourage you to consider how to reach young people like Arniel. A lot of Catholic youth work only attracts the socially included, financially comfortable. In these coming months, as we get fair, we need to develop a preferential option for the isolated and disadvantaged young people of our communities."
Source: YCW, Independent Catholic News