Some years ago I took a job at a Christian Youth Nonprofit to address unemployment issues of the young disenfranchised who were school dropouts, street gangs or addicts in and out of correctional facilities in Taiwan. It was very difficult to get traditional employers to hire them and even they did the quit rates were high within days or weeks. The kids found those jobs boring and unbearable but they loved computers. INTEL had funded a computer center at a youth center and the kids there even won INTEL’s global youth art contest. I worked out with the social workers and computer director at the center to start a photo digitization service business targeting churches, in particular seniors who have the money, time and desire to preserve their fading photos in albums. We all thought the idea was very promising. My superior insisted our role was in securing government funding for the centers, the social workers or computer director wanted me to lead the project and insisted on their professional expertise is not running a youth business. But graffiti contests were on my superior’s top agenda.
I had a similar experience working on a project on ethnic care giving in US. Transportation and bilingual ethnic caregiver referral service were crucial unfulfilled needs from my research findings but my superior wanted to shoot a video to show caregivers how to push wheelchairs properly.
This Danish movie about a boy and his family harassed by an abusive principal is difficult to imagine in a more developed country even a few decades ago. The boy’s aspiration of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” also surprised me. I remembered a Norwegian in his late teens at a Thai Forest Monastery in England. He told me he was an addict in street gangs before he started reading Lao Tzu and then went onto Buddhist soul searching. It humbled me because I did not really understand Lao Tzu’s teachings then.
Youth and ethnic communities are difficult to work with. They may have become disenfranchised by injustice and discrimination. The anger, hatred and despair or their nature are often ignored when administrators have their own agendas.
To do good we cannot force our good on others but we need to feel good about what we want to do as well. Bring out the good and charm of the disenfranchised youth!
“Forcing things to happen will lead to danger” (Chuang Tzu)