District's young people 'in good hands'

Recently retired youth worker Jim de Thierry, of Alexandra, with a sign from his days working in...
Recently retired youth worker Jim de Thierry, of Alexandra, with a sign from his days working in the area. Photo by Leith Huffadine.
The young people of Central Otago are in good hands, an outgoing youth worker says.

They are well represented in their communities, and their voice is listened to, particularly in Alexandra, where Jim de Thierry (67) worked for more than 12 years.

''I think as long as we have a community like this, and schools like we have, the youth will be well served.

''The youth of today are in good hands, as long as the youth forum is driven and the voice of youth is listened to, that's a strong thing we have in this community.''

Mr de Thierry recently stepped down from his fulltime role as youth worker and was humbled by the turnout to see him off.

''At my farewell, the place was packed. I did not want a fuss, but they said: 'Sorry Jim, you don't have a say in the matter'.

''It's a bit sad in a way, but I have a lot of people wanting me to join their club or committee ... but I'm giving myself a bit of time first.''

Reflecting on his achievements, building the Alexandra Youth Forum into its current state was his biggest success as a youth worker, he said.

''They now report to the [Vincent] community board at all of their meetings, and they get 50-plus youth in the forum each year. They won a recognising excellence award at the national youth awards and two TrustPower awards.''

Examples of work initiated by the group included the Alexandra BMX park, and the artificial turf tennis courts at Pioneer Park, Mr de Thierry said.

His best memories from the job were those of youth attending the forum and watching the forum grow stronger.

The most challenging times came with working on restricted budgets.

''Coming to terms with the changing of the trust's budgets, that at times was very shaky, but with all that it did not deter me, because my passion was to succeed.''

Mr de Thierry did not think young people had changed since he began working with them, but instead their tools for dealing with life had changed. They, and their parents, had to move with the times.

Issues had shifted to those such as cyberbullying. However, the Alexandra community was lucky it was transparent in how it dealt with that problem.

The largest challenge for youth today was a challenge faced by their parents.

''Parents need to nurture their children from day one. The most important nurturing comes from the home.''

Becoming a youth worker was a roundabout path for him.

After a career as a civil engineer took him across the country, then working for Community Integration Services in Central Otago, and gaining tertiary qualifications in civil engineering, consumer sciences and psychology, Mr de Thierry began his youth worker role in 2002.

''I always had a tendency to want to help. It's also about personality. It's good having three daughters and being able to connect with people you are working with.''

After over a decade in the job, he said he had ''lots of ideas for what I want to do now. There are a lots of things to do, I'm writing a book, [and I] want to spend more time with my family.''

Mr de Thierry wanted to thank the people and parents in the Alexandra community.

''Everyone got to know what I was doing and they never turned me down. This community is an amazing community.''

-leith.huffadine@odt.co.nz

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