Providing kids with an alternative to life on the streets of Ishøj

Youth worker Ray Andrews has spent the last 18 years working in the Copenhagen suburb, and he sees a bright future with his latest endeavour, the Erasmus plus program

As a child, Raymond Andrews was one of the first generation of kids to get hooked on computers. And then in 1984, he studied binary programming at an alternative school in California.

For the past 18 years he has been living in Denmark, working mostly at youth clubs in Ishøj where he tries to provide alternatives to the street.

Support not punishment
Things can get a bit rough, like the time Ray’s boss Gunnar locked his motorcycle in the yard and, having heard the alarm go off, went out to see one of the kids driving off on it. It ended up being burnt on the street, but the kid didn’t get into trouble.

“But I don’t know one person that went to prison or got into trouble for burning cars," says Andrews.

"No, that’s not Denmark, Denmark’s really not into consequence or punishment. I come from a society where we went overboard, so I like the idea of creating a system of growth and support instead.”

Optimistic about Erasmus
It can be rewarding work and Andrews is particularly happy about the support he is getting from the government, especially when it comes to sourcing EU funds. 

“The EU provides per National Agency (NA) – every NA should promote, disseminate information and arrange seminars. In Denmark, our national agency is really good.”

Following a long history of support from European Union youth programs (Youth for Europe, Youth in Action), Andrews is now working on two separate applications for funding under the new Erasmus plus program that was launched this year.

A game-changer across Europe
The seven-year program has a budget of 14.7 billion euros (a 40 percent increase on current spending levels) and presents itself as a more comprehensive approach to modernising education, training and youth systems at a national level and increasing transnational partnerships at the same time.

Andrews has high hopes. “The Erasmus+ impact is going to be enormous, it’s going to make changes that will affect all education across the whole of Europe, over the next five or ten years," he enthuses.

"It’s just not established yet, so no-one sees it, but Erasmus+ is the largest public sector budget dealing with the most people on Earth.”

Learning by doing
One of his applications is based on a three-year program called 'strategic partnership', which is supposed to push the ideas of vocational educational training (or rather VET – the EU has a pronounced affinity for acronyms) and allow for more learning-by-doing and workshop-type training to be both organsed and recognised.

“The idea is to establish structures so that young people’s employment improves, so that I can offer these kids jobs when they’re 18, so I can invite speakers and do workshops – on how to do digital CVs for example, how to come up with new innovative ideas, and how to produce them," explains Andrews. 

"We want to have the young kids do these things themselves, so they get some knowledge of the process and it starts to motivate their inner interests, so that they say ‘Hey, how can I become a journalist?’ and then we can help them down that road.”

Journalism as a tool for learning
The journalism example wasn’t arbitrary either. Ray’s second application runs under the non-profit youth association Futurekulture (future culture), which he founded in 1994, and is called ‘Journalism and Web 2.0’.

The idea is to teach young people to do journalistic tasks: taking pictures, writing articles, doing interviews and using the web – in order to adjust their viewpoints of what it is to be a journalist.

According to Andrews being a journalist is essentially about collecting and providing information, so “when kids make memes, or when they’re going on Facebook and writing a story about their day they’re being journalists, even when they’re creating their own version of a structure around information that may have been created by someone else. It’s important that they know that they don’t always have to make it themselves, but that they can still be a part of it.”

Find something and run with it
"Especially at first, they're encouraged to use their personal experiences or base it on other people’s stuff. Writing a 20-word description of an event can be a hard thing to do. I can’t even sometimes get my bosses to do it. I’ll tell the kids: give me 20 words about this event, and they say ‘okay’, but I know I will never get it," Andrews continues.

"So instead I don’t even give them criteria of what they should write. If you’re of Palestinian background and you want to push Palestinian philosophy, go: post pictures, memes, sayings about your hatred of Israel – do SOMETHING, because in the idea of you doing it, you’re going to learn how to use this platform and become more knowledgeable. That’s my interest: to help people become more knowledgeable about using platforms effectively.”


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