Celebrating Youth Week

Published: May 23, 2024

How young people are being supported by social workers

While youth week provides us with an opportunity to celebrate young people and recognise their talents and strengths, it’s also about acknowledging the work social workers do to support our youth. 

Linda Ange
Linda Sakalia (left) and Ange Beniamin (right) celebrating their graduations.

How Linda Sakalia is supporting young people 

Linda Sakalia is an intake social worker at the National Contact Centre (NCC) in Auckland and receives calls regularly from young people who find themselves in a dark place. 

“I think youth week is about embracing our young people, particularly those who are finding it tough. It’s about knowing who they are and ensuring their voices are being heard.”

31-year-old Linda is of Tongan descent and was born and raised in Mangere and attended an all-girls catholic high school in Ōtahuhu. She graduated with a Bachelor in Applied Social Work and has been a social worker for 6 years. She considers herself lucky because she came from a very strict and structured lifestyle.  

“I’m grateful and thankful for my upbringing. It’s taught me to appreciate what I had as a young person, and it’s something a lot of young people never had so I’ll never take that for granted.” 

When Linda receives calls from young people, she says she’s listened and managed to give them hope and offer them alternatives. 

“I remember giving some advice to one young person who was going through a really rough time. I told them, to go to their local police station for help, so I was so relieved when I received a call from the station to tell me they were there.” 

Youth Week is organised by Ara Taiohi – New Zealand’s peak body for youth development, connecting 3,500 diverse groups and practitioners that work with young people to champion and advocate for issues that affect young people and those who work with them. 

Connecting young people back to where they come from 

26-year-old Social Worker Ange Beniamin attended the same school as Linda and is also an intake social worker who’s passionate about supporting and inspiring the youth she works with. She’s also in the NCC.

“My goal has always been to connect young people back to where they come from, back to their whānau and iwi because I found that lack of connection to their whānau and culture is what drives young people to the wrong pathway.”

Ange started as a social worker in Care and Protection for 2 years and says a lot of the youth she worked with are bored as there was little structure in their homes. 

“If I was to compare it to me, I had structure. With them they do whatever they want because their parents aren’t around so it was important for me to understand their home environment before coming up with solutions.” 

Why the Youth week theme resonates with Ange Beniamin 

The theme for youth week this year is “We may not have it all together but together we have it all.” Ange says the theme resonates with her because of all the work she’s been doing to support young people. 

“I would tell some of the young people hey school isn’t working out for you so let’s look at alternative options like a course. I remember seeing one young person go into carpentry and they just thrived and got themselves into a routine leaving their offending life behind so that’s why I think the theme this year is important.”