Just like most twenty-somethings, I use my phone for pretty much everything. The only time it’s  off is when I’m at work.  About a year ago, my work took me to an inner-city school. Each student there had gone through one or several traumatic experiences. Due to the way trauma affects young minds, the school emphasised relationship building through activities. One activity I’ll always remember was building popsicle stick bridges. As a childcare worker, my job is to make sure the kids pumped about the activity. But that day, motivating them was difficult. You see, some of these kids had not only dealt with passed trauma but were currently facing situations beyond their control. They were struggling with anxiety and just the thought of doing this project was stressful. And since I’m not too great with my hands either, this was going to be challenging for us all.

Although this situation happened a while ago, I still struggle to build bridges. I look at the kids I work with; I am in awe of their willingness to just be kids no matter what life throws at them. I’m also aware that they’re battling anxiety, depression, trauma, or thoughts of suicide. I find myself questioning how I can build a bridge to reach them. How can I offer hope when they’ve so often been let down? What does it mean to extend love when they fear rejection? How do I create a safe place for them when they constantly have their guard up?

It’s amazing what you can learn from being stuck in a room full of popsicle sticks and unmotivated teenagers. I learned that building popsicle stick bridges is a lot like creating space for deeper conversations. Here’s what kids have taught me about building bridges to reach them:

Building Bridges Requires Patience

Architectural masterpieces don’t just happen overnight and neither do trusting relationships. Building safe environments for kids who have faced trauma  requires time and patience. It’s easy for us to feel discouraged when relationships don’t develop as fast as we want them to.  Still, we must learn to accept that some things in life have no shortcuts. If we want to build profound relationships and extend love towards kids, we must remember that love is patient. It can take lots of time for those who have been disappointed to build the courage to trust again.

Building Bridges Requires Investment 

My job involves playing with kids all day. That’s because playing with teens is a form of investment. When you meet with a kid to play basketball, talk about video games, help with math homework or eat pizza, you’re demonstrating that you value them enough to invest time into them.  My work with traumatised youth can become physically and emotionally draining. Still, after a long day, I never regret taking time to show kids that they are people worth knowing.  In a world where teens long to feel valued, it can be life-changing for them  to encounter people willing to invest into their lives.

Bridges are meant to be crossed

All teens have questions and are searching for answers. I’ve described my work with youth who have faced trauma but these principles can apply to all those struggling with anxiety. If you’ve patiently built relationships and invested into them, kids may see you as a safe person to talk to. When kids feels secure enough to vocalise their pain, our responsibility is to listen and point them towards hope. This means taking that first step across the bridge and having deeper conversations through Voke.

Building bridges towards any teenager requires patience, investment, and initiative to talk about issues. What if I told you that Voke is the tool that perfectly embraces these principles? Voke requires that I take time to watch a video, send it, and wait for a response.  Seeing this app on my phone is a daily reminder of the importance of investing in a life other than my own. And the follow-up questions provided in the app allow me to initiate deeper conversations. It is for these reasons that Voke is a tool of great value for those wanting to meaningfully engage with youth.

On that stressful day in the classroom, the question running through my mind was, “Lord, how am I ever gonna help these kids build bridges?” I believe that Voke is part of the answer to that question. When you’ve patiently built relationships with youth, relationships you’ve invested in, all that’s left is for you to share a message that matters.

Friends, now is the time to build bridges towards youth. Now is the time to start using the Voke app!

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