SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Exploring Youth Work Practice and the Mobility of Young People

Photo is by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town

The journey of young migrants into South Africa is one defined by challenges, resilience, and the pursuit of a better life. At the heart of this journey is the vital link between youth work practice and the mobility of these young people. “Strengthening Youth Work Practice for Children on the Move in South Africa,” published by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, is an invaluable resource that offers powerful insights into their care and support. Some of the contents of this resource include: 

Unpacking the Journey of Young Migrants

Hundreds of thousands of young people from across Africa migrate to South Africa every year, often escaping conflict and instability in search of opportunity and security. Yet, their path is marked by the loss of crucial relationships, disruptions to their sense of safety and identity, and the complexities of adapting to a new country with limited resources. As they navigate this journey, they also face the challenges of adolescence, marked by physical and emotional changes.

Lawrence House

Lawrence House seeks to provide a haven for unaccompanied migrant children and separated refugee minors. Since its inception in 2005, Lawrence House has offered therapeutic services to help these young individuals overcome the traumas they've endured.

Guided by Maslow's Wisdom

Lawrence House's approach is rooted in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, starting with the most fundamental physiological and safety needs. By providing these essentials, they aim to restore dignity and stability to the lives of these young migrants.

Cultural Connection and Healing

Recognizing the importance of culture and language, Lawrence House allows young people to cook their own food and speak their language, fostering a sense of belonging and familiarity. The institution also practices trauma-informed care, shifting the focus to what the individual has experienced with the goal being to heal and rebuild attachments.

Empowering Self-Actualization

Lawrence House empowers young migrants toward self-actualization. They facilitate access to resources, promote the sense of power and strength in young people, and encourage them to explore their talents and make decisions. The aim is to transform these young individuals into active agents of their lives, helping them reach their full potential.

The Impact of Documentation

The uncertainty stemming from a lack of proper documentation can profoundly impact self-esteem and motivation of young migrants. Lawrence House actively engages with young people on this issue, promoting transparency and trust while advocating for their best interests.

Key Insights and Ongoing Growth

Lawrence House's journey reflects continuous growth in its approach to supporting migrant children and youth. Key lessons include shifting the focus from mere care and protection to dignity, development, and growth, as well as empowering young people to make decisions for themselves.

The experience of Lawrence House as documented in “Strengthening Youth Work Practice for Children on the Move in South Africa” underscores the critical role of youth work practice in providing young individuals with the care, support, and opportunities they need to heal, grow, and thrive. 

To learn more about fostering a sense of safety, belonging, and resilience for young migrants, access this resource at:


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