Youth work would have given me the support my family and I needed, so now I want to give that support to other young people.

–Cihan Tohumcuer, YSAS

Cihan Tohumcuer (he/him) is a Muslim youth alcohol and other drugs (AOD) outreach worker with Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) through the Muslim Youth, Adult & Families (MYAF) program.

Youth work matters to Cihan because as a practicing Muslim, he wants to give to the community and support young Muslim people through whatever they’re going through.

“Looking back on my younger years growing up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, a lot of my friends and family members were ending up in trouble. Youth work would have given me the support my family and I needed, so now I want to give that support to other young people.”

Cihan uses a strength-based approach, meeting young people where they’re at to set goals and a plan to address issues that are arising.

“Every young person is different, so I like to meet them and have a good few sessions to have a good understanding of what that young person is all about.”

Cihan has seen change in his community in the attitudes towards speaking up about mental health and AOD through youth work.

“We've had quite an impact on the community in terms of bringing this issue up to the surface. And it's like, people are getting more comfortable to talk about it now. And it's okay. So that's definitely something that I think is really important. And we've definitely made an impact on the community.”

As a Muslim youth worker, working with Muslim young people, Cihan uses shared lived experience, shared beliefs and faith as an additional pillar to supporting young people.

Young people definitely feel more comfortable when, if a youth worker is very familiar with their own culture, or their own religion. And it makes them more comfortable to talk about certain things.

–Cihan Tohumcuer, YSAS

“It’s important that the young people I work with know that as a youth worker, they can talk to me not only about drugs and alcohol, but also, our religion and what does our religion teach us about certain topics. It can be helpful reconnecting young people with their faith or reconnecting people their local mosque.”

Cihan has supported Muslim young people for four years now to achieve their own goals.

“I was working with this young person who had, at the age of 14, she was using drugs quite heavily, and involved in high risk criminal activity as well. After some time, working with her to understand her goals, we set-up a support system.

“She re-engaged with school. And she started working about 37 hours a week as well. Now she has stopped using drugs and started saving some money. And she told me that she wants to buy a car and become a real estate agent."

Cihan is proud to be a youth worker, because he can support young people in the Muslim community to shape and create a better life for themselves.

“The more support we can provide for them, the more youth work there is, the better it can be for young people’s future.”

Cihan shared his story as part of YACVic's Youth Work Matters campaign. Find out more about the campaign here.

You can also read stories of how youth work supports young people here.