Whalley youth worker’s inspirational tale

Whalley-based youth worker Mel Diack MBE
Whalley-based youth worker Mel Diack MBE

Whalley-based youth worker Mel Diack gave an excellent informal talk to Pendleside Probus club on “Young People”.

His talk proved uplifting and even emotional as he took his audience through his first encounter with a group of youngsters in the early hours of the morning, as they were trying to break into and destroy his car.

He didn’t shout, but just asked them what they were doing and why.

Years later, when recalling the incident, the ringleader said they didn’t attack him as it was the first time they had ever been asked a question like that so quietly.

Mel continued the conversation, finding out why they behaved in this way and heard tales of rejection at home, exclusion from youth clubs, boredom and frustration.

He then found out what they wanted and needed and discussed the answers with the police, schools and youth services.

It was clear that all these organisations were sympathetic, but unable to help for many reasons.

These included rigid rules, no doubt formulated with good intentions, but they were making them unable to help “problem” teenagers.

Mel felt he had to do something and that was to set up his own organisation.

No set rules; contact in the evenings and night-time when the professionals had gone home – and especially in the school holidays when they were away on their own holidays.

He too often found parents and grandparents of little help.

One father considered prison was a rite of passage and one mother wanted her daughter to follow her footsteps by getting pregnant at 13.

He then turned to the Army, perhaps slightly controversially.

The physical training and adventure was useful, but more importantly was the companionship and mutual trust and reliance.

Against this background, many of his young people discovered that they had all kind of talents, reinforcing their confidence.

Others learnt to control their aggression by joining a boxing club, still others gained self-confidence by playing a musical instrument or learning to drive responsibly at an early age.

In due course, his organisation – now called Clitheroe Youth Forum – gained many awards, both honorary and financial to broaden its work. Mel was himself recognised and awarded the MBE for his remarkable achievements, but with his typical modesty he glossed over this.

l Pendleside Probus welcomes new members and invites anyone interested to try the club without commitment.

Go along to any meeting at around 10am. During the summer these are on the first Wednesday of the month. To find out more, phone Secretary Barry Stubbs on 01282 771962.

The club meets at the Pendle Forest Sports Club at Fence, just off the by-pass.