Egija Cinovska (YMCA Swansea)

During COVID, Egija worked tenaciously to adapt YMCA Swansea’s Young Carers Service and bring support systems online. She implemented a new way of working for herself and her team of youth workers in order to deliver fun and interactive virtual sessions to ensure they were able to have a break from their caring roles and stay connected.  

Egija ensured staff were trained and equipped to deliver activities ranging from one-to-one sessions and group quizzes, to issue-based workshops, and online baking. She also organised, prepared, and delivered activity packs and worked with young carers to start ‘Y-Fit’, a program designed to promote staying active during lockdown. 

Egija continued to raise awareness for young carers by hosting live social media sessions and joining live discussions with Welsh Parliament members to raise the young carers flag. She also worked with young carers to design and launch the Welsh Government National Young Carers I.D Card, as well as working with them to develop a Young Carers Animation that will be used as a tool to help Swansea identify ‘Hidden Young Carers’. 

Additionally, Egija led a group of six young people to represent Wales in the global YMCA Youth-Led Climate Action Summit to develop a new initiative to tackle global issues. She worked above and beyond during lockdown and still powered through, always smiling and delivering the brightness her young carers needed. 

Phil Gray (YMCA Black Country Group) - WINNER

Phil Gray is YMCA Black Country Group’s Christian Mission Coordinator, who despite fears for himself and his family, showed outstanding commitment to staff and service users throughout COVID.  

During lockdown, Phil would travel to each operational site and stand on doorsteps or chat through open windows to check in with everyone, as well as taking the time to phone with every single staff member who had been furloughed. He spent one-on-one time with staff who needed a listening ear and offered support and encouragement to service users who were struggling with isolation, loneliness and frustration. 

Phil also led devotions at Senior Leadership Team Meetings, counselled staff through loss and bereavement and walked a journey to faith with service users. He was instrumental in creating the worship content of the World YMCA global devotions, bringing people together in praise, worship and reflection at such a desperate time, and also reached out to neighbor Worcestershire YMCA when their CEO and Chaplain left to provide spiritual support and advice.  

Whenever someone needs help… Phil is there. He has been a true COVID Community Hero, gone above and beyond and made a significant contribution to the lives of so many! 

Tom Foster (YMCA Burton)

In addition to more than 30 years of dedicated service to YMCA Burton, supporting thousands of clients, customers and colleagues, Tom’s commitment to his community during COVID was exceptional. 

Whether it’s collecting much-needed resources for the foodbank, helping former residents move into new homes or responding to housing providers who had families in crisis, Tom places the safety and interests of those in need at paramount importance.  

During lockdown, Tom supported neighbors and community members who could not get out by fetching shopping for them, as well as doing their gardening and cutting the lawns of several local churches. 

Tom is kind and very generous with his time and knowledge – nothing is ever too much trouble. A hero to his colleagues, family and his community, YMCA Burton is very proud of him.  

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists