Community Impact (YMCA Derbyshire) - WINNER

Throughout COVID, YMCA Derbyshire regularly adapted its services to meet the ever- changing and increased needs of young people and their community. In delivering one-on-one support, the team quickly realized that many were struggling with poor mental health, food and digital poverty, loneliness and isolation. 

In response, YMCA Derbyshire created more than 1,000 emergency food parcels for individuals and families in need, as well as cooking and delivering more than 200 warm meals a month for those who could not buy fresh produce due to mental health or financial issues.  

Thanks to fantastic relationships with community members, businesses also donated laptops, mobiles and dongles, which came as a huge relief to so many who would have otherwise been completely isolated with no connection to the outside world.  

In addition, YMCA Derbyshire is fortunate enough to have a Community Connector, whose role is to keep in touch with organisations and individuals in the community and keep everyone engaged, which offered vital support during such a challenging time. 

Exercise Referral (YMCA East Surrey)

YMCA East Surrey’s Exercise Referral sessions enable those with chronic health conditions and disabilities to get active and healthy under the guided supervision of experienced instructors.  

When the pandemic hit, the vast majority of Exercise Referral members were classed as extremely vulnerable and instructed to shield, meaning many were isolated from their family and friends, leaving them at much higher risk of loneliness. In response, YMCA East Surrey quickly set up online Exercise Referral sessions to enable the most vulnerable members to exercise at home. 

While a lot of online physical activity content is widely available, it is mostly pre-recorded and geared towards a more mainstream audience, making the virtual Exercise Referral programme innovative in its approach as it offers those with long term health conditions a personalised approach with live, interactive and targeted classes. Participants gain valuable corrective feedback and are able to develop a personal connection with both the instructor and others taking part. 

YMCA East Surrey launched a full virtual timetable of classes, including seated exercises, Stroke Rehab, Breathe Easy and Cardiac Rehab sessions. In addition, they hosted a number of virtual coffee mornings providing social interaction and extra connection for members. Their 

Exercise Referral team have been able to reach a much wider audience online, receiving 6,051 online attendances from April to February, and even with 50% fewer classes in 2020, monthly attendance figures were only 30% less than 2019. 86% of attendees increased their levels of activity during the pandemic due to the online offering, with 83% also stating that their health had ‘improved’ or ‘greatly improved’ since the online classes were introduced. 

Members have spoken highly of the sessions and how they have helped them both physically and emotionally during these difficult times. 

YMCA SPG Chaplaincy (YMCA St Paul's Group)

YMCA St Paul’s Group Chaplaincy Team have acted as a vital lifeline to YMCA residents, staff, and local community members throughout the pandemic. As a team of just three members of staff they have provided more than 1,250 support sessions throughout the past year.  

These support sessions took place face-to-face and online, supporting residents who felt suicidal, those struggling with severe depression, and those who were dealing with the aftermath of serious incidents. Alongside residents, the team provided one-to-one and group support for staff who were struggling with personal and work-based pressures, and sadly some losses.  

As well as providing support in dark times, the team sought to bring light. Working with the ‘People Team’, they coordinated staff get-togethers, including thank you videos for staff and a virtual Christmas event where staff gathered to chat, share their experiences and compete in activities, including a ‘challenge the CEO’ competition.  

For the wider community, a virtual Choir was launched that sought to connect members of the community who were feeling isolated, lonely or shielding throughout the first lockdown. Using funds donated by Health and Wellbeing members, the virtual choir provided a vital place for 21 people to meet and connect – initially over singing – but soon this expanded to include virtual coffee and chat as the team identified how lonely many of the attendees were. 

Alongside their work across London, the Chaplaincy Team also supported YMCA nationally and internationally, and in Easter 2020 an international challenge was put together with World YMCA connecting more than 40 different countries through an egg-throwing competition. The subsequent video went viral!  

Support was also given to work in England and Wales with coordination of the Founder’s Day services in 2020 & 2021. 

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists