Responding to #BLM Group (Central (Midlands) Region of YMCAs)

The ‘Responding to #BLM Group’ was set up in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, on 25th May 2020, and the reverberations of pain felt in Black communities throughout the world and within our YMCAs. 

Listening to the voices of Black staff and service users and trying to make sense of the phenomena responding to the #BLM call to action, a group of like-minded staff from six central-region based YMCAs formed a working group with the intention of creating structural change within the Region. 

The Responding to #BLM Group is in itself not a ‘quick fix’. Participants have committed to work together for up to two years to bring about real change, with a carefully constructed and gender-balanced group of six participants, one from each YMCA (Black Country, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Heart of England, North Staffordshire and Worcestershire).  

Building trust, understanding and learning from shared experiences were essential elements of this group’s formation, which holds great importance in being open, honest and vulnerable, and sharing language and ideas in a non-judgmental, supportive group.  

Since its formation, the group has produced a term of reference and a work programme, both of which are now endorsed by Regional CEO Colleagues. 2021/22 priorities include facilitating a range of Diversity / Unconscious Bias training programmes for regional CEO’s and Chairs, promoting trustee Diversity Champions across all regional Boards, and conducting an equality and diversity perception survey within regional staff teams. 

This nomination of the Responding to #BLM Group is a statement of intent, a work in progress and an intentional encouragement to get serious about diversity. 

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (YMCA Trinity Group) - WINNER

The focus of UASC is to support Asylum Seekers across Ipswich between the ages of 16-21. Ipswich is a diverse town, but a divide still exists between locals who have been there for years and those who have moved from other countries. 

The team working on UASC dedicate their time to making sure that any young people coming into the country feel as welcome as possible. Integrating into any new community is challenging, but entering into a whole new culture, where the community don’t even speak your own language is extremely difficult.  

To help ease this transition, session are run on building independence, with topics covering everything from cooking and cleaning, to driving lessons and mock interviews.  

Because UASC’s young people come from all walks of life and many different countries, the team work hard to identify the best ways to communicate with them individually, as well as helping them to connect with places of worship and any community ties that may already exist. One of the most rewarding things for the team to see is their young people mixing with other young people from different backgrounds and breaking down cultural barriers.  

The UASC team fight for their young people and empower them to fight against hate and cultural differences. 

Yippee & Yip4Youth Disability Clubs (YMCA East Surrey)

Yippee (age 5-11) and YipYouth (age 12-18) are YMCA East Surrey’s play and youth clubs for children with disabilities and complex needs. The clubs provide a stimulating, welcoming and safe environment for children to play and make friends whilst also benefiting families by giving them a break from often demanding caring responsibilities and time to spend with other siblings one-to-one.  

Yippee & Yip4Youth offer peace of mind to parents through trained and high staff ratios and bespoke care plans. Activities are tailored and aim to promote social interaction, with each day having a different theme, whether that be arts and crafts, cooking, magic or swimming. In 2019/20, the schemes provided more than 39,000 hours of care to 405 children. 

Throughout the pandemic, the team stepped up to support families during each lockdown. Family life stuck at home can be tough, but with a child with disabilities, it can be even more isolating. Staff provided hours of online content through videos on the YMCA East Surrey Short Breaks Facebook page, ranging from story time to science experiments – plus a virtual tour of the popular YMCA minibuses – which to date has been viewed more than 550 times.  

Staff also hosted live online events for children to attend and interact with each other, delivered more than 250 activity packs to children at home, and even assisted with getting medication to some children when that became a challenge for families. 

Feedback from these online activities was overwhelmingly positive.  

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists