Amber smiles in front of a dark grey background

Amber Howard-Jones, YMCA Exeter

Amber has lived at YMCA Exeter for the past two years. During this time, we have witnessed her work exceptionally hard to overcome her drug addiction, so that she can fully engage with mental health services and beat her personality disorder.

Amber’s background is extremely broken, and she experienced many different kinds of abuse as a child. Before coming to the YMCA, Amber even spent time rough sleeping because it was safer than her living at home. She knew she needed mental health support, but she also knew she needed someone to champion her to accept it, and that’s why she decided to come to YMCA. In the first few months Amber was nearly evicted several times, for anti-social behaviour but as she kept demonstrating determination to make changes to the life we kept offering her the support she needed.

Amber has now been drug-free for 18 months and is engaging really well with mental health services, self-harming less and reacting well to challenging situations with the adequate level of emotion.

Day to day Amber uses her love for art, not only as positive coping mechanism for mental health, but also to create mental health awareness posters around the residential centre, as she really wants to help other residents to have a more positive life experience. She also recently took part in our anti-loneliness project, helping other residents to overcome loneliness by creating a team to refurbish our communal kitchen.

Amber is still beginning her journey of recovery but is making such long strides, that we want to celebrate her exceptional achievement.

Jessica smiles in front of a pink background

Jessica Whelan, YMCA Cardiff

Jess is a young carer for her mother, father and older sister. Jess is the primary carer dealing with issues of mental health, challenging behaviour, eating disorder and substance misuse.

The family have in the last year been involved with Children’s and Adult services and have received police intervention. Jess has been a rock to her family and has struggled to maintain her own social and educational goals while caring for her family emotionally and practically. In the last year Jess has continued with her caring role, completed a level 3 in Health and Social, secured 2 part time jobs and been successful in securing herself a university place commencing in September in Child Nursing. Jess is a role model to our young carers and her peers proving you can overcome most things and endure heartache and be unselfish and still achieve and succeed.

Jordan smiles in front of a yellow background

Jordan Everard, YMCA North Staffordshire

Jordan first came to YMCA North Staffordshire in 2015 but only stayed a short while. As a young teenager in the care system, Jordan found it difficult and by his own admission would often find himself in trouble.

In 2018, Jordan returned to YMCA following a difficult two years as he had unfortunately lost both his job and his accommodation. He was very nearly sent to prison. However, Jordan was keen to make lasting changes to his life. On moving back in, he quickly engaged with his Personal Development Coach. Working together, they developed clear goals to get his life back on track. As a result of his commitment and hard work, Jordan is now thriving. In his own words, Jordan says: “I now feel like a totally different person. I look back at where I was this time last year and now and I see a totally different me. I feel focused and driven and I am so grateful to YMCA North Staffordshire for believing in me and helping to give me a second chance”.

Jordan has achieved so much in the past year. He founded YMCA North Staffordshire’s first football team, casting aside anyone’s doubts about his commitment by helping the team to reach the finals in their first two competitions. He also started to volunteer with our maintenance team and engaged with BBC Radio Stoke’s ‘Make A Difference’ project where with other young people he secured the support of donors to create a new outside patio area. He then volunteered in the café and developed his baking skills which are now legendary across the organisation! This passion led to Jordan being offered a position within the catering team. Other key achievements include volunteering within a Roma Camp where he and others helped build facilities for a community which has so little.