Amber and her key workers

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.

Clotilda Tigere, YMCA Black Country Group

Clotilda moved to the UK from her native Zimbabwe to live with her mother and Step-father when she was 15. She had previously lived with her grandmother and didn’t speak any English.

Clotilda was abused in the family home and Children’s Services became involved. She was referred to YMCA for emergency Nightstop accommodation when she was 16 years old and taking her GCSEs. Clotilda was placed with one of our Host families in the community. She was a very quiet girl who had no confidence. She moved from her emergency Host to a Supported Lodgings Host (again in the community). Gradually she started to grow in confidence, she secured a place at a local college and things were going well until she started to see her mum and decided to move back in with her own family.

During this time, her college grades dropped. Clotilda said it wasn’t long before the abuse began again and she was referred back to YMCA. She was placed with another Host family and since then, she has turned her life around. Her grades at college improved and in September, she will be going to Keele University to read medicine. In her spare time, Clotilda has joined a local street dance group and she has also joined YMCA’s 175 Choir. She has represented the Open Door project on a visit to Parliament and she volunteered for a week on a street-kids project in Marrakech.

Selfie of Jess

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 2018 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.

Joel Musa, YMCA Thames Gateway

Joel is a young carer. He is 18 years old and lives in an area known for anti-social behaviour and regularly exposed to and at risk of becoming involved in gang activity.

Aged 12, Joel discovered YMCATG’s youth club. As well as being a safe space to spend time with friends it was a great place to escape the daily stresses of being a young carer. It was also reassuring for his mum to know that Joel was in a safe place rather than out on the streets.

With the support of youth workers Joel engaged in a range of physical activities and soon realised a passion for football. Recognising his passion and potential for development, youth workers encouraged Joel to lead on a project which gave young people the opportunity to engage in free activities. Activities included basketball, cycling, climbing and football.

Joel took a lead on the football sessions. Being a respected member of the youth club, it wasn’t long before his peers became involved and started to recognise their own potential. Joel was also instrumental in developing the youth club’s League Cup, a tournament which is now a regular fixture at the club.

Up until this point Joel paid little regard to his health. He has epilepsy and has on a number of occasions been hospitalised with serious complications. Joel’s health improved as a consequence of being able to focus on his health through diet and exercise.

Joel has dyslexia and while he sometimes struggles, doesn’t let this or anything else hold him back. He recently led a discussion on the importance of youth work for BBC Radio and proved to be a confident and effective communicator as well as a great advocate for YMCA.

Joel is now studying Sports Science, with the aim of going onto university. He is still a regular at the youth club but in a voluntary capacity. As a young person that others aspire to, and with a passion for sports that he is keen to share, Joel is a real asset to the youth club.

Photo of Jordan with three small children

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.

selfie of Twinkle

Twinkle Huggins, City YMCA

Twinkle Huggins has come so far on her journey to becoming a very influential young woman at City YMCA; she has embraced many opportunities including acting as a spokesperson and representative for her fellow City YMCA residents by encouraging them to make democratic votes and to challenge views to bring change for future policies and procedures within City YMCA.

As an inner city girl from St. Lucia, Castries, Twinkle has faced homelessness, and survived the struggles of her past in relation to domestic violence. Twinkle has lost a number of family members to cancer; her Mum passed away when Twinkle was just 4 years old, her Grandmother at 8, she also lost her Dad to the disease. She does not see herself as an orphan but a survivor of life and has remained strong to pursue her dreams.

Twinkle has many talents including as a freelance beautician and wants to make a career for herself in the UK as a British citizen. She has had many challenges surrounding this but this has not let this stop her making the best out of her life and what she strives to do. She has achieved many goals by being persistent in her dreams on her journey to independence.

Twinkle has been highly commended at City YMCA for her involvement in our Investing in Young People & Foyer Discussions. Also being involved in embedding the future frameworks of Psychological Informed Environment. Twinkle has used her own personal experience to help other young people grow and feel empowered to make positive changes to their lives. The Housing Team at Monarch Court are very proud of Twinkle.

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