Florence, YMCA DownsLink Group – WINNER

Florence was nominated for this award by her peers at YMCA Right Here. She has shown an extraordinary level of commitment to tackling stigma and raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing across Brighton, Sussex, and the UK.

As a YMCA Right Here volunteer, Florence (known as Floss) has designed and delivered a number of impactful workshops for schools on issues like exam stress, social media, and help-seeking.

As well as sharing her story with local schools, Florence was an integral part of the #IAMWHOLE campaign launch sharing her message on national platforms like the BBC and appearing in the campaign’s music video with Jordan Stephens. Florence continues to be involved with #IAMWHOLE, bravely sharing her story publicly in preparation for the 2017 campaign.

Florence’s flair for public speaking and passion for fighting stigma, along with her appearances on television and lead role in the school performance of Billy Elliot, have seen her become a leader and role model at her school, where she has been involved in founding a peer-to-peer mental health support group.

Gabe, YMCA Swansea – FINALIST

When Gabe first came to YMCA, we were met with a quiet and shy young man. He was facing challenges with his gender and sexuality, which led him feeling discriminated against and bullied in school. As a result, he isolated himself and had difficulty with low self-confidence.

However, over the last two years Gabe has continued to grow, develop and shine through his involvement in YMCA. Determined to help others, he has been volunteering five days a week over the past year, campaigning for LGB, Transgender and Hate Crime awareness. After thorough research, Gabe developed and wrote his own materials/resources in an effort to deliver LGB and Tran’s awareness workshops in local schools at PSE lessons and assemblies.

Gabe has also been responsible for delivering a Hate Crime workshop to schools in Swansea on behalf of the Hate Crime Team in South Wales Police, lobbied on behalf of LGBT+ rights and introduced a number of young people to the wider LGBT+ community.

Thanks to Gabe’s influence, other young people have been given the confidence to come out as LGBT+ and given them a safe space to ask questions free of judgement.

Gerald, YMCA England & Wales – FINALIST

Gerald became a Youth Ambassador while working at YMCA Coventry & Warwickshire, and though he left his post in August 2016 to move to London, he has remained avidly involved with our work nationally and internationally.

As a YMCA Youth Ambassador Gerald advocates on behalf of YMCA, and the young people it serves. He has been heavily involved with YMCA Europe’s Youth Empowerment Space group (YES), ensuring young people’s voices are heard at YMCA Europe’s General Assembly, and have a say in the governance structure of YMCA as a whole.

He is currently a member of YMCA Europe’s Youth Policy Group where he has been a part of drafting position papers for the organisation’s stance on certain issues. On behalf of YMCA he has engaged with advocacy work with the European Youth Forum and sits on World YMCA’s Global Resource Team for Health.

Gerald is an avid campaigner for youth issues and YMCA’s work as a vehicle for change. Currently, he is working with YMCA England & Wales’ policy and research team engaging other international YMCA movements to roll out the #IAMWHOLE anti-stigma mental health campaign globally.

Connie, YMCA DownsLink Group

In addition to her job in the CVS sector working with vulnerable communities, Connie uses her free time to speak out against mental health stigma and volunteer at the YMCA Right Here project.

Connie has been one of the key faces of the #IAMWHOLE Campaign, and appeared in national and local news sharing her story of recovery and stigma.

As a young, passionate campaigner, Connie has worked with YMCA Right Here to help schools, doctors surgeries, and other community organisations better understand stigma, and how this might impact engagement.

Connie has been very active on social media, tirelessly pushing and promoting the #IAMWHOLE campaign alongside the rest of her volunteering work, and attended our school events as a facilitator and role model.

Connie also raised an impressive sum for YMCA through the Sleep Easy 2017 campaign., After spending the night sleeping in a car park, Connie eagerly shared her experience on local morning radio the following day.

We’ve nominated Connie for her bravery, and willingness to share her story in order to encourage other young people to ask for help if they need it. Connie has had a local and national impact with her work this year.

Tom, YMCA Milton Keynes

From the day Tom became a resident at YMCA Milton Keynes he had a deep desire to help others who, like himself, experienced homelessness. In November 2016, he formulated a project to acquire a double decker bus fitted out to provide affordable, temporary accommodation for the growing number local street homeless.

In less than eight months Tom has raised more than £30,000 and formed a charity with a group of trustees drawn from the wider community. He sits on the Milton Keynes Homelessness Partnership, alongside representatives from the local authority and other key organisations.

He has inspired a number of other residents to take an active role in the project.

Having seen a converted former tour bus on eBay he initiated a discussion with the owners and negotiated a deal. The bus arrived in Milton Keynes in April. He is now in the process of getting The Bus Shelter MK ready for use this Autumn. Uniquely, it will also be able to accommodate companion dogs – rather than separating them from their owners.

He has gained extensive media coverage, visits from local dignitaries and visits to events – including an invitation to The Speaker’s House to advocate on behalf of the homeless.