Gabriel, YMCA Birmingham – WINNER

Gabriel came to YMCA Birmingham in November 2016 as a young resident due to fractured relationships at home.

Since living at YMCA he has continuously tried to improve the day-to-day lives of other young people that live there, inspiring others to achieve their full potential.

He is now a motivational speaker, visiting schools to encourage young people to improve their lives. Gabriel passionately advocates for homeless young people.

When he found out about proposed cuts to funding that would directly affect him and his peers he took it upon himself to write an emotive open letter to the Council in response to their consultation.

Gabriel is not only engaged in wider political debates effecting young people, but he also represents YMCA tenants at board meetings and actively seeks to improve the service and the accommodation that is offered.

He has used his entrepreneurial attributes and charm to independently source and nurture partnerships with training providers, local businesses for healthy meal boxes for residents, and sourced music hubs for therapeutic development.

He has made an outstanding contribution to improving the service that young people receive and encouraging them to belong, contribute and thrive.

Shay, YMCA North Tyneside – FINALIST

Shay, 14-years-old, was a shy young leader who initially got involved in the board of local community project ‘Big Local’ where £1 million pounds of Lottery Funding is spent transforming a local area over a 10 year period, based on a locally decided action plan.

YMCA North Tyneside were engaged to deliver this programme to provide meaningful youth activities. Shay represents the views of young people and contributes to the action plan of where money is spent. Shay is the youngest person in the country to be on a Big Local board. He has a mature approach, a desire to represent young people and to consult young people on ways forward, in a local area that feels neglected.

Shay’s involvement has resulted in developing gateway signs, transformation of the basketball court and new youth activities. All these projects involved a great number of young people and were delivered over a long sustained period. He represents the board at events, received an award for the project and attended the Big Local Digital Film awards celebration in Birmingham.

Jerahl, YMCA North Staffordshire – FINALIST

Jerahl started as a part-time volunteer at YMCA North Staffordshire, where he now works full-time. He has been instrumental in connecting and supporting young people into new and exciting opportunities that many people simply take for granted.

He has led everything from music workshops to residential trips, sports activities to work placements. Put simply, people look up to Jerahl.

Jerahl has led focus groups, conducted telephone interviews, and liaised with youth agencies as part of local authority commissioned consultations that led to the publication of a report that was presented to full council, its content and recommendation were fully supported by the city councilors.

Jerahl recognises his privilege and the endless opportunities YMCA can offer and wants those same opportunities offered to all young people.

Jerahl became a Youth Ambassador in July 2016 and has taken every opportunity presented to him. Jerahl participated in a YMCA Global Programme innovation Camp in Switzerland and was selected to join the World YMCA delegation to the United Nations in New York where he participated in discussions on Civic Engagement. He has subsequently been appointed to the YMCA Global Resource Team on Civic Engagement.

Earlier this year he joined the YMCA Global Leadership training programme, Change Agents.

Kit, YMCA Swansea

While working with YMCA Swansea Kit has been on a transformational journey, initially looking to find a safe place where she could gain friendship and support from the LGBT community. In doing so, she gained confidence in herself and sexuality, using this to inspire and motivate other LGBT young people.

Kit’s support had so much of an impact on young people that she volunteered for YMCA, five days a week for a year supporting both staff and young people.

She is completely non-judgmental and young people feel safe around her. Kit is the bridge that allows people to go from feeling alienated and alone to becoming part of a wider LGBT community, who are surrounded by acceptance, support and love.

Kit has experienced many of the struggles that LGBT young people encounter and it has driven her to offer a more holistic, empathic approach to supporting them. Young people seek Kit out, in their hardest of times, encouraging them to strive to be their best selves. She now employed as a Youth Support Worker.

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.