Alice – YMCA Burton

Alice started her university placement with YMCA Burton as part of her second year studying for a BA in Working with Young People and Communities.

Alice was already volunteering in a variety of roles, and during her placement continued volunteering, working at our night shelter over the winter period. She took on various responsibilities, from cook to first-aider, and attended the shelter in all weathers, encouraging and befriending guests and other volunteers.

Having witnessed first-hand the impact of substance misuse within her own family growing up, she was always compassionate, caring and non-judgmental towards guests.

Alongside this, she worked with our participation officer to deliver sessions and was always popular with residents and staff.

Alice always seeks to understand activities and interests that our residents would like and changes her own planned activities if necessary.

She encourages her peer group to volunteer and fundraise for charities, and at the age of 21 has already decided upon a philanthropic approach in life. She is a great ambassador for volunteering and has attended events with our volunteer coordinator to promote volunteering.

She always puts our residents and night shelter guests first, which shows remarkable insight for a young person to have.

Alice is a well-liked team member who is always ready to support and encourage her colleagues. She has a friendly nature, lovely sense of humour and a heart for homeless people.

Ben – YMCA East Surrey

When Ben first approached YMCA East Surrey, he was recovering from a very serious illness. Although he had completed a Level 2 Hospitality and Catering Course at college, he lacked confidence to apply for a job. He was suffering from depression, spent the majority of his time at home, and enjoyed little to no social contact outside of immediate family.

Ben started volunteering at our YmmmCA Café helping young people with disabilities to develop valuable life skills within a catering and hospitality environment. He found supporting others difficult at the beginning, but learnt how to communicate with attendees.

He found supporting others helped to build up his own mental strength. He now feels far better equipped to manage the mental and physical demand that holding down a paid job require and his self-belief has increased hugely.

Eventually, Ben is hoping to return to a paid job working as a chef, which he now feels is a realistic target and hopes to manage the YmmmCA Café set up and operation one day.

Ben is now essential to the running of the café and his confidence has increased dramatically. Volunteering with the YMCA has led to him securing other volunteering positions, which has also increased his self-worth. His commitment and dedication to the café and YMCA is unwavering. He’s an inspiration to us all!

Ewan – YMCA DownsLink Group

Ewan volunteered with the YMCA DownsLink Group on our WiSE Up to Boys campaign, working closely with a filmmaker and the team to create a series of short films to raise awareness about the sexual exploitation of boys and young men.

He volunteered to help after we contacted a local sixth form asking if there were any film students interested in supporting the project. Ewan threw himself into it immediately. He showed up for every planning meeting and every filming day.

He gave up his summer holidays and single-handedly produced the first edits. He brought and shared his expertise and his humour, never complaining and always with a smile on his face, helping to make the experience fun for everyone (which was especially important during unexpectedly long filming days). He even enlisted help from his family and friends.

There were other volunteers and a wider team for whom we are also thankful, but none displayed the commitment, sacrifice, support and determination in quite the same way as Ewan. The outcome of Ewan’s input is 4 powerful and important short films, which will be used in schools workshops and assemblies as well as professional training sessions. More people will understand the experiences of young male victims of sexual exploitation, and boys and young men will know that they are not alone.

The campaign launched in November 2017 and has so far reached more than 300,000 people, which wouldn’t have been possible without him.

The part he played in this cannot be over-estimated. We are so grateful for his selfless contribution and wholeheartedly believe that he deserves this award. The 4 films can be viewed at: http://www.ymcadlg.org/wiseuptoboys

Jamie – YMCA Norfolk

Jamie is a positive role model to young people. Reflecting on his own experience living in a hostel, he inspires others to join in the many positive activities while supporting them to settle in to hostel life.

Jamie started off as a quiet resident and taking part was difficult. However, he found his feet and excelled in all aspects of YMCA.

As well as volunteering with our maintenance team, carrying out a range of small tasks well, he recently visited YWCA Kenya as part on an exchange programme learning both their culture and teaching ours.

He was unsure about attending at first but as always, he got ‘stuck in’ and had an amazing time.

He is always willing to help other people and is currently completing an archery qualification so he can teach other young people.

Last year, we also took part in a YMCA garden project. Thanks to Jamie’s continuous hard work, and positive interaction with others who lived in our accommodation, we won!

Jamie is a youth ambassador and has attended several training sessions to gain the skills to progress. He has a very positive attitude and always wants to know more about our opportunities.

Jamie is unaware of the positive effect he has on others because he is very humble. He often does not give himself enough credit, but we want to give credit where credit is due. Jamie is a superstar!

Kieron – YMCA Newcastle

Kieron is a familiar face at YMCA Newcastle, initially as a young person and then as a volunteer.

While volunteering, he has managed events for young people at the centre and helped workers to deliver projects around prejudice and discrimination.

This has included song writing to highlight discrimination in his local community and involvement in the #IAMWHOLE campaign this year.

He also starred in an online video with rugby legend Toby Flood as they discussed the stigma surrounding mental health problems in young men. In the video, Kieron talks about his own mental health history including his battle with anxiety, depression and loss of self-esteem, and how youth workers at YMCA Newcastle helped him to overcome these through music.

He used the music studio at SPACE2 to write songs and music that reflected his feelings and found music and songwriting therapeutic, helping him to feel that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Kieron now helps other young people to deal with mental health problems and seeks support to find a therapeutic activity in which they can express themselves.

He is also very active within YMCA Newcastle’s MENtors project, which uses volunteers as peer educators to equip young people with the knowledge to identify and report illegal images of underage people in online pornography.

The project confronts extremely sensitive issues, but Kieron has effectively worked with other young people to challenge their perceptions of accessing online pornography.

Kieron has confidently presented workshop content to young people and support staff in a range of settings such as youth groups, colleges and schools, which has given his self-esteem a huge boost. We are nominating Kieron for the drive and commitment he has shown towards achieving his own and YMCA Newcastle’s goals.

Lauren – YMCA Exeter

Lauren started attending YMCA Exeter’s youth club in 2016 aged 17. At 18 she began volunteering in both our weekly youth sessions and job club, and later on started volunteering one afternoon a week for our admin team.

Her time as a volunteer has allowed us to streamline processes and made the day-to-day operations much more manageable. She works hard to make sure that all her work is of the highest quality.

Since she has been volunteering with us we have seen a huge increase in her confidence. She has a good rapport with the young people and can empathise with them.

How has this happened?

  • Overcomer: We have seen Lauren develop into a great youth leader and in doing so she has had to overcome severe mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, PTSD and fear of speaking out in front of others.
  • An open and learning mind: Lauren’s desire to be continually learning constantly evident and shapes her attitude to her volunteering.
  • Willing Participator: She is always up for trying new activities; no mean feat considering what she has overcome in her past.
  • Confidence – we have seen her confidence grow hugely in meeting and interacting with new people.
  • Responsibility – she helps us to plan the session timetable and contributes administratively and practically to the overall running of all youth clubs that YMCA Exeter run.
  • Commitment – she has clocked up over 860 hours (and counting!) of volunteering with us.
  • Hope and a future – Lauren is hoping to become a counsellor and is retaking her GCSEs, which she was unable to take due to her mental health when she was sixteen.

Lucy – YMCA DownsLink Group

Lucy has been with YMCA Right Here for three years. In that time she’s contributed to all kinds of work, including campaigns, recruitment, events, and resources.

Over the past year, Lucy has dedicated a significant proportion of her time alongside full-time work to the project and the wider YMCA community. In particular, Lucy uses her creative talents to spread positive messages about our work, and inspire others to get involved.

Her YouTube channel features a range of videos, talking about the work we do. Lucy also submitted her multimedia art to the annual ‘Open House’ gallery raising vital funds for YMCA.

Lucy stands out in terms of her passion, time and commitment to the project, having volunteered hundreds of additional hours over her time with us. Lucy brings a nuance and a nurturing energy to our group; taking difficult issues and making them feel safe to approach through art and creative video.

Lucy has shared her personal stories of managing emotional health in classrooms across the city, created resources for young people around issues such as suicidal thoughts, and recently pitched, planned and led a local consultation around the mental health needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Brighton.

Lucy’s creative mind was a driving force behind the initial stages of #IAMWHOLE, and she continues to inspire the campaign going forward. Lucy has been an exceptional team member and is always available and enthusiastic to get involved with furthering the work of the YMCA both locally and nationally.

Every great idea and achievement we have as a project has been inspired, driven, and influenced by young volunteers – Lucy is an ever-present force.

Micah – YMCA Lincolnshire

Micah’s journey with us began a few years ago when he was taken out of school before he was expelled. He was being bullied and began fighting back as he couldn’t control his emotions. Micah has autism, ADHD and dyslexia and when he first came to YMCA Lincolnshire he really struggled with boundaries and talking to people. Despite that, when he offered his services as a volunteer, we decided to give him a chance.

Youth Workers quickly realised that when he was in a good place, Micah was a lovely young man who was always willing to help. Through volunteering, Micah has become a role model to others and an extremely valued member of our team.

Micah volunteers at Parkour Club as an assistant, and every Saturday he helps with moving equipment, running sessions, and tidying up. Most recently he has been buddying up with people who have been or are being bullied, and uses Parkour to raise their confidence and self-esteem.

Micah befriended one child who was struggling with bullies at school and would often fake injury at Parkour Club so he could leave early. With Micah’s help, the young person has begun to feel much happier and more confident.

Micah goes above and beyond and volunteers across a variety of other activities at The Showroom, too.

He assists at our Bike Workshops, he makes scenery for Theater School productions, he volunteers at our LGBT group, and he’s even helped mend our arcade equipment. He’s become The Showroom handy man!

Micah has grown so much in just a few years and we are proud that now he has something positive to focus on, he has turned his life around. He is truly an inspiration to young people and we can’t wait to see what the future brings for him.

Youth Matters Awards categories