Catriona Brown (YMCA Crewe)

Cat has lived at the YMCA Crewe for nearly two years. She suffers with severe OCD and has support from adult social care. She has struggled to maintain work or stick to a timetable or routine, however when YMCA Crewe’s new café opened, Cat immediately took an interest and volunteered.  

It quickly became clear that Cat was great with customers and showed an amazing talent for working in this environment. Alongside with the café manager, she was able to develop new meals and put her ideas across for improvements. Her reliability improved also and Cat soon became an integral member of the café team.   

Over the Christmas period Cat made the massive achievement of moving into independent living, but that didn’t stop her from helping out once the café reopened after lockdown. Despite being an hour away, Cat walks to the café to volunteer four days a week, and has become a mentor to others volunteering in the café, passing her expertise along to them.  

Her commitment and energy is invaluable, and the café is thriving.   

Liam Swain (YMCA North Staffordshire)

Liam is a 21-year old resident who has, for over a year now, freely volunteered his time week in and week out to YMCA North Staffordshire’s services.  

Before moving to YMCA North Staffordshire Liam lived with four different foster families and was sadly made homeless. Now Liam has a secure and safe home with continuous support and is sharing his experience by helping others, dedicating his time to four separate departments including YMCA GO and the 4U progress programme, which helps to support care leavers and improve the care system.   

Through his generosity and helpfulness, Liam has not only developed his own personal skills, but his confidence has increased significantly. He has also built on his social skills and is learning about retail, completing accredited training including food hygiene.  

Liam’s new found skills enabled him to engage many children during the pandemic, both virtually through online youth work and in the classroom during art activities, and on top of that he has also used his gardening skills to maintain the grounds of the campus. Everyone at YMCA North Staffordshire is so proud of how far Liam has come since the beginning of his YMCA journey and are eager to see where the future leads for this bright and positive young man.  

Martin Bushaway (YMCA St Paul's Group) - WINNER

Martin came to YMCA Wimbledon hostel by his own admission in 2020 after being a Merton Emergency Winter Accommodation project guest. Martin realised he was in a bad place and had become reliant on alcohol and drugs to medicate his mental health problems.   

Martin threw himself into volunteering with the YMCA Humanitarian Aid Project to keep busy. Initially, he helped by giving food out to those in financial hardship or experiencing homelessness, and after hearing from fellow residents that some of the food options available weren’t hitting the spot, he even reached out to local food retailers such as Greggs to diversify options.    

He soon built up and trained a group of resident volunteers, thereby creating opportunities for them to learn social skills, customer service skills and business insight.  His volunteers have felt a sense of purpose from these opportunities, and the staff at YMCA St Paul’s Group can clearly see how everyone involved has gained confidence.  

After successfully implementing the food project, Martin then asked to start a Resident Representative group and began working with the Community Activities and Chaplaincy Teams, welcoming new residents and supporting other projects.  

Martin has now made the successful move on to independent accommodation and is an official volunteer with YMCA’s Community Activities Team, recently helping with the interview and appointment of a new Executive Director.    

Martin’s determination, kindness, and desire for others to succeed is exceptional, and his positive outlook is a genuine inspiration to all who are fortunate enough to encounter him. 

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists