Bianca holding a wreath at Remembrance parade

Bianca Bancroft – YMCA Derbyshire

Bianca goes above and beyond in both of her roles as a Functional Skills tutor and a Youth Ambassador. She is always proving her commitment, upholding the values of YMCA and acting as a positive role model for other young people. She exudes our values in the following ways:

• Offers 1-1 catch up sessions on her personal planning day at YMCA Key College – giving up her ‘free time’ to support learners
• She is innovative in finding new strategies to support a range of needs to help young people to achieve in education and follow their dreams
• She supports young people who are disengaged to get back into education to achieve their full potential and gain vital qualifications (Maths and English)
•She is going back to university in September to complete a Post 14+ PGCE – Bianca is continuously trying to develop herself professionally
• Passionate about educating, particularly the subject of Maths. Try to make it engaging and fun!
• Bianca always strives to inspire, encourage and motivate young people to push themselves, especially those who have been told they cannot do things because of their behaviour or learning needs.
• Bianca works with learners and educates parents about opportunities in the local area to get our young people into further education or training.

As a Youth Ambassador, Bianca represents not only YMCA Derbyshire but YMCA England & Wales. She travels to different countries, such as Kosovo, to work with other YMCAs and young people. Part of the role is to take part in different seminars and learn new techniques that will help benefit not only the YMCA but the people we support. Bianca has been to several conferences and seminars to take learn new skills such as interviewing. Bianca was invited to walk with YMCA in the Cenotaph Remembrance Sunday parade in London.

Ella portrait photo

Ella Sowton – YMCA East Surrey

Ella started working at YMCA East Surrey as a volunteer. She worked on a variety of youth projects before becoming a paid member of staff. Her background of working with children as a support teacher allowed her to easily develop relationships with young people. Ella started delivering detached youth work, working on the streets in some very challenging areas and had a natural rapport with young people.

Ella is passionate about mental health services and started work on our WAVES youth mental health programme, which she now manages. Under her guidance, the project has grown from one session a week up to five sessions across East Surrey. She always keen to develop and has completed her level 2 and 3 in youth work along with various mental health courses during her time at YMCA East Surrey.

Ella is particularly supportive of vulnerable young people and has helped many people get to a much happier place in their lives. She never gives up on young people and always goes the extra mile to improve their life experiences, including leading a trip abroad for some young people who had never travelled outside of the UK. She recently met with the Duke of Sussex at YMCA St Paul’s Group as part of His Royal Highness’s campaign work around mental health.

YMCA East Surrey’s Head of Youth Services says, “Ella has changed lives and saved lives. She is just amazing and in all my 30 years in youth work, I have never met anyone like her! Ella is a huge asset to the team and her peers think she is fantastic. She has grown in herself, developing skills and is always there to inspire young people.”

Lizzy portrait photo

Lizzy Tones – YMCA Exeter

Lizzy Tones, is a member of the housing support team at YMCA Exeter, who daily goes the extra mile to make a difference in the lives of our young people.

Lizzy started at YMCA Exeter in 2014 as a worker in our job clubs where she taught vulnerable people the skills they needed to find training, volunteering and employment opportunities. Lizzy soon discovered that loneliness was a huge barrier to vulnerable people fulfilling their potential and decided to transfer to our supported housing project as a means of intervening in their lives and building their confidence earlier on.

In this project Lizzy is responsible for 16 residents and increasing their community engagement. As part of the role Lizzy soon initiated a partnership between YMCA and the local community association to open a weekly community café on the estate. She has designed the café to be a safe space for anyone to engage with, and with the help of the YMCA residents she has inspired, the café includes crafts, games and free hospitality. It is a weekly space where our residents can overcome their feelings of loneliness, get to know their community and build their confidence to embrace their future.

Lizzy has rallied volunteers from a local church to help run of the café, as well as training our residents to provide help with anything from computer issues for elderly people, to serving tea and coffee to young mums. Ultimately, we have really witnessed an increase in the self-confidence of residents since Lizzy has motivated them to actively engage with the community.

Lizzy has wholly embodied our vision of transforming communities for the benefit of all young people, and she faithfully champions our residents when local neighbours hold negative prejudices against them.

May portrait photo

May Barnett – YMCA Dulverton Group

May began an apprenticeship with YMCA DG working for the Weston branch for four years ago. Now, she is a full time lead youth worker for the five satellite youth provisions across North Somerset. As well as this role, May continues to support the youth programme delivered at the Youth Cafe and Weston Youth Centre.

May has taken the lead in developing tools for measuring impact and outcomes and keeps a close eye on our work and how we conduct ourselves to be as successful as possible.

May also supports other work within YMCA DG, such as PAWS, day camps, events and inter-generational projects. May volunteers in her free time to help on events in the local area that we attend, and recently worked all day at a local family fun day raising money for our own homelessness project. Her dedication to providing the best possible services for young people is outstanding and she works hard even in her free time to think of ideas to make us better.

One of the most recent examples of May’s dedication was when an 11 year old client of ours who is in foster care went missing. After she had finished work, May drove around the area, found him and called the police. This was all done outside of her normal working hours as May wanted to ensure the young person was found safe and returned to where he should be.

May is an integral part of the YMCA DG team and loved by all of her colleagues and clients for her happy, positive attitude and dedication to making lives a little better. May truly is the perfect nominee for this award and we know that her future within this organisation is very, very bright.

Safiyyah porttrait photo

Safiyyah Patel – YMCA St Paul’s Group

Safiyyah began her journey with YMCA back in 2017 as a volunteer in the Health and Wellbeing department. Even at this stage, she showed incredible passion, professionalism and consistency when on shift with us – she continued to volunteer for well over a year until she joined our team officially as an Apprentice in October 2018.

Safiyyah now works full time in YMCA Walthamstow and helps to run a popular teen gym session every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 11-15 year olds aimed at increasing weekly activity levels. Safiyyah also runs her own kids boxing session on a Tuesday afternoon for 5-11 year olds.

Safiyyah is also involved in delivering a YMCA led college session 3 times per week, specifically designed for engaging and teaching students who have had troubled pasts how to exercise, learn about nutrition and above all else, engage with each other and have fun at their local YMCA.

Safiyyah has developed and grown into her apprenticeship role incredibly well over the past 6 months – her self-discipline and professionalism has been particularly displayed over the past month as she has been fasting for Ramadan. Going all day without food or water and yet delivering gruelling Indoor cycling and Boxing classes cannot be easy; however Safiyyah’s standard has not dropped and has even covered her colleague’s classes with regularity.

Safiyyah has also taken a leading role in our social media presence and assists directly with our amazing marketing team to ensure our message is reaching the local community and wider.

Safiyyah personifies the YMCA ethos and values, and is an outstanding asset to the department and at only 19, is very much the future for our organisation.

Youth Matters Awards categories