Cafe Thursday – YMCA Exeter

In 2018 we began a community wellbeing café on a new housing estate, in partnership with a community association and wellbeing agency. The vision was to encourage our residents living on the estate to have a positive impact on their community by engaging in meaningful occupation and building their mental health resilience.

We also recognised that there were no community activities to unite the other residents living there and people were experiencing high levels of loneliness. The café is run every week, and our YMCA residents run the café twice a month. Volunteers run the café the other two weeks. At the café we serve free refreshments and residents take a lead on running craft, IT support (including typing up CVs for unemployed members of the community) and providing hospitality.

One of our residents, who previously has not wanted to even leave their bedroom, is now teaching knitting at the café and has recently asked to take on responsibility for the IT support provided to members. Another resident, who passionately led the IT support at the café, has since moved on from YMCA accommodation and is now employed by us as an IT technician. The fact that he spent time volunteering as an IT volunteer meant he could build his CV enough to be employed in this sector!

The success of our innovative café approach is spreading through the community so much that weekly attendance is sky-rocketing, including single mums and elderly people.

Volunteers are increasingly stepping forward to support our residents in the running of the café, and we’ve now been approached by a large regional housing association to run a ‘Holiday hunger’ group during August, tackling food poverty on the estate.

Heads Together – YMCA East Surrey

YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together has been providing counselling in East Surrey since 1994 and has recently become a partner in the Mindsight Surrey CAMHS service.

The service provides free and confidential counselling for young people aged 14-24 and aims to help young people to cope with difficult emotional, family or personal circumstances, enabling them to lead fuller and more satisfying lives.

Last year the service saw a record number of referrals (789), an increase of nearly 30% on the previous year. 25 counsellors offered sessions in the largest ever number of community venues across East Surrey.

With support from the Community Foundation for Surrey, Heads Together has been able to run new mental health and anxiety awareness sessions in schools and community settings. The project also delivered workshops for parents to help them to support their children’s mental health needs, reaching around 120 parents of teenagers.

The most unusual assignment was speaking to a group of 23 young people at a
Young Farmers group – the presentation was well-received and we were pleased to have the opportunity to reach this specific community of young people who often miss out on activities available in urban / suburban areas.

Feedback from workshops and group sessions has been consistently good and attendees – both parents and young people – report that the sessions have given them improved understanding and made them feel better able to cope with the challenges they are facing.

two men talking in football kit in locker room

YMCA WiSE – YMCA DownsLink Group

YMCA WiSE (What is Sexual Exploitation) was set up in 2010 to prevent and disrupt the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and young people. We do this through 1-to-1 support to victims, group-work, training and consultations for professionals, campaigns and awareness-raising amongst the wider community.

WiSE started in Brighton & Hove, and today also operates across East Sussex and Surrey. This is a unique safeguarding provision within the YMCA federation.
WiSE continuously makes significant contributions to ensure that fewer children and young people are sexually exploited; and more recently has successfully pushed the agenda around recognising and responding to boys and young men as victims, and not just perceived as perpetrators of crime or sexual harm, as was so often the case.

In the past 12 months WiSE has delivered relationship-based, child-centred, trauma-informed support to 131 children & young people who were victims or considered at significant risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The support involves focused, yet not time-limited work on protective behaviours to reduce risks around CSE, as well as crisis support in times of need. The team responds to each referral with flexibility, patience and perseverance, working with the child to develop a tailored support plan to address issues such as relationships, family, self-esteem, body image, assertiveness, consent, online safety, grooming and exploitation.

We trained 400+ professionals, including police, social workers, school staff, children’s homes providers & GPs, to equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to identify and safeguard those at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation.

Our specialist boys & young men’s worker delivered targeted group work programmes to 40 boys & young men.
All our work protects, improves and promotes positive health and wellbeing of children & young people.

Our small, passionate, committed team make a big impact in many young lives.

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