Natalie – Y Care International

Natalie, who works as a Civil Engineer, completed an ICS Team Leader placement with Y Care International in 2017. She led a team of 10 young people from UK and the local community at Lomé YMCA in Togo in 2017. The team worked to improve the economic opportunities for young people. Natalie, who fundraised £800 for Y Care International before going overseas, said:

“As Team Leader it was my role to make sure that the volunteers were happy, healthy and productive. I found it really fulfilling how my work helped volunteers overcome their challenges. I’ve never been as passionate or as fulfilled as I was when I was volunteering in Togo with Y Care International. My work had a direct impact on the volunteers, the project and the local community.”

Since returning from Togo, Natalie has helped organize an event in Birmingham for returned ICS volunteers. The event engages with volunteer alumni to share their achievements and show how they can be change-makers for global issues

In addition, Natalie promotes engineering and technology to young people. She breaks down the misconceptions about the construction industry and women in engineering to share opportunities in industry for young people of all backgrounds. She is also a corporate social responsibility representative for her company and inspires her colleagues to volunteer for initiatives that tackle local issues in East London.

Natalie has stayed involved with the YMCA as a member of the Y Care International Youth Engagement Panel where she is helping shape a future international youth volunteering programme.

Charlotte – YMCA Barry

Charlotte spent many years as a volunteer for YMCA Barry where she helped coach gymnastics. Due to her passion, she is now a full time gymnastics coach and her contribution to the club and the community is unquestionable.

Charlotte has demonstrated excellent leadership by developing several partnerships so children who may not be able to access YMCA Barry are able to participate in quality gymnastics.

She has successfully formed links with various primary and secondary schools, where she coaches children during lunch and after school.

Many of these children come from areas of deprivation and lack a balanced healthy lifestyle. However, through gymnastics, Charlotte is helping them become active children and mature into healthy and active young adults.

Charlotte ensures her sessions are inclusive, coaching children in local Welsh speaking schools and encouraging them to participate using Welsh or English.

She also ensures all children feel comfortable, no matter what they are facing. A parent of a young gymnast, said:

“Lexi has recently been diagnosed with Tourette’s. The anxiety she experiences is huge for her young shoulders, which is heightened due to her being autistic. But Charlotte always chats to her and makes her feel relaxed. It takes a lot for her to feel safe and we are very grateful to Charlotte.”

Charlotte is now the lead coach in many classes, providing gymnastics to over 500 children, and is using her personal experience as a volunteer to help engage young people to volunteer.

Enya – YMCA Cardiff

Enya is a young carer who has been on the Young Carers Project at YMCA Cardiff for several years. She looks after her father who has mental health issues and helps out with other members of the family.

Since joining the Young Carers Project, Enya has been keen to raise awareness of the issues they face. She joined PAVE (providing a voice for everyone), a young carers youth forum and since then has empowered so many people.

She helped to organise an event in Carers Week in June 2017 to give young carers a voice where her words and actions inspired so many people who attended, including Bethan Jenkins AM.

Bethan was so moved by Enya’s words that she took proposals to the Welsh Assembly to improve the lives of young carers in Wales, the first time young carers were discussed solely in the Assembly. As a result, we are now meeting with the Children’s Minister, Huw Irraca Davis, to develop further ideas around supporting young carers.

Enya has also spoke out about mental health through the #IAMWHOLE campaign. Initially finding it hard to discuss, Enya has found the confidence to talk about mental health, identify when someone has mental health issues and also challenging the stigma around mental health. She has given many people a voice, the confidence to speak up about their challenges and to be proud of their caring role. She is a true inspiration to the young carers project.

Michaela – YMCA Liverpool and Sefton

Michaela is Senior Early Years Practitioner and SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) at YMCA Sefton Day Nursery. She works in the Bumblebee Room, which provides places for funded two-year-olds.

Michaela has proven to be a fantastic leader, far exceeding the requirements of her role. She works closely with parents and professionals to support children with high needs who require individual learning plans.

She supports parents by organising visits to special educational units, ensuring the best possible transition to school. The majority of these parents have English as an additional language so the support from Michaela is priceless.

A little boy recently joined the Bumblebee Room. His mum had a bad experience at a previous nursery where her son was very distressed and had to be removed.

Naturally she was nervous about looking for childcare again but with the support of her family worker she contacted YMCA and we met the family.

He now attends nursery every day, is being supported by various teams and has an application for high needs funding so he can have one to one care.

His mother has now found employment and the Family Support Worker said she has noticed such a change in the whole family.

Michaela is an amazing asset to YMCA, supporting other members of the team who have children with learning and development plans. In addition, Michaela also provides respite care at the weekend for the parents of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Owen – YMCA Mendip

Owen joined YMCA Mendip’s Street Youth Club when he was 11 years old after his mother read an article in the local paper that the youth club would be opening again.

At the time, Owen had few friends and was not confident talking to new people.

Since becoming a member six years ago, he has taken every opportunity to get involved with workshops, activities, trips, funding, community work, training, sports and much more.

Owen has taken a lead role in the Action 4 Youth Council, which has extended his knowledge, learning and skills in areas such as; public speaking, funding, community events and working alongside other organisations. He has also attending a training residential.

Owen’s journey with YMCA Mendip has been coincident and both rewarding for staff and young people that have worked with him. He is now more confident, his friendship group is much bigger and his social skills with groups and individuals have improved.

Owen remained a loyal member of the club and rarely misses a session.

Volunteering at the club for ten months, he supported by planning events, delivering school assemblies, writing risk assessments, budgeting, and hiring and buying equipment.

He swiftly progressed to become a Youth Worker at the club on Monday nights, and takes on cover hours were possible.

He continues to interact with local and county counsellors and this year received a Young Citizen Award.

As Owen’s youth worker, I would like to recommend him for this award as his long term and on going commitment to making a positive impact for young people is inspiring.

Yvonne – YMCA Trinity Group

Yvonne has been part of Cambridge Ten Sing at YMCA Trinity Group for over nine years and will complete her final year by being Chairman of our Young People’s Committee.

Yvonne shows a huge amount of commitment, which sets a good example to all our other members. Alongside studying for four A Levels and swimming competitively, she attends monthly committee meetings and records minutes at the Management Meetings.

Her musicality and creativeness have been seen in the way she harmonises and conducts the songs we perform, she has taken violin grades and performed in many orchestras including some abroad.  She creates posters and comes up with ideas, keeping everyone in the committee focused, and has helped to organise National Ten Sing Festivals as well.

While leading the committee, she manages to make everyone feel included and valued. Yvonne has set such a good example this year that she has inspired two new members to join the committee for the new academic year.

Yvonne cares about the young people in Ten Sing, making sure no one is unkind, leading by example, and ensuring the group is inclusive for everyone.

Youth Matters Awards categories