Beth Chambers, YMCA Northumberland

Beth found it extremely difficult engaging with the education system and spent time in various alternate education services. Beth really struggled with her behaviour, temper and has had various negative interactions with the local police.  She spent a lot of her time with a small group of girls who caused huge amounts of antisocial behaviour in the local community. Beth also struggles with confidence and has often felt miss-understood, often reacting to a situation or problem in a loud manner shouting and acting out in a verbal way.

Through a friend, Beth was introduced to the YMCA Y-Drop In project, where she very quickly became a regular participant in the various youth sessions. Over the course of her engagement, she worked with the youth team and began to talk about her behaviour, how she responded to things and about her aspirations of becoming a hair and beauty therapist.

Beth was encouraged to volunteer and has since represented YMCA Northumberland at a number of events.  She was then nominated, and subsequently won the annual Frank Dawes Award, recognising incredible growth in a young person.

Beth’s transformation over the last few years has been noticed by staff, volunteers and more importantly other young people. She has recently entered the workforce, securing a part-time job while also continuing her studies. Everyone at YMCA that knows Beth is so proud of her and continue to support her future ambitions.

Prashanta Ray, YMCA Thames Gateway

When Prashanta came out as gay, his parents were unable to come to terms with his sexuality and he was subjected to seven devastating months of abuse and violence. After reaching out for help, he was signposted to YMCA Thames Gateway, and within two weeks he was offered a safe place to stay.

Finally able to explore his identity, Prashanta is determined to help others. He has taken the lead on a number of LGBT awareness activities and is working to keep LGBT rights on the political agenda, studying law at university. He is a true advocate for change.

Laura Connolly, YMCA Heart of England

Laura was a resident at YMCA Heart of England for about nine months in 2019 and has been on an emotional journey. Despite having good family support, Laura started to work for a drug dealer, committing serious offences and ending up in prison.

Laura also lives with complex mental health issues. Staff at YMCA helped her find a local GP, referring her to the local Mental Health Team who prescribed her the medication she needed.

Laura has worked incredibly hard to build a new life. She manages her mental health and has found regular part-time employment. Since leaving YMCA, Laura secured accommodation and is extremely happy there.

Laura has bravely shared her story, speaking at YMCA events, to inspire others to make a change to their life. In 2019, she was shortlisted and subsequently won YMCA Birmingham’s ‘Resident of the year’ award.

Kawan Nadri, YMCA Derbyshire

At 17 years old, Kawan came into the UK alone. He didn’t speak English, had no friends or family and travelled with only the clothes on his back. Arriving at YMCA Derbyshire, Kawan worked hard to learn English, and went from struggling to read the local newspaper to completing college.

Kawan’s achievements continued as he joined and graduated work experience with Toyota, and played football for Derby County Community Trust. He has now moved on to independent living and plans to work in communications. Kawan is proud but humble about where he’s from and what he’s achieved with YMCA.

 Josh Mustafa, YMCA DownsLink Group

Just one year ago, Josh was receiving counselling from YMCA Dialogue Services to help improve his mental health. Since then, he has found his strength in working to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of other young people. Josh is one of the amazing YMCA Right Here volunteers, on a mission to improve the health and wellbeing of young people across Brighton and Hove and beyond.

Josh has been involved in countless YMCA Right Here projects including Young Healthwatch research exploring BAME young people’s experiences of Sexual Health Services, Shape My Future street consultations, YMCA Right Here social media campaigns on #BlackLivesMatter, news articles for YMCA DLG, local youth councils and meeting local and national MP, Caroline Lucas, to discuss some of the key issues facing young people at the moment.

As COVID-19 and lockdown hit and we all had to adapt to moving online, Josh brought his passion and positivity to every online Right Here volunteer meeting. Josh created video clips and Instagram stories to help other young people ‘stay healthy’ during the lockdown. He is also currently hosting his own podcast, interviewing other young people on relevant themes, such as the role of key workers in the Mental health sector and writing his own blog talking everything ‘Healthy Relationships’.

Josh’s creativity, kindness and dedication to helping others helps ensure the success of the YMCA Right Here program.

Chailey Turner, YMCA East Surrey

Chailey has global development delay and cerebral palsy, with associated speech and language difficulties. She has been attending YMCA East Surrey for more than five years, using their inclusive activities to learn a range of life skills including gardening, sports and cooking.

Chailey used to be quiet and shy, but her confidence has grown so much that now she leads other young people during activities and works independently at a charity shop. It may take time for Chailey to master a task, but once she has, she supports and encourages others too, and is a wonderfully positive role model.

Nicole Tootill, YMCA East Surrey 

Nicole joined YMCA East Surrey as a volunteer youth worker, and her passion for helping disadvantaged young people showed as she started leading educational workshops to help them into education, work and training.

Despite having her own challenging situations alongside dyslexia, anxiety and low self-esteem, Nicole’s tremendous drive and positive outlook got her through, and young people now look to her as an example. Nicole’s support management skills saw her promoted to Housing Support Manager and she has changed the lives of so many young people, giving them a sense of purpose, hope, and strength in what they can achieve.

Rehman Ali, YMCA Plymouth

Rehman is a 19-year-old young man, who fled Pakistan with his family to seek refuge in the UK in 2012. Throughout this time, Rehman has overcome countless challenges, from learning a new language, to adapting to a new culture. Rehman didn’t understand any English when starting secondary school and subsequently struggled with confidence.

Since coming to YMCA Plymouth’s Discovery College (studying BTEC Business), Rehman found an environment where he was able to belong, contribute & thrive, and drastically improve his confidence.

In the last 12-months Rehman was awarded ‘Student of the Year’ for his continued dedication and high standard of work, including volunteering in the community to provide free sports coaching sessions for children at local primary schools – something which earned him high praise from schoolteachers.

Additionally, in the last six months Rehman has dedicated his free time to volunteering at YMCA alongside his studies; using his skills to play an important role in organising events, fundraising activities and supporting YMCA Plymouth’s marketing team.

Carl Tincknell, YMCA Leicester

Due to a turbulent family environment, Carl’s accommodation was unsettled from 2016 until coming to live at YMCA Leicester in January 2019. Initially, very nervous about moving in, Carl has embraced the support available to him, thriving in his new environment. Carl is a very artistic and ambitious young man, gets on really well with staff and other residents and has engaged with a lot of the activities including Y Heritage and Y Skills Matter.

The Y Heritage Project, funded by Heritage Lottery, provides training to enable young people to commission heritage projects by city and county organisations. The project offers meaningful placements for young people while supporting heritage organisations to gain a better understanding of how to engage young people with complex needs.

Carl completed his placement at Richard III Visitor Centre, designing a new White Boar trail through their exhibition to engage younger audiences. Carl also worked part time for Soft Touch Arts which is a Leicester charity using arts, media and music to engage disadvantaged young people. He helped deliver street sessions in deprived areas to recruit young people to take part in a project to help them gain qualifications and build confidence.  He has also been commissioned to create artwork for the Documentary Media Centre and has other part time work. Carl eventually wants to train as a youth worker and develop his creative skills.

At the start of 2020, Carl found an opportunity with Restless Development to go to Nepal, volunteering in schools and the local community. Carl is devoted to giving back to his community and strives to make an impact on young people’s lives.

Josh Watson, YMCA Heart of England

Josh lost his job when COVID-19 struck and began volunteering at YMCA Heart of England. Josh suffers from anxiety but finds that gardening helps him to cope, and has transformed the garden at YMCA, creating a community space that brings residents together.

Despite facing stressful problems throughout, Josh has thrived at YMCA and has shown real drive and self-motivation. He would like to continue in a position where he can help people and carry on transforming the garden and his own life journey.