Youth Matters Awards 2023


We are thrilled by the turn out of this year’s Youth Matters Awards which took place on Friday 3 November at Chelsea Football Club!

After a record number of 17,500 public votes, a rigorous evaluation, and meticulous consideration, the young people and projects making up this year’s finalists and winners have demonstrated unwavering dedication, innovative thinking, and transformative impact in their communities.

Young Campaigner of the Year




Toni-Lea Dumper | YMCA Fairthorne Group

Toni-Lea has been involved with YMCA for 12 years, first as a resident, then as a volunteer before becoming a staff member, and since 2021 as a Youth Ambassador. Toni-Lea first became involved in supporting YMCA campaigns through ‘Move On’, where she told her own story to advocate for change. Through this campaign, she saw the importance of sharing her story and since then, has been supporting others to do the same.

Toni-Lea has been a constant champion for the young people she works with, helping to run key focus groups when YMCA England & Wales were researching the cost-of-living crisis, and bringing together residents from across her YMCA in the process. The information provided by those involved in the focus groups was crucial to the key research supplied to MPs, ministers, and civil servants.

Following this research, Toni-Lea gathered residents to write messages to their MP about how the cost of living is impacting them, with over 35 powerful postcards collected from residents. These postcards had a profound impact. The Government’s decision to implement the recommendations put forward by YMCA England & Wales was because young people shared their experiences, and Toni-Lea was key in gathering those stories and messages.

Toni-Lea has also led Small Talks activities at her YMCA, opening the discussion around mental health to her residents and embedding the Small Talks campaign into their weekly programmes.

Toni-Lea embodies a true campaigner in her ability to move others into action and create a groundswell of support. She’s gone above and beyond to enable those unheard voices in society to share their stories and have a platform for change.

Kyle Pearson | YMCA Derbyshire

Kyle is a dedicated Housing Navigator and YMCA Youth Ambassador who has made a significant impact on  the lives of young people. As a Housing Navigator, he supports residents on probation, guiding them towards realising their potential. Simultaneously, as a YMCA Youth Ambassador, Kyle serves as a powerful advocate, amplifying the voices of young people. He played a pivotal role in motivating residents at YMCA Derbyshire to write postcards to local MPs as part of YMCA England & Wales’ Cost of Living Campaign.  

Kyle’s persistence led to the participation of 27 young people in the campaign, helping to voice the concerns of young people to elected politicians, including the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. This effort resulted in tangible change, with the Government deciding to implement the recommendations put forth by YMCA. Kyle’s commitment extends beyond local initiatives. He actively engages in discussion groups with fellow national Youth Ambassadors, covering critical topics such as mental health and the creation of election manifestos. At YMCA World Council in Denmark, Kyle further contributed to discussions aligned with World YMCA’s Vision 2030, demonstrating his dedication to shaping a better future for young people globally.  

Andrew Fountain | YMCA Norfolk

Andrew is someone who strongly believes in the promotion of young people’s voices within YMCA Norfolk services. He regularly attends residents meetings and makes sure the voices of the young people are always heard. Andrew always wants to be involved and to try and help shape how things could be made better, for himself and for others.  
Andrew has achieved great success through engaging with the Life Ready & Kick the Dust programmes, achieving several ASDAN qualifications through Life Ready, which led to him being appointed with a funded traineeship working for the museum services in Norwich, something Andrew is passionate about continuing during his career. Andrew said that working for the museum service is a dream come true. 
Andrew has also worked with a separate project – On Track – for which his dedication and hard work received high praise. He has also attended several young person’s interview panels, most recently for the appointment of a trustee. Andrew’s choice ended up being appointed and he got to congratulate her when she came to sit with him at the YMCA Norfolk 2022 annual celebration.   
Throughout his time with YMCA, Andrew has been very proactive and productive, continually looking for opportunities to better himself and grow as an individual. Despite whatever personal circumstances he may have been dealing with, Andrew knew how to access support, was brave enough to ask when it was needed, and use YMCA Norfolks support as a tool to bolster his own resilience and keep him on track, so he could continue to work on his goals. Andrew has made a positive move on from YMCA, now maintaining his own independent tenancy. 

Young Leader of the Year




Charlie Mood | YMCA North Tyneside

Charlie joined YMCA in 2021 as an HR apprentice and within a short period of time, she has inspired, influenced and led her peers, volunteers and service users across YMCA North Tyneside’s functions.

Charlie continually goes above and beyond to serve others. Alongside her day to day role, she organises events for staff across YMCA, doing her best to include those who work from home or away from HQ offices. Charlie seeks out opportunities to further her development as well as looking at more ways to make YMCA North Tyneside a better place to work or experience.

Charlie is now a Youth Ambassador and without any prompt she brings back her learning to share with YMCA North Tyneside. She volunteers for many events such as Picnic in the Park (celebrating Founder’s Day), Sleep Easy and Community Meals, as well as volunteering for other charities and good causes. Charlie never fails to step up and recently stepped in to help YMCA’s Leaders for Life programme, delivering sessions alongside corporate partners to young people who are 16-25 and NEET.

Charlie is a credit to the YMCA and clearly has the YMCA’s values and ethics embedded in the work she does. Her office is always open even when she is snowed under with work she still finds the time to help staff and does this with a smile.

Beth Fox | YMCA Norfolk

Beth is the manager of YMCA Norfolk’s 90-place nursery, Muddy Puddles, and joined YMCA Norfolk in 2020 as their first ever nursery manager for their very first nursery. She was tasked with kitting out the nursery, promoting places to parents, recruiting childcare staff, developing a curriculum and much more. In just two years Beth has exceeded budget projections, enabling a financially sustainable nursery – which this year was also awarded on their first Ofsted visit.

Beth has displayed outstanding leadership skills and continuously worked hard to source the very best equipment for the nursery, utilising her experience within childcare to ensure everything had an educational purpose for our nursery children. She was quick to understand the values of YMCA and works hard to share these values with her nursery colleagues.

She is a hands-on childcare practitioner, committed to ensuring our nursery children are given the very best start in life. She has recruited a team of inspiring nursery nurses, which has led to amazing feedback from parents, who say Muddy Puddles has hugely ramped up their child’s development and they are confident they are leaving their children in a caring, fun and supportive environment.

Despite challenging times for the childcare sector, YMCA Norfolk is proud to say that thanks to Beth’s hard work and dedication, they have a beautiful nursery space with an ever-growing demand to recruit more staff. The current nursery team say Beth is an excellent leader, compassionate and willing to listen to others, an inspiration who leads by example and always has positive energy and lifts morale.

Overall, Beth has been a fantastic addition to the organisation, with much excitement in store for the future as Muddy Puddles continues to grow.

Chantal Greenfield | YMCA DownsLink Group

Chantal has worked for the YMCA DLG’s WiSE team in Surrey since September 2019, where she began as a Project Worker providing intensive long-term support to children and young people who had experienced sexual exploitation. Chantal created safe spaces for very vulnerable and at-risk young people to be able to understand and explore their experiences of abuse and begin the healing journey.

In 2021, when the opportunity arose, Chantal applied for and was successfully appointed to the WiSE Surrey Managers role. Since being in post Chantal has transformed the service in Surrey through turning her passion and expertise working directly with young people to working strategically, building relationships, and providing clear trauma-informed leadership for her team.

Chantal has done this by creating working links with police, statutory services and third sector organisations to ensure future funding, joined up working, training for staff and advocacy for young people accessing the service.
She has united a dispersed team, creating a supportive culture and bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to her leadership. Chantal models a trauma-informed approach with young people and staff alike, and is consistently supportive, non-judgmental, and collaborative. She has led a change of culture, creating respectful, safe spaces to share ideas, reflect on language heard or used and inform positive change.

Chantal has continued to provide direct support to young people whilst taking on her management role, advocating for children and ensuring their voice is heard.

Chantal also brings her outside skills of equine therapy support for children with special educational needs and uses this knowledge with WiSE to support continual improvement and learning.

Chantal is a fantastic ambassador for the YMCA DLG WiSE project, championing the voices and experiences of the most vulnerable children and young people in Surrey to ensure they get the most high-quality services they deserve.

Young Worker of the Year



Connor - WINNER

Briony Meadows | YMCA Humber

Briony joined YMCA Humber in June 2018 as a 20-year-old Finance Assistant. When she joined she was very shy and lacked confidence, but within a few months of being in the organisation she blossomed and began to really find her feet.

Whilst Briony’s core role is within finance, her passion for supporting and developing young people has really shone through, including when taking a group of young residents on a residential outward bound weekend to develop team working and leadership skills. Briony tirelessly planned, coordinated and managed this residential alongside carrying out her normal day job.

Briony is the first to offer her services to support residents – with anything from making up 74 beds the evening before YMCA Humber moved into their new 21 Freeman Street location, to working night shifts when they have a last minute absence in shift teams.

Briony always goes the extra mile to support YMCA Humber and get involved. This is shown by her commitment to developing resident volunteers – and she can often be found supporting residents in the cafe to use the till when they are busy, and has even waitressed at the volunteer awards to ensure the resident volunteers were able to attend.

Whilst doing this she has been promoted to Finance officer and achieved AAT qualifications and is currently studying for her CIMA Level 4. The young people of YMCA Humber are very lucky indeed to have someone who cares so much. 

Lizzie Badger | YMCA Trinity Group

Lizzie started at YMCA Trinity Group as an Early Years Apprentice achieving her level 2 and then level 3 diploma early this year with a distinction. Lizzie’s achievement is something we are all proud to share as throughout the apprenticeship Lizzie overcome some challenges including studying during the pandemic and still came out shining.

Since then, she secured a permanent position within our 3 month to 2.5 year old room where the children love her fun and loving spirits. Lizzie will go the extra mile by volunteering to completing sponsored fundraising events to raise money to purchase much needed nursery equipment for the children in her care in order to build a brighter future for them.

Lizzie recognises the first 5 years of a child’s life are crucial, and we feel Lizzie exceeds her job role ensuring the children and families accessing our service receive the best possible start to early education.

She has recently completed her level 3 SENCO training and is extremely passionate to put the children at the center to ensure they thrive and reach their maximum potential and make a real difference to their lives. Lizzie prides herself with parent partnership and will ensure the parents are well informed of their child’s day and achievements.

Lizzie is keen to embrace nature and learning outdoors as she recognises the importance of this to support the children’s mental well-being as well as her own. Lizzie supports children ranging from 3 months to 12 years and is adaptable and inclusive in her practice, the older children love her enthusiasm and will often comment of her fun demeanor in their opportunities to learn in the setting.

Connor Fenton | YMCA North Tyneside

Ask anyone in the team and the first things they will say about Connor is that he has such a great attitude and is ever willing to lend a hand. Connor goes above and beyond with a genuine interest in YMCA North Tyneside’s volunteers, young people and colleagues.

Since joining YMCA North Tyneside, initially as part of their Gym team and now as a pillar of the Community team, Connor has risen to every task with interest as a totally dependable member of the team.

He has also been integral in helping the Y’s Girls Mentoring project thrive, bringing a warm and personable touch working with both mentors and mentees. Building from that project, which he continues to coordinate, he has become YMCA North Tyneside’s first Volunteer Coordinator in recent memory and has been the definition of the right person for the job.

Thanks in large part to his warm and welcoming presence, as well as solid dependability, within the first six months in this role he has been able to successfully match multitudes of volunteers (both groups and individuals) to roles where they can thrive and further the community spirit of YMCA.As a person with a positive attitude and looks to put others first. YMCA North Tyneside has every confidence that Connor will grow and thrive, as he continues to make an impact in the local community.

Connor’s colleagues attest to the fact that he listens to feedback, puts volunteers first and is a huge credit to the organisation, making an outstanding contribution. He is professional, attentive and inclusive, and the impact of volunteer work organised by Connor has proved instrumental, and will only become even more important moving forward.

Young Volunteer of the Year



Mayzee - WINNER

Megan Brooks | YMCA Black Country Group

Megan began sessions with YMCA Black Country Group reserved and very attached to her technology, not wanting to engage. She was brought to the sessions mainly to socialise with others, but seeing her Mum become a volunteer and gain confidence seemed to have a positive effect on Megan as she started to engage more in sessions.

Megan started out as an outspoken young person with a lot of struggles at school that impacted on her relationships with others. YMCA Black Country Group worked with Megan on those struggles, and she now uses her articulation skills to support sessions and others whilst occasionally throwing some of her drama skills into the mix to give everyone a giggle.

She has become an upbeat young person with a lot of ideas to drive herself forward and enhance her local community. Megan is keen to share all her ideas and see change where she can, so giving her a safe space to apply those ideas has really benefited both Megan and YMCA. She is now seen as a Community Champion as she gets involved with other community projects

Megan embodies a Young Leader as she has great leadership skills and she uses these weekly at the sessions she attends, building positive relationships and being a good role model, especially to those younger than herself. She is happiest when others around her are succeeding. She is one of the project’s biggest cheerleaders and advocate.

Temesgen Beyena | YMCA DownsLink Group

Temesgen is an unaccompanied asylum-seeking young person from Ethiopia. English is not his first language and he studies ESOL at Guildford college. He is a modest young man who is kind, thoughtful, always willing to help out others by taking part in whatever is offered.

Temesgan was the first to sign up when YMCA DownsLink Group asked young people to take part in a corporate sponsor cycling challenge, which involved two Peloton bikes in the office, cycling as far as they could in 30 minutes – cycling the furthest of all participants. Temesgan also helped all day when some volunteers from a local church came in to build a bike shelter for YMCA residents, and volunteers weekly with a local organisation who make meals those in need in Guildford. Temesgan’s supervisor credits him as a fantastic addition to the Meals for You kitchen team, always using his initiative and demonstrating his interested in improving both his English and his general understanding of kitchen rules and procedures. He is a crucial member of the team.

Mayzee Scullion | YMCA Heart of England

Mayzee is such an inspirational young person, one who never allows her additional needs to get the better of her and smashes through every barrier to reach her fullest potential.

Mayzee joined YMCA Heart of England as a young person and quickly portrayed leadership, enthusiasm and the drive to take up every opportunity given to her.

YMCA Heart of England happily invited Mayzee onto the YMCA Youth Ambassador Programme, where she bravely and openly spoke about her stammer and used her personal experience to inspire others.

From there, she then learned how to support her peers and be a part of a volunteer group by delivering activities and talks in sessions, using her expertise and interest in sports – specifically Rugby – to deliver further opportunities to young people.

Mayzee has supported YMCA by being a fantastic advocate for youth voice with media and videos supporting funding applications and implementing change to policies and procedures. Additionally, outside of YMCA and School, Mayzee volunteers every Saturday for the Wasps Rugby team and plays an integral role in their community.

Mayzee always brings positivity, humour, honesty and empathy and YMCA Heart of England believe she deserves recognition for all of her hard work and efforts, and to prove the importance of inclusivity, diversity and opportunities in breaking down barriers for young people.

Young Achiever of the Year



Craig - WINNER

Randy Paul Tinoco Yesca | YMCA DownsLink Group

Randy is an Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking young person, from Nicaragua. An exemplary resident who YMCA DownsLink Group credit as a pleasure to work with and support.

After successfully enrolling into mainstream education in September 2022, Randy remains second in his class with A Level Biology, Chemistry and Physical Education. Randy has worked hard to adjust to the English schooling system and has been selected as a prospective applicant to Oxbridge universities, as well as being nominated for an award in the PE department. He was also selected by the local Football Team, Guildford United FC, a testament to his commitment to the community.

Randy has ambitions to be a Physiotherapist and independently secured two work experience programmes at Royal Surrey County Hospital Physio Clinic and Allen Physio Clinic. In addition, he has been accepted onto a Paramedic Sciences Summer School programme at the University of Surrey. Randy hopes this will further his knowledge and help him network with professionals to enhance his knowledge of physiotherapy.

Randy is well respected by staff at the Foyer and other external agencies, and was invited to join a Young Leaders programme, learning about legal rights, and how to champion change by supporting each other on their path to adulthood. This is vital for his voluntary role in Refugee Week 2023, during which Randy is coordinating and marketing two events taking place in Summer.

Randy’s resilience and ability to problem solve became crucial after receiving the challenging news that his first asylum application was not accepted. Using initiative, he sourced witness statements and organised his own meetings to grant him the best chance of a successful appeal. Although Randy travelled alone to the UK, he works incredibly hard in all aspects of his life surrounded by friends and colleagues that believe in him and share his ambitions.

Emily Lowe | YMCA St Helens

15-year-old Emily accessed support via The Listening Service as she was struggling with the effects of the pandemic. She suffered from social anxiety, low mood, and poor self-esteem. This, along with conflict in her friendship group, impacted her school life and made her feel unheard and underappreciated, as well as doubt whether she was liked by her peers and family. Emily isolated herself and was worried about expressing her own thoughts and emotions, not feeling comfortable enough to open up.

Emily has thrived whilst being supported, working closely with a Listener, she has learnt the knowledge and skills to gain a better sense of wellbeing and put this into practice. She has overcome her anxiety and dealt with her negative thought processes, discovering ways to build and strengthen positive friendships, and is now able to express herself confidently.

Emily has led the development of a Stepping-Stones group to support other young people suffering with anxiety and negative feeling as she once did. Working as a peer group leader, she oversees the running of the group and uses her own ideas to guide staff in ensuring it remains a safe space. Her self-esteem and confidence are soaring, and she uses this newfound self-assurance to support others, proving herself to be a positive influence, role model and mentor. She shows dedication to the service and its staff and is passionate about mental health and teaching others how to gain a better sense of wellbeing.

Even though Emily is still going through challenges, her resilience and determination means she is still taking time out to attend the service whilst studying for her GCSE exams.  Emily is a true inspiration and asset to the service.

Craig Mckenna | YMCA Plymouth

Craig joined YMCA Plymouth’s Discovery College in 2019, progressing from one of the Special Schools in Plymouth, which he attended due to additional support requirements such as identified learning and emotional needs.

When Craig arrived at YMCA, he was struggling to come to terms with the loss of a close family member, but despite this, he had the goal of becoming a Teaching Assistant to help other young people.

Craig studied Level 2 & 3 Childcare, Maths and English courses at Discovery College, achieving fantastic results for all these qualifications and winning Student of the Year.

Alongside his studies, Craig became a Student Ambassador, becoming a role model for others, telling other young people about YMCA opportunities at recruitment events, and volunteering time to support vital fundraising events. He has also become a celebrated alumnus of his previous school.

Overcoming barriers both personally and academically meant that Craig has matured into an outstanding young man. He has faced challenges within his family life which could have disrupted his education – but he did not allow that to happen. He faced challenges educationally, as his learning was impacted by the pandemic, but he never gave up.

He also faced challenges with his peers, partly due to being the only male in the class, however, Craig navigated each difficult situation resolutely, positively, and with his signature sense of humour.

Always willing to help, Craig earned the respect of his peers, staff, and those in the community – he completed 1,000 hours of voluntary work in childcare settings.

Earlier this year, Craig got in touch to let staff at YMCA Plymouth know that he had successfully secured his dream Teaching Assistant job in a local primary school, for which he was up against graduates and applicants with much more experience than him. His journey and achievements are something that everyone is very proud of.

Health & Wellbeing Project of the Year

Wilmorton Community Gardens | YMCA Derbyshire

Wilmorton Community Gardens is an ongoing Health and Wellbeing project that has significantly transformed lives and fostered positive change within the YMCA Derbyshire community over the last 12 months. A sanctuary of wellness and learning, it offers a space for individuals served by YMCA Derbyshire to find solace, cultivate new skills, and embark on a journey towards self-improvement.

This year, YMCA Derbyshire has been putting in a significant effort to transform the area into a Community Wellbeing space, which involved clearing 1600m² of space, removing 64 tonnes of debris, clearing rampant weeds, and resurfacing the communal areas. Throughout this, YMCA residents have gained valuable life skills around running projects, horticulture, and carpentry; learning how to upcycle and make fencing and benches out of discarded pallets.

YMCA Derbyshire has also recently been successful in a bid with the Youth Investment Fund as one of four pilot projects in the UK to receive funding to build a green hub, which will be used as a learning centre for local communities, including running forest schools, YMCA Key College courses and YMCA Health and Wellbeing events.

YMCA Derbyshire’s first public ‘Small Talks, Big Difference’ event was held this year during Mental Health Awareness Week, where residents and members of the community came together to toast marshmallows over an open fire, with a fire side chat around mental health.

Moreover, volunteering at the Wilmorton Community Gardens has become a lifeline for individuals like Richard, a YMCA resident who credits the allotments with giving his life direction after struggling with depression and anxiety. After learning how to build different things from wood, Richard has now set up his own carpentry business.

This project has already amassed an astounding 2,560 volunteered hours, demonstrating the unwavering commitment and dedication of the entire community. Made possible by our Health and Wellbeing team, our YMCA Key College learners, YMCA residents and local businesses including, Tesco, Derbion, Morrisons, Cawarden, Veolia, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Toyota, Alstom, and Co-op, who have dedicated time, resources and goods equating to £6,600.

Accessible Allotment | YMCA Trinity Group

Following the success of their allotment programme with young people, YMCA Trinity Group wanted to expand their work to be inclusive as possible, regardless of age, background or ability. Unfortunately, the plots received in their initial state were not suitable and so over the last year they have transformed a derelict overgrown piece of land into a fully accessible outdoor horticultural space. The space is wheelchair accessible with purpose built raised beds, pond, greenhouse and activity area. The plot provides the local community with an accessible therapeutic space for people to interact with nature and the outdoor world.

Developing this has provided opportunities for social engagements, interactions and has brought together younger and older generations to learn together and from each other through taking part in meaningful activities with a common purpose. Nursery children and young people visit alongside local care home residents, including those with a dementia.

This intergenerational work builds on the strengths that different generations have to offer, it nurtures understanding and mutual respect and fosters genuine community.

Residents enjoy the sense of fun and energy that children and young people bring, whilst children and young people build social and communication skills, learn about gardening, share ideas and try new things. It provides a sense of connection with the community, reducing social isolation and combating negative stereotypes. Overall, it enables otherwise isolated generations to interact, expanding their worlds and bringing more joy to their lives.

With a shared interest in gardening, this also increases physical activity and helps people to stay healthy and active, while spending time outdoors and tending to plants, reduces stress and promotes a sense of accomplishment. Everyone has a role and a purpose, enhancing confidence, self-worth, and psychological wellbeing.

Doing Sport Differently | YMCA Lincolnshire - WINNER

Doing Sport Differently (DSD) has worked with more than 100 young people across Lincolnshire in both schools and after-school/holiday clubs. The after-school sports club have become a community for young people with SEND and physical disabilities to unwind and make new friends. Young people love going to the club and taking part in fun, adapted sports games which get everyone moving and laughing.

In the group, YMCA Lincolnshire has seen young people grow into young leaders, where the older cohort will encourage and comfort younger members of the group to take part and overcome challenges.

The school’s side of the project has engaged with five SEND schools over the county this academic year, bringing fun from the club into the classroom. Young people are offered an extra PE lesson, provided by YMCA Lincolnshire, and schools have noted that young people taking part in the activities are supporting each other within the classroom and now have a more positive outlook on the school day.

Housing Project of the Year

The Community Housing Project | YMCA North Staffordshire - WINNER

The Community Housing Project offers young people in Stoke on Trent the opportunity to live independently at an affordable price. Properties come part-furnished, ensuring all necessities of independent living are provided so that young people can start out with minimal cost or stress.

The project consists of two models; the ‘Affordable Housing Model’ which offers independent living to young professionals and/or students on a low income, and the ‘Supported Housing Model’, available to young people with low level support needs that are in receipt of benefits.

YMCA North Staffordshire considers the Community Housing Project as the final chapter of the YMCA service user journey. Community Housing Officers offer a bespoke support service to all occupants which equips them in developing the skills to live independently and effectively integrate into the community.

The project offers more than just housing; it offers a sense of community and access to support for all occupants, no matter their circumstances. YMCA North Staffordshire has housed a total of 130 young people locally since the project began in 2016, 62 of whom have gone on to secure tenancies or mortgages of their own.


YMCA North Staffordshire is currently housing 60 young people and have supported with the planned move on of 14 young people/families over the past 12 months.

With the encouragement of their support worker, one of the tenants has now become a YMCA North Staffordshire volunteer with the Activities Team, as well as being a member of the Youth Governance Team, giving young people in the local area a voice and contributing to causes impacting young people. Another tenant was recently offered fixed hours on the YMCA campus following their own volunteering journey, and are now a permanent staff member across two departments.

Walthamstow Young Person's Project | YMCA St Paul's Group

YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Walthamstow Young Person’s Project (YPP) supports young people who are homeless and/or at risk, aged between 16 and 21, offering housing alongside tailored support in 1-2-1 sessions and group support. All referrals are received via Waltham Forest Council, with the project offering 33 beds in total.

Many residents have been street homeless before living with YMCA St Paul’s Group or have been in the Care System. Many have a range of complex needs and mental health difficulties, come from broken families and homes, or are fleeing domestic violence.
Over the past 12 months, the YPP has supported 57 young residents; helped 24 residents move on to independent living; supported six residents with access to Release Counselling Services to support their mental health; and five residents have signed up to become Residents Representatives for YMCA, enabling them to share their voice on the support available for young people locally.

Many of the residents have accomplished great achievements whilst living at the YPP, including Jahâ kiyah , who moved in after a family breakdown and has now become a Residents Representative, meeting with YMCA St Paul’s Group CEO, Executive Team, and Trustees to provide valuable input on how they can best deliver the services residents need. She has also started employment as a Housing Support Worker at St Mungo’s, using her own lived experience to support others in their journey to independent living.
Ismat, another current resident and refugee from Afghanistan, has recently completed a two-year BTEC in Automotive Engineering as well as training and competing in boxing competitions.

Parent and Baby House | YMCA Humber

The parent and baby house is an exceptional initiative that has been developed out of a genuine local need, and has had a profound impact on the lives of single new mothers facing the risk of homelessness and losing their children due to challenges beyond their control.

The parent and baby house was established in April 2022, and provides a safe and nurturing environment for four single new mothers, offering them a lifeline during a vulnerable period in their lives.

What sets the parent and baby house apart is its holistic approach to care. In addition to providing accommodation, the house offers floating support to its residents. This vital support helps the mothers develop the necessary skills and confidence to navigate the challenges they are facing.

Collaboration lies at the heart of the parent and baby house’s success. Working hand in hand with dedicated NHS staff, local midwives, and North East Lincolnshire social services, this exceptional project creates a network of support that extends beyond the walls of the house. By forging strong partnerships with these professionals, the parent and baby house ensures that the residents receive comprehensive care, addressing both their physical and emotional wellbeing.

The impact of the parent and baby house cannot be overstated. Residents have successfully transitioned to independent living, marking a significant milestone in their journey towards self-sufficiency. The dedication and commitment of the staff and volunteers at the parent and baby house has helped transform the lives of these young mothers, offering them the opportunity to break free from the cycle of homelessness and secure a better future for themselves and their children.

Beyond providing a safe haven, the parent and baby house goes the extra mile to empower its residents. It actively encourages the mothers to engage in first aid training, equipping them with essential life-saving skills that boost their confidence and nurture a sense of self-worth.

Training & Education Project of the Year

Launchpad Live | YMCA Plymouth

Launchpad Live is an interactive careers expo for young people, bringing together over 2,000 young people with employers, training providers and careers guidance experts for an inspiring two-day event aimed at raising aspirations for young people.

Due to its popularity and positive impact, two other spin-off careers events have also been delivered by YMCA Plymouth this year: ‘Engineering Her Future’ – an event aimed at promoting STEM opportunities to over 300 girls – and ‘The Big Parents Evening’ – an informational evening offering a chance for over 450 parents and guardians to better equip themselves with knowledge about the future career opportunities for their children. Over 50 employers and training providers have been involved alongside 17 schools across these events. Launchpad Live was pitched to the local authority in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where YMCA Plymouth research showed a huge amount of anxiety among young people about meeting employers, and a deep lack of understanding about the opportunities available to them.

Launchpad Live addresses this, not only by simply hosting an event targeted at young people but by making it a uniquely interactive experience, meaning that stalls and zones at the expo must have to have an interactive element, enabling young people to practically engage, learn and have fun with hands-on activities. Whether it’s diving into our oceans to fix a pipeline in Virtual Reality at the engineering zone, learning how to plaster a wall in the construction zone, or donning a theatre costume and unleashing their acting skills in the arts zone, young people get to learn about the world of opportunities open to them like never before.

Surveying young people themselves shows the massive difference the event makes: 96% of young people said they learned about opportunities they had never heard of before; 60% said they had changed their career aspirations; and 85% said that it helped them feel more confident about their future.

EVOLVE | YMCA Brighton

EVOLVE helps people living in supported housing or accessing homelessness services in the city of Brighton and Hove to achieve their work, learning or volunteering aspirations.

YMCA Brighton is proud to be a client led service which uses a coaching model that offers structure and direction but also fidelity to the principle that coaching should guide and not instruct. They have worked with 61 clients over the last year and 33 clients have achieved a work, learning or volunteering goal through this. In fact, many have achieved multiple goals in each area. Highlights include: a client building confidence by attending an understanding autism course, then moving into volunteering with an eco-therapy centre and developing their IT skills on a course alongside this; and a client building their confidence by volunteering for a local LGBTQ charity, whilst applying for a counselling course.

Weekly coaching has helped young people in the programme to formulise plans and offered support to achieve their aspirations, with a number of client testimonials on offer.

EVOLVE’s building offers a relaxed, inclusive space where YMCA Brighton’s client community can steer the service using the ‘My EVOLVE, my VOICE’ forum which sits monthly and has helped inform the direction and message of the service, including input on an accessibility audit. The client community and small staff team work hard to ensure the service is a psychologically informed environment, and how the service feels to its users is of fundamental importance.

YMCA Brighton has created a relaxed, calm, welcoming environment that allows clients to feel safe to begin planning their future. From this environment, YMCA Brighton also run a monthly timetable of activities for people to access the service in a different way by dropping into a workshop, with a range of creative options on offer, including collage and vision boards and themed creative tasks to mark events such as deaf awareness week, mental health awareness week and internal day against LGBTQ phobia.

Refugee Realities | YMCA Crewe - WINNER

In July 2022, YMCA Crewe launched the ‘Refugee Realities’ project, a training and education programme for 11-16 year olds which is dispelling myths and combatting stereotypes surrounding Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.

Centred around an audio recording of the real story of an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child who was supported by YMCA Crewe, the programme consists of a series of discussions, activities and lesson plans exploring the realities of life for Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in Cheshire East. The pack was designed with support from Keele University, and YMCA Crewe consulted with a number of professionals supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in their local community. The content is non-biased and non-political, instead just focusing on facts and real-life experiences which has helped to maximise support from local education providers.

In its first year the resources have been requested by more than a third of secondary schools in Cheshire East, and the programme has been delivered to more than 1000 young people. Feedback from both teachers and students has been positive, and the activities are helping young people living in Cheshire East to feel better informed about the realities of being a refugee in the UK, and feel empowered to challenge incorrect stereotypes and prejudice.

The project has been endorsed by the Director of Cheshire East Council, and YMCA Crewe have had interest from the Local Governments Association in rolling out the pack nationally as a Government recommended Best Practice Resource.

The project also won the Keele University ‘Breaking the Mould’ award for Social Inclusion in October 2022, and the Foyer Federation’s Room for Young People award for Community Engagement in February 2023.

Over the next 12 months, YMCA Crewe hope to build on this success by creating a digital platform for the resources, which will improve accessibility for delivery in non-formal education settings, such as scouts and guides, youth groups, and sports teams. They also want to build connections with more Refugees and Asylum Seekers living locally, and give them the opportunity to share their stories in a safe and trusted way through the digital platform.

The Refugees Realities project is already changing the narrative around Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Children living in Cheshire East, and there is a lot of excitment to see how it develops over the coming months.

Award Sponsors

Support & Advice Project of the Year

The Listening Project | YMCA St. Helen's

The Listening Service launched in February 2022, aimed at 12-to-18-year-olds seeking help for mental health concerns. It provides a mix of one-to-one preventative listening support, post-crisis support (to young people who have experienced a mental health crisis), and group-based activities. These enable young people to develop tools, motivation, and skills to meet their own needs around mental health, empowering them to live healthy balanced lives.

It also works to establish positive and meaningful relationships, role models and support-networks, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. The Listening Service aims to empower young people to make a positive impact in their lives and in their local community, increasing their decision making, leadership, and self-care skills, and understanding the effect these choices have on mental health.

In 12 months, YMCA St Helens received 257 referrals and were able to support 143 young people via one-to-one preventative listening support sessions, 30 young people via post-crisis support and 23 young people via group activities. Young people reported a 91% average improvement in how they would rate their mental wellbeing before and after receiving this support, with parents/guardians reporting a 121% average improvement in their child’s mental wellbeing.

Furthermore, 100% of young people reported an improvement in their self-confidence/ self-esteem and an increase in their ability to know how to ease their anxiety. 96% reported an increase in knowing what to do to lift their mood when feeling low, and an increase in their ability to cope when things go wrong for them. 89% reported a decrease in the negative impact anxiety has on their life, as well as an increase in their knowledge of who and where to ask for help with their mental health and wellbeing. Finally, 86% reported an increased understanding of mental health and wellbeing in general.

What makes this programme unique and innovative, especially amongst local CYP mental health services, is that YMCA St Helens allows young people to be in control of every aspect of their support, including what takes place in their sessions.

Creating a Culture of Collaboration | YMCA Brighton

Supporting the homelessness community in Brighton and Hove is at the heart of YMCA Brighton. Their goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals by providing them with the support and housing they need to thrive and live independent and fulfilling lives.

During the pandemic, everyone faced unique challenges, and people struggled to retain control of their lives. YMCA Brighton focused on empowering their clients, restoring their sense of control, and rebuilding community within their own projects. Through that work, YMCA Brighton have strengthened their commitment to involving clients in decision-making, promoting collaboration, and giving a voice to those who so often lack choice and control.

By valuing their service users’ experiences and encouraging them to share their perspectives and skills, YMCA Brighton have greatly enhanced their support services, and seen incredible growth in the confidence and abilities of residents and service users. They have taken on responsibilities, provided peer support, and actively participated in workshops alongside staff, a collaborative approach which has resulted in personal and professional growth for our clients.

A key example of the positive impact of service user involvement can be seen in YMCA Brighton’s Client Appreciation Awards, which has grown year on year, shaped by clients’ own visions of how to celebrate their successes. At this event, staff and clients come together to celebrate achievements big and small, share performances and poetry, present awards, and foster a strong sense of community.

Listening to clients and taking action based on their feedback has resulted in significant changes to YMCA Brighton support services and client experience overall.
This type of involvement in staff development shapes the formation of YMCA Brighton, its leadership, and support staff.

YMCA Brighton also expanded their peer support opportunities, supporting clients to induct volunteers, formally appreciate each other’s achievements, and share their perspectives on independent living. Through these means, YMCA Brighton has fostered closer relationships and improved communication between clients and board members, to ensure clients’ voices are heard at all levels.

The SOS Bus | YMCA Norfolk - WINNER

The SOS Bus in Kings Lynn helped 24,439 people stay safe between March 22 and April 23. The service is offered to the local community through two members of permanent staff and several volunteers, and is in place to reduce the requirement for ambulance call outs, so saving £24,050 in the previous financial year.

Saving police time has also formed part of The SOS Bus’ remit with more than 24 hours of their time saved over the past year during peak times where it was utilised to keep someone safe, allowing them respond to emergencies. The team and volunteers work in challenging situations offering a variety of services such as: advanced first aid, mental health guidance and signposting, safeguarding, child protection, drugs and alcohol support, sexual assault support and domestic violence support and advice.

YMCA Norfolk runs its SOS Bus service all year round on a Friday and Saturday from 9pm-3am, attending in all weathers and offering warm clothing and drink to homeless people in the area. They had a total of 514 homeless visits within the year.

A support system of donations has also been put in place alongside local supermarkets giving away items to support good hygiene, period poverty support and food items that we not perishable. YMCA Norfolk are also proud to have saved one person’s life on site with their Defib machine which resides on the bus. Without this being available and the quick thinking of staff, this person may have tragically passed away.

It costs less than £40k a year to run as a service, utilising the generosity of volunteers, donations and opportunities for extra funding, allowing YMCA Norfolk to be able to provide a service which reaches more people than any other stand-alone service in the area.

Family & Youth Work Project of the Year

Family Respect Project | Trinity Group - WINNER

YMCA Trinity Group’s Family Respect Project works with families experiencing Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA).  It offers a 12-week programme of support which is an accredited programme owned by the national charity, Respect.

The accredited programme delivered by YMCA Trinity Group aims to improve relationships within families and to prioritise the safety for victims of abuse. This service is the only one of its kind in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire offering specific CAPVA support to families. YMCA Trinity Group have started to forge robust partnerships with the local specialist domestic abuse services to ensure they provide the right support to the right individuals.

Between April 2022 and May 2023, the Project triaged 133 referrals into their service using a dedicated pathway via police. In the same time frame, they also delivered 768 hours of direct support to families experiencing CAPVA, with a total of 86 families supported with face-to-face RYPP sessions to date.  As a result of this success and the vast amount of savings achieved for their police colleagues and within wider systems of support such as children’s social care, further investment for the project has been confirmed.

For the first two cohorts of families worked with, it is evident that police call outs reduced by over 90% which evidences a massive shift for the families engaged with.  As their work ends with families, YMCA Trinity Group noticed that for children and young people who have been struggling to engage in school, attendance ultimately improves, and missing episodes stop in nearly all cases.

The project works holistically with everyone within a family to understand different perspectives and to provide meaningful person-centred support.  Their goal is to encourage families to seek support from the police when they feel unsafe, whilst building safety planning into daily family life.

Air Play | One YMCA

Last year, One YMCA became the lead organisation for the RAF Benevolent Fund’s youth support programme, Airplay. Demonstrating the collective strength of YMCA in its ‘more and better together’ approach, a consortium of 11 YMCA deliver the project across 24 RAF stations in England, Wales and Scotland, in conjunction with RAF Community Support, improving outcomes for even more young members.

Young people in RAF families are faced with unique challenges due to frequent changes of home, school, and friendship groups, and having parents away from home for long periods and on deployment in high-risk situations. Airplay supports its young people by creating a community where they can belong, contribute, and thrive. In 2022, Airplay delivered over 6,250 hours of youth activities to its 2,350 members with young people engaging in social action, residential, thematic and universal youth work activities.

Youth voice is pivotal, with 110 youth forums taking place over the past year and members setting the agenda, discussing the things that matter to them.

One YMCA also launched Airplay Connect, a bespoke digital platform providing members access to regular virtual activities, information and support. Activities such as the Gamer Group and Virtual Youth Forums connecting members wherever they are. Airplay projects got busy making videos, games and challenges to share, with Airplay Connect becoming a vital part of the provision and extending its reach to those children and young people who live away from an RAF station or overseas, thereby supercharging the provision on offer.

Family & Youth Provision | YMCA Humber

In March 2022, YMCA Humber initiated a free parent and toddler group, which quickly gained traction and became a thriving community hub. The group attracted an average of 40 parents and their children per session, fostering interaction, friendship, and support among attendees. This initiative not only catered to the demand for such a space but also provided a safe and welcoming environment for parents and children to bond.

The parent and toddler group proved to be a platform for collaboration with other organisations, facilitating the delivery of additional valuable services. For instance, Forefront Training provided first aid tasters, Warm Welcome Energy raised awareness about energy efficiency, and fitness classes were conducted.

YMCA Humber then launched a free youth club, which offered a diverse range of sports and wellbeing activities, including expert-led sessions in golf, cricket, running, and crocheting. This holistic approach aimed to engage young participants, introduce them to new skills, and promote physical and mental wellbeing. With 250 children signing up, the club has been successful in attracting and engaging young people from the community.

Recognising the need to support local dads, YMCA Humber also conducted a survey as part of the Grimsby Dads Collective project, which saw 52% of young dads expressing interest in a peer-to-peer support group. Responding to this demand, they launched the Dads Connect group in March 2023 which has seen regular attendance, providing a valuable platform for sharing experiences and fostering a sense of community among dads.

Overall, YMCA Humber’s youth and family project has demonstrated its commitment to empowering youth and strengthening community bonds. Through initiatives like the parent and toddler group, free youth club, and Dads Connect, the project has not only met the needs and desires of the community but also facilitated collaborations with other organisations to deliver diverse services.

Diversity Award

Yippee & Yip4Youth disability clubs | YMCA East Surrey - WINNER

YMCA East Surrey’s Yippee (age 5-11) and Yip4Youth (age 12-18) groups provide play and youth Short Breaks for children and young people with disabilities and complex needs across multiple sites in Surrey as well as in West Sussex.

In the last financial year, Yippee & Yip4Youth provided 32,500 hours of care/respite to 388 children & young people. In 2023/24, Yippee & Yip4Youth will be providing over 35,000 hours of care with over 6,000 spaces available to families over 550 sessions.

The service not only provides a safe and welcoming environment, along with exciting activities, but also allows families to have a break from often very demanding caring responsibilities and time to spend with other siblings one-to-one. The clubs offer peace of mind to parents through trained staff, high staff ratios and bespoke care plans.

The team offers support, guidance and advice for families with the challenges they face daily. This has never been more important than with the recent challenges families have faced through the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

Pride in Teesdale | YMCA North Tyneside

Pride in Teesdale has seen, for the first time, its local community come together to celebrate LGBTQIA+ and the diversity within its communities. For Teesdale, this can often be viewed as a foreign topic that is still taboo, but, in partnership with others, YMCA Teesdale are working to tackle this. YMCA Teesdale have delivered three sessions over the last 12 months, providing primarily young people with a safe space to explore their identify and be proud of who they are.

The young people who have engaged with these sessions have stated that they, for the first time, felt they could talk openly about themselves and how they wish to be referred to, explore the barriers they face and what they would like YMCA to do more of. This is a new venture for YMCA Teesdale, but one they are so driven to do, ensuring that everyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community feels supported.

Supporting those family members around the young people also allows them to feel safe and supported by promoting the issues LGBTQIA+ are facing and developing wider support networks which were previously not there. In a rural community, there have been challenges in discussing this issue and developing these projects; however, it is so vital to ensure that everyone can belong, contribute and thrive. There is nothing new or innovative about the approach to developing this work, however YMCA Teesdale have had to be creative in how they engage with people on the topic due to the societal expectations and sensitivities within the rural community. They have addressed this by discussing the pride people take in being part of the community they live in and how the diversity of its community is what makes Teesdale such a fantastic place to live; we just need to learn about these diversities and take pride in ALL aspects of it.

Good Vibes | YMCA Swansea

GoodVibes supports young LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 11-25. It provides a safe space where their identities are respected and supported. Young people build peer friendships within a community so that they can belong, contribute and thrive. It is a group where young people can be surrounded by likeminded individuals in an environment that promotes respecting other people’s choices, citizenship and cultural identity. It provides young people with the confidence to explore their own identity around people that understand and support them. This crucial environment empowers young people to introduce themselves, their names, preferred names, pronouns and more.

Regular well-being sessions, outreach and 1:1 are just small examples of the way in which the service has developed over the past year, but the organic nature of its development is what is so exciting to be part of.  GoodVibes are now actively working within local secondary schools offering support both to young people and professionals alike. Thanks to the support of the Local Authority commissioning team, YMCA Swansea have been able to break through into the educational fields to offer PSE lessons (aligning to the Welsh curriculum), awareness raising sessions, signposting to services and general support when needed, and often empowering young people themselves to create and deliver their own solutions.

What makes GoodVibes’ input unique is that information is the collective voice of the Young People themselves which offers a view like no other, and it is now a regular sight not just at Swansea Pride, but also Pride Cymru and other smaller regional events; learning, adapting and reaching out at every opportunity.

GoodVibes equips young people with the understanding and skills to enable them to exercise their rights and be proud of who they are; to foster confidence and self-esteem. The young people who attend describe it as their only safe place, their family away from home. Many young people rely on the group as being central to their lives and identity.

YMCA of the Year

YMCA Humber

When YMCA Humber moved to the East Marsh in September 2021, alongside providing housing they aimed to become a community hub and offer as many free services through funding as possible to help local families.

In 2022 they received funding from Cudox to run a range of health and wellbeing drop-in sessions which were available to both residents and the local community, in March of the same year they also tested out a free parent and toddler group to see if there was a demand. From day one they had on average 20 parents attend each session with their child(ren). Running a toddler group has had a big impact on the local community, offering a safe, welcoming space for parents to interact with their children, whilst building friendships. YMCA Humber has welcomed 128 unique attendees at their toddler group and 723 total attendances.

In June 2022 they received funding from Active Humber to run a free youth club three evenings a week and have had 250 children sign up with 35-40 children attending each session on average since it began.

As part of their Grimsby Dads Collective project which offers free support to Dads, they also ran a survey in October 2022 to find out what local Dads would like to see in the community. They received 269 responses and 52% of young Dads said they would be interested in a peer-to-peer support group. This group is now called Dads Connect and began in March 2023.

At the end of 2022 and into 2023, YMCA Humber also received warm space funding from DWP which allowed them to support the community as the cost of living increased, launching a free pensioners lunch every Thursday for individuals to visit the community cafe and receive a two-course meal. In 2022 they served 96 free meals and became a warm space for pensioners.

YMCA Plymouth - WINNER

This year has seen the culmination of YMCA Plymouth’s 4-Year plan to transform a 1970s centre into a modern and thriving community hub, fit for the needs of young people and the whole community – today and for years to come.

Growing their reach by over 80% since 2021, their work has supported over 18,000 people this year and earned them acclaim regionally by winning the Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Community Champion Award 2023.

The centre offers a vocational college, an array of Family & Youth services, an innovative Health & Wellbeing provision and much more, all under one roof – catering to the needs of people aged under 1, to their oldest member at 91.

Underpinning YMCA Plymouth’s success is the sustainable model they’ve developed, combining a traditional charitable model with a diverse social enterprise model. Their Fundraising and Careers Lead was also crowned as a winner in the West Country Women Awards 2022, for leading outstanding projects such as our My Future mentoring programme, helping over 200 young people, and running the South West’s biggest youth careers event, attended by over 2,000 young people.

Protecting the environment has also been a key pillar of their transformation, with a range of green initiatives being nationally accredited by Make It Net Zero and awarded by Green Tourism. This includes planting a pioneering micro-forest containing 600+ trees, and transitioning to solar energy, saving 10 tonnes of CO2 per month.

Just some of the other achievements marked this year include 2,400+ Families accessing a newly opened Soft Play provision, which offers free weekly sessions to children with special educational needs and disabilities, and more than £10,000 of additional aid was distributed to help with cost-of-living and energy bill rises.

Additionally, 162 young people (largely NEET) successfully achieved qualifications and were supported into employment or further education/training through Discovery College.

94% of people said in our latest centre survey that their mental health has improved thanks to coming to YMCA Plymouth, with 1 in 4 making new friends.

YMCA East Surrey

YMCA East Surrey’s inclusive services now support over 14,000 local people, helping the whole community to belong, contribute and thrive.

In 2022 they opened their third move-on property and are now in the process of acquiring another, and their emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young people have expanded significantly. During FY22/23, they offered free counselling, school-based interventions, wellbeing youth groups, and a new project supporting young adults as they transition into adulthood, serving 1,518 children and young people, and have expanded their disability play and youth clubs into two additional venues. Youth workers ran 14.5 hours of youth clubs each week across five different venues, with 692 young people attending youth clubs in FY22/23.

YMCA East Surrey opened a new out-of-school childcare provision in a local school, in addition to the existing childcare clubs at their centre, with all childcare services offer funding to those who would otherwise struggle to afford to attend. They also started a girls’ football team who now play in a competitive local league.

The Health & Wellbeing team secured funding to develop their Exercise Referral offer for people with long-term health conditions and to increase public health checks. The gym and fitness membership has grown to a record 1,572 people and they continue to offer a wide variety of disability and inclusive sports.

YMCA East Surrey have also enjoyed significant success with their Challenge Event programme. In 2022, 1,254 challengers trekked, ran, or cycled 23,519 miles and raised £68,500 through various events like Fun Run, Santa Run, cycle challenges to Bruges and the Pyrenees, a trek across the North Downs, Sleep Easy, quiz night, curry night and a Ceilidh.

Thank you to our sponsors. Your support makes this event possible.