YMCA of the year winners on stage

THANK YOU FOR VOTING!

Online voting is now closed for this year’s Youth Matters Awards. Finalists will be announced Monday, 23 August.

Voting closed Friday, 13 August 2021

This award recognises the exceptional achievements of a young person who has overcome significant obstacles to make a real difference in their own lives and their community.

Abigail Brunet-Huntingford

VOTE FOR ABIGAIL

Abigail has faced — and continues to overcome — significant challenges as a Young Adult Carer who lives and studies away from home. Abigail tragically lost her mother last year. This came suddenly and was a great shock to her and her family. Abigail selflessly continues to divide her time between studying and providing unpaid care: this involves many many hours spent on seven-hour round-trip train journeys.

Despite everything that has happened in the past 12 months, she has successfully completed her first year of university with flying colours while also dedicating a significant amount of time campaigning and supporting research in order for unpaid carers across Wales to be better recognised and supported. Abigail wants her story heard so that other young carers don’t feel alone in what they are going through.

Abigail also volunteers her time to our gardening project. She has also applied to be a mentor part of YMCA’s Y’s Girls Project: a project that supports young girls at risk of developing mental health issues — something that she is passionate about. Abigail is a credit to unpaid carers.  

VOTE FOR ABIGAIL

Kayleigh Kopieczek

VOTE FOR KAYLEIGH

Kayleigh experienced severe bullying at school and sixth form, so much so that it almost made her drop out entirely. The bullying affected her mental health to the point that she wanted to give up and felt there was no point in life anymore. Kayleigh would refuse to leave her room and felt too anxious to go out in public or socialise with her peers.

Visits to her GP finally resulted in a referral to CAMHS, who were supportive but unable to continue support after Kayleigh’s 18th birthday. Kayleigh was desperate to find a supportive friendship group outside of school. She heard about YMCA East Surrey’s WAVES youth group, which provides a positive space for young people to talk about mental health and wellbeing. Through support from WAVES and lots of determination from Kayleigh, she persevered and passed her A-Levels, becoming the first person in her family to go to University, which was a big dream of hers.

Throughout her time at WAVES, Kayleigh became more confident and independent. She has shown great compassion resulting in becoming a Mental Health Champion, supporting others through talking about her experiences and knowledge around mental health. She has become a great role model for younger members of the WAVES group.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it affected everyone at WAVES greatly. It would have been easy to retreat away again and stop engaging with the world, but instead, Kayleigh played a huge part in moving the WAVES project online. In her spare time, Kayleigh created positive mental health activities that young people could do at home, recorded videos around how to look after your mental health during the lockdown and also led Zoom sessions alongside youth workers around important mental health and wellbeing topics. Kayleigh helped us keep WAVES going and strengthened the WAVES online community.

Kayleigh has overcome what happened to her, and although some days still are harder than others, she has turned her experiences into something positive and will not let it stop her from pursuing the things she wants to do. 

VOTE FOR KAYLEIGH

Lakeiya Robinson

VOTE FOR LAKEIYA

Lakeiya is estranged from her family, which caused many struggles in her life. She lacked support and love, but that didn’t stop her from moving forward. She volunteered at her local youth centre, worked as a waitress whilst studying full-time for her A-levels. Lakeiya also sat on Birmingham’s Youth Parliament.

Lakeiya experienced ongoing trauma; in her words, “by the grace of God,” she managed to achieve the results to get accepted into Russell Group University. Lakeiya felt isolated at university, and to cope, she did a nail course with Princes Trust, where she developed her own business. At the end of her course, Lakeiya faced homelessness. Despite this, Lakeiya enrolled on a Master course and completed it and became a Youth Steering Committee member with Beatfreeks

Unexpectedly in February 2021 Lakeiya, found out she was pregnant. At the time, she couldn’t see any positives as her brother was in prison, and her father had been murdered. In March, she had no job, was on a break from her business and severely depressed, and was evicted from her hostel.

Lakeiya completed her final year of undergrad, obtaining an English degree. She left “everything the hands of God.” Two months before she gave birth, Lakeiya’s support worker told her she had been accepted for a self-contained apartment with YMCA Heart of England.

Lakeiya is doing amazing things as an ambassador with Young Mums Support Network and is saving for her permanent home. Lakeiya believes she is destined for greatness and “can achieve all things through God.” Her life motto is that struggle builds character, and she is thankful for every single experience that she encountered.

Lakeiya, has now been with YMCA Heart of England since September 2020 and has completed a number of programmes to improve her life skills. 

VOTE FOR LAKEIYA

Megan Crutcher

VOTE FOR MEGAN

Megan is a young carer who provides care for her younger brother, and during the pandemic, Megan’s caring role increased dramatically as her brother’s carers were unable to provide the care he needed, and he was unable to attend any respite. Megan knew she needed to support the family during this time and stepped up to support him emotionally and physically, calming him down and looking after him whenever he would have a fit day or night.

Megan also managed to stay on top of her schoolwork, help her family and get involved in activities to look after her physical and mental wellbeing. Megan is respected as a senior member of the Young Carers Project and has a lot of respect from other young carers that look up to her. During a lockdown, when all services went online, Megan planned and led sessions with the other young carers to show them that you can still have fun during the lockdown. She runs regular sessions such as online baking and interactive scavenger hunts.

Megan also gave a lot of her time to develop and create 2 short animation films that can now be used by YMCA Swansea to raise awareness of Young Carers. Megan co-wrote the script, designed characters and was a voiceover for a character in the animation. This was an incredibly brave thing for Megan to do with her speech impairment. However, Megan does not give up and let things easily become a barrier, and she achieves what she sets her mind to.

The film is used in schools/businesses/youth organisations across Swansea to help identify hidden young carers and is used as a teaching resource in our Accredited training; ‘Understanding Young Carers’, which Megan has achieved herself to become Swansea’s first, Young Carers Champion to advocate for young carers in her community.   

VOTE FOR MEGAN

Tom Bullows

VOTE FOR TOM

Tom was an only child raised within an armed forces family moving every few years and struggled with friendships and behaviour in school. Tom completed secondary education in a pupil referral unit; he started at college, but this coincided with the family moving again due to his dad’s job in a different country. Tom completed a year in college, but his attendance was poor. Tom was referred to YMCA by the college following a breakdown in the relationship between him and his parents.

Damage was being caused in the family home, and Tom was at risk of being made homeless. Tom had great difficulty with anxiety and wore a hat at every opportunity. There were days when he would not leave the property and found it difficult to talk to staff. He had no experience of running a property and had no income of his own. Tom was a frequent user of cannabis as a means of managing anger and had done this for a considerable period of time. What little money he did have went towards this.

Since moving into YMCA, Tom has worked with the team to complete college courses and learn how to manage his flat and secure an income. He has rebuilt his relationship with his family and has a strong, happy support network around him. He has secured a paid apprenticeship in Graphic Design – his passion – after taking the initiative and putting together a portfolio of his own work. He has been cannabis free for over a year, his anxiety has reduced considerably, and he is able to talk to all of the staff. He has developed good friendships with many of the other residents at YMCA Wellington. He is saving money to move on to independent housing, and we are incredibly proud of him.

VOTE FOR TOM

This award recognises a young worker for their outstanding commitment to building a brighter future for young people and for going the extra mile to make a real difference in their lives.

Aisha Adan

VOTE FOR AISHA

During the peak of Covid-19 YMCASPGs, Early years provision continued to deliver childcare to the children of key workers to ensure that their parents could remain at work. In addition to supporting her own family during the pandemic, Aisha continued to come into work during the pandemic and provided opportunities for children to experience different activities, giving the children time to explore and take risks.

At first, some of the children were reluctant to explore messy activities. However, Aisha persevered and used her initiative to provide messy play at floor level, allowing the children comfortably to access the paint and other activities on offer.

Aisha offered words of encouragement to reinforce the positives behaviour of exploring and trying new things. Her praise was sincere and honest and successfully increased the children’s intrinsic motivation. The children then started to want to do things for themselves as opposed to for a reward.

In the absence of another room leader, Aisha stepped up and took over the facilities room planning. She collated all the individual planning, discussed activities for specific children to extend their skills with the team and ensured these activities were included in the planning.

At the end of the day, if Aisha needs to spend 15-20 minutes discussing a child with a parent, she will do so. On occasions, this results in Aisha working over and above her contracted hours.  She always ensures the parents’ questions are answered and doesn’t say, ‘It’s my time to go home’. During Eid celebrations, Aisha purchased sweets and made a gift for each child in the setting to take home.  This accompanied their Eid card. Aisha didn’t just focus on the children in the room in which she works. 

VOTE FOR AISHA

Chiara Docherty

VOTE FOR CHIARA

Chiara became a resident of Frome Foyer at 16. She didn’t have an easy childhood and faced the challenges of becoming a single mum at 17.  YMCA Foyer staff supported her, providing many different services and opportunities to help Chiara through the difficulties and personal challenges she was facing. This helped Chiara become focused and determined to achieve in ways she had not previously experienced.

Chiara gained youth work qualifications, completed active citizens and intergenerational work, visited Serbia with YMCA and attended the YMCA National Conference. She became a member of the Youth Steering Committee, trained to deliver services and became a volunteer Youth Worker for Coleford Youth Club & Routes (IAG). 

This enabled Chiara to turn her life around; she got more involved, which led to many good opportunities opening up for her. She worked hard and, at 19, became a paid member of staff as a youth worker at Frome youth club.  Since then, Chiara has become; area team leader in Mendip at 24, overseeing youth clubs; she has helped set up youth clubs across Somerset, worked with young people setting up social action projects in 3 different communities; supported hundreds of young people and is a vital member of the staff team at YMCA Brunel Group.

Chiara is passionate about young people, and she knows from her own experience there is always a way to achieve that breakthrough with young people. Chiara has always worked above and beyond to support young people. She worked hard supporting young people through the pandemic, providing covid-19 advice, mentoring, detached work, helping them through their own challenges. Now, Chiara runs four youth clubs, including Mendip young carers and is also working directly with young people at risk of county lines and child sexual exploitation. She is one in a million.

VOTE FOR CHIARA

Daniel Boon

VOTE FOR DANIEL

Dan took on an apprenticeship with us for twelve months, working with our marketing and communications team, and as a result of his commitment, he is now in full employment with us and controls much of our social media output and managing our website. He said, “Completing my apprenticeship has opened many doors of opportunity for me. I am now in a job where I come into work loving what I do”.

From the outset, Dan became a role model for young people living with us. He wanted to fully involve young people as part of the work he does, giving them opportunities to learn and develop themselves. When Dan creates content and videos, he involves young people in developing ideas and producing the content.

During the pandemic, Dan has gone the extra mile. Working on-site throughout, he has done everything he could to support young people living on site. He has played sports, attended the gym, and supported on-site activities to help young people tackle loneliness and social isolation. He has kept in contact with them all hours through social media platforms. He has also helped young people to serve their community, establishing a team of young people to help design, prepare and deliver our ‘community response service’ packages, which has supported hundreds of families across the Stoke on Trent area.

During the pandemic, he also worked at gathering young people to work alongside volunteers to create hampers that were then delivered to isolated families in the local community, ensuring they had enough food to feed them.

He became a Youth Ambassador this year and hopes to inspire young people by showing what he has achieved so far. 

VOTE FOR DANIEL

Elinor Adie

VOTE FOR ELINOR

Since being appointed into the role of West Sussex Youth Hub Development Coordinator in November 2019, Eli has worked tirelessly to implement new projects in both Crawley and Worthing in West Sussex. Eli has worked in partnership with both statutory and voluntary partners leading work setting up pathways into the emotional wellbeing and mental health projects she leads on.  

Eli has developed our emotional wellbeing, and mental health projects Mind the Gap and the Bite-Size offer in partnership with West Sussex County Council. She has successfully sought funding for and implemented a new LGBTQUI+ youth support service, developed our Crawley Youth Advice Centre to not only have a YMCA offer through our own specialist Support and Advice workers but working with local delivery partners offering employment support and counselling. Eli has taken on the management of the therapeutic support in our partnership project ‘Room to Rant’ and supported the rollout of this important young men’s support service across Sussex and continued to support Brighton delivery. 

Eli’s passion for and commitment to youth voice underpins all the work she undertakes. Eli set up Youth Advisory Boards (YABs) for her area and also lead on setting up YMCA DLG-wide thematic YABs, ensuring that as an organisation, we were able to offer space for emerging issues and concerns for young people, including anti-black racism and LGBTQUI+ issues.  

Throughout the past year, Eli has responded to the changes COVID has forced upon us with resilience and dedication, keeping people safe while still meeting young people’s needs and providing continuous service.

Eli’s dedication, passion and commitment to the young people and the services she manages is an inspiration to all that work with her. She is a fantastic asset to the YMCA DLG team. 

VOTE FOR ELINOR

Gergo Daroczi

VOTE FOR GERGO

Gergo (aka Geg) has a BSC Honours Degree in Record Production & Audio Engineering & Level 3 in Youth Work. He manages a professional recording studio that is used as a tool to engage some of the most disengaged young people in Wales. He works with young people from all backgrounds and communities.

Geg has run the studio for 7 years and has used the studio to support some of the hardest to reach young people to overcome significant barriers. 

During Covid, Geg went above and beyond the call of duty by adapting his delivery to online services and set up a home recording studio. He also supported young people to do the same by purchasing equipment and resources for them to record from home. During covid, he worked tirelessly, supporting over 100 young people and delivered more than 500 music sessions.

The life stories and experiences that he brings out of young people through lyric writing is amazing. He has worked with young people who have disclosed they have been abused, neglected, taken drugs, or committed crimes but uses studio activities to encourage young people to reflect, heal and process traumatic experiences.

A lot of young people that Geg supports struggle with substance use, and the transformations that they have achieved by working with Geg is phenomenal. He has also delivered outreach music workshops in youth clubs all over Wales because he is passionate about children and young people and supporting them to embrace music. He has a real talent for how he mixes the music tuition with the quality youth work practice. We are proud to have him on our team and we wouldn’t know what we would do without him! I know there are so many young people in Wales that would say the same and more. 

VOTE FOR GERGO

This award recognises a young person for their ability to make a real difference in their YMCA by bringing about positive change, working with vision and inspiring others.

Erin Edwards

VOTE FOR ERIN

Erin Edwards was first referred to the YMCA’s Supported Lodgings scheme following the breakdown of their relationship with her family back in 2016 when she was 17 years old. She was matched with Hosts Clare and Graham Fentham in Brierley Hill where she settled in very quickly and became a part of the family. 

During her time on Supported Lodgings, In addition to maintaining her place at college and learning new life skills including driving, Erin became a positive role model for other Young People on the project. She regularly attended Host training courses for potential new Hosts to help give them an understanding of how the project works. 

Erin met with the Mayor and Lady Mayor in the Dudley Borough where she lived as well as visiting Westminster where she spoke confidently with Members of Parliament about her experience of the scheme. She also helped to secure a £2000 donation from a businessman who she spoke to about her story on the train home from London.

In 2018, she was selected to attend the YMCA World Council in Thailand. Erin participated fully in this international event and built positive relationships with people from all corners of the world.
After leaving Supported Lodgings, Erin continued to live with her former Host family as a private lodger.

They began to Host another Young Person who Erin mentored. She was keen to give something back to the scheme which she said had helped her so much. She agreed to have her story told in the local press and earlier this year, she was interviewed about her experience on ITV News. Erin is now in the process of buying her own home. The home has three bedrooms and Erin is about to embark on training to become a Host herself. 

VOTE FOR ERIN

Grace McNulty

VOTE FOR GRACE

Grace now aged 15 has been a member of the Jarrow YMCA youth group for the last six years. In that time she has grown into a mature young woman with kindness and a desire to give back to her community. She is instrumental in inspiring her peers to volunteer and give back to the community – from organising coffee mornings for older people, volunteering in the local park, community garden, and within the local cemetery; tending war graves, and helping weekly to tidy up the cemetery for everyone to enjoy a clean, well-loved space to visit loved ones that have passed. 

Grace has a difficult and challenging family background and home life but shows amazing strength and qualities to overcome these. Over the years we are well aware of the struggles that Grace has encountered. As a result, she has developed amazing strengths and attitudes to succeed.  

Grace has empathy for others, especially those who seem to be most in need of support; instrumental in planning and organising many environmental and intergenerational activities. Grace sees inequality and feels that she must act to help. It was her sympathy for people buried in forgotten and untended graves that led her to raise funds and gather support from her peers to visit the local cemetery each Sunday morning for over a year now. The cemetery Facebook page attracts over 8000 views each Sunday and hundreds of positive comments are made by local residents. Grace also actively raises funds for a local charity; St Vincent de Paul Jarrow. She coordinates walks, fayres and coffee mornings generating over £1500. 

Grace has also been an active member of the Central Jarrow Big Local Partnership Board for almost 2 years now, having full voting rights in decision making, contributing a young person perspective. Grace hopes to be a Youth and Community Worker and she is concerned that her poor predicted exam grades will have an impact on this BUT I cannot think of any other young person I have come across in over 25 years of working with young people who would be more suitable to work in this field. 

YMCA North Tyneside is extremely proud of Grace’s achievements and the manner she has overcome so many personal obstacles as well as helping to inspire many other local young people to become involved in their community. She is a credit to the YMCA and worthy of the Young Leader of the Year Award. 

VOTE FOR GRACE

Harriet King

VOTE FOR HARRIET

Harriet is bright and engaging in her role as Project Officer. With a background in communications, she started as the Marketing and Communications Officer at YMCA Norfolk; within this role, she took YMCA Norfolk into a new dynamic place, elevating our social media presence. With her can-do attitude and ability to tackle any task that came her way, she was selected to be the Project Officer for the new £2m projects to deliver a 90 place nursery, Café and soft play along with HQ replacement.

Harriet quickly developed project management skills and negotiated her way through the role of being the internal link with the project. Working closely with the Senior Management team, she became very hands-on, ensuring actions were completed, decisions were made in a timely manner and keeping the project on track. The Project is now open, and her role has changed to addressing day to day operational issues with the project and liaising with the external contractors. Harriet has shown a level of maturity beyond her years in wanting to progress and develop herself. During this time, she has also set up he own business, which she works part-time on but shows her desire to succeed.

Harriet’s passion for the YMCA is shown in her positive, proactive actions, which to date have led to 5 friends also joining the YMCA to work. Harriet is a great communicator and advocates for marginalised groups through a blog she writes, along with opportunities to volunteer to support groups as opportunities arise. 

VOTE FOR HARRIET

Katie Alsop

VOTE FOR KATIE

Katie is an amazing young person who always wants to develop more awareness of young carers and mental health. Katie has now been on the YMCA Cardiff Young Carers Project for 3 years, and during this time, she has been interviewed for Channel 4 news to talk about young carer experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown, spoke on the radio about young carers and even sang a song and told her young carer story at a regional young carer event.

Katie has been a young carer all her life to her Mum and her Nan; when the lockdown hit, becoming a full-time carer at home and balancing online school was a challenge, but she always made time for the young carers online activities online. She wanted to create music and stories to help raise awareness of young carers, and she achieved this with the help of the project and the ministry of the life youth project.

When lockdown eased, more opportunities became available to raise awareness of the young carers’ community, and Katie was always there wanting their voices to be heard. Below is the link for Katie’s channel 4 interview that was widely viewed and even helped the YMCA Cardiff Young Carers Project by recovering public donations for help, support and respite activities.

VOTE FOR KATIE

Stacey Brown

VOTE FOR STACEY

There aren’t enough words to start to explain Stacey and how she touches so many people’s lives. Stacey is a leader amongst leaders. With her tenacious and hard-working personality and her enormous heart, she puts everything she has into helping others, even when it should be the hardest thing for her to do.

Stacey has run and led theatre productions, teaching and encouraging vulnerable people into the arts, some of which first came to the YMCA, would not talk and had no confidence and then ended up with leading roles. Stacey has this way about her that when people are around her, they feel stronger and more confident – knowing they have Stacey to lean on. Stacey has run our LGBT+ youth group for 3 years and in that time, has touched every single young person’s life. She has given them someone to believe in and somewhere to belong. She speaks out for this group and ensures their voices are heard. Young people in the group say that Stacey has saved their lives.  

We feel Stacey needs to be shown an enormous amount of recognition and praise for the kind-hearted person she is. She lives and breathes the YMCA. 

VOTE FOR STACEY

This award recognises a dedicated young volunteer who has shown outstanding commitment to YMCA and contributed energy, skills and time.

Catriona Brown

VOTE FOR CATRIONA

Cat has lived at the YMCA Crewe for nearly 2 years. She suffers from severe OCD and has support from adult social care. She has struggled to maintain work or stick to a timetable or routine. We opened a café in our building during the coronavirus pandemic, and Cat immediately took an interest and wanted to volunteer. She initially struggled with getting up on time and turning up to all her shifts, but when she was in the café, she showed an amazing talent for working in this environment. She was great with customers and encouraging them to try new things, and she would always ask for feedback on how to improve the way the café ran.

Along with the café manager, she was able to develop new meals and put her ideas across for improvements and how to make the general workings of the café be better. She improved her reliability and was turning up 5 days a week and on time. Her development and improvement were clear to see, and she became an integral member of the café team.

She then moved out into her own flat at Christmas time, which was a massive achievement for her. Once the café reopened after the 2021 lockdown, she came back and had been working four days a week, continuing to volunteer and turn up on time even though she has to walk an hour to get to the café. She has also become a mentor to others volunteering in the café and teaching them how to work in the café.

Her commitment to turning up what she has brought to the café and the energy she brings has been invaluable, and she has helped to make the café a well ran, thriving environment for other volunteers and the customers. 

VOTE FOR CATRIONA

Chelsea Moore

VOTE FOR CHELSEA

Chelsea is a hardworking, motivated person. She joined us in September 2018 (aged 17) and since then has enrolled and completed her college diploma, a course she is certain she would not have completed if it wasn’t for the support from staff.

In 2019, Chelsea won a YMCA Essex Personal Progression Award for working well at college and doing her own documentary on mental health. Whilst studying, she has also spent most of her free time volunteering with us and within the community, as follows:

  • Deliver food to those in need, e.g. over Christmas – cooked Christmas dinner for fellow tenants and helped deliver food to families.
  • Assisted with moving furniture/people moving house with no one else that could help.
  • Assisted with a mobile grotto at Christmas, visiting low-income families.

Chelsea has volunteered to help with another community organisation at a large festival taking place in September – assisting with catering and planning for the event. This is something she wouldn’t have considered before coming to us, and is now she is looking into a career that can incorporate these new influences. Chelsea is on hand whenever someone within her community needs help. She has a can-do attitude and a need to be of use.

Chelsea has grown during her time with us. She says she was young, immature and not independent. By coming to YMCA, she has developed resilience and a keen desire to make a difference. As she prepares to move out of YMCA Accommodation this week, she says she is excited about the future, has changed so much in 3 years, and it ‘makes my heart warm’ to think how much life has changed and the people she now has in it. She has made friends for life and is happy with the person she has become. 

VOTE FOR CHELSEA

Liam Swain

VOTE FOR LIAM

Liam is a 21-year old resident who has, for over a year, freely volunteered his time week in, week out to YMCA North Staffordshire’s services. Liam has dedicated his volunteering to 4 different departments including Activities, the Canteen, Your local pantry shop, YMCA GO and has participated in the 4U progress programme which helps to support care leavers and improve the care system.

Before moving to YMCA North Staffordshire Liam lived with 4 different foster families but was sadly made homeless. Now Liam has a secure and safe home with continuous support and is now sharing his experience by helping others.

Every Week, Liam volunteers his time across various services, including:

  • Helping in the kitchen cooking meals for young people,  
  • Volunteering in the Local pantry shop which provides food to 80 households weekly 
  • Delivering activities to young people on campus with the Creative Youth Minds team 
  • Supporting youth work provision for under 16;s with YMCA GO 
  • Helping out with the 4-U progress programme to help young people in care and care leavers to have a voice 

Liam has developed his own personal skills and his confidence has increased significantly. He has built on his social skills and is learning about retail, completing accredited training including food hygiene. Liam’s newfound skills enabled him to engage many children during the pandemic with online digital youth work through Zoom and in the classroom during art activities. He has also maintained the grounds by using his gardening skills to upkeep the Orchard on campus. We are all very proud of how far Liam has come since the beginning of his YMCA journey as he continues to thrive and we cannot wait to see where the future leads for this bright and positive young man  

VOTE FOR LIAM

Martin Bushaway

VOTE FOR MARTIN

Martin came to YMCA Wimbledon hostel by his own admission in 2020 after being a Merton Emergency Winter Accommodation project guest. Martin realised he was in a bad place, reliant on using drinks and drugs to medicate his mental health problems. 

Martin threw himself into volunteering with the YMCA Humanitarian Aid Project to keep busy. Initially, he helped by giving food out to those in financial hardship or experiencing homelessness.  He heard from fellow residents that some of the food options available weren’t hitting the spot, so he reached out to local food retailers such as Greggs to diversify options.  

He soon built up and trained a group of resident volunteers which created opportunities for residents to learn social skills, customer service skills and how to deal with businesses.  Martin’s project has also helped to get people out of their rooms during the lockdown in a safe way.  Volunteers have felt a sense of purpose from these opportunities, and the staff at YMCA SPG can clearly see how everyone involved has gained confidence.

After successfully implementing the food project, Martin was then asked to start a Resident Representative group. He started working with our Community Activities and Chaplaincy Teams, welcoming new residents and supporting other projects.

Martin has now had a successful move on to independent accommodation and is now an official volunteer with the YMCA’s Community Activities Team, recently helping with the interview and appointment of a new Exec Director.

Martin maintains a vision for feeding those experiencing homelessness and building a volunteer programme for the residents. He believes deeply that this project gives residents a sense of purpose and community.

Martin’s determination, kindness, and desire for others to succeed are exceptional, and his positive outlook is a genuine inspiration to all who are fortunate enough to encounter him.  

VOTE FOR MARTIN

Ollie Winter

VOTE FOR OLLIE

Ollie Winter is one of our young theatre volunteers who spends a large amount of his free time working on our shows. These shows not only help to raise funds but also provide a creative outlet for the local community. With almost a show a week before lockdown, it’s a busy theatre and lots of commitment.

During the lockdown, Ollie developed photography and film skills. Using his initiative, he decided to film the pantomime; by doing so, we were able to offer the pantomime as the most recent lockdown hit us. This not only allowed us to recover much-needed funds but allowed many members of our community to enjoy panto magic while in isolation. During the latest lockdown, we were able to fund a project that allowed us to create videos and live streams for the community and members. Ollie was employed in this project to film them; however, he went above and beyond. He edited the videos spending many hours of revisions on getting them just right so that they could be enjoyed by the community.

This commitment beyond what was required for the project showed a passion for the project. Ollie is continuing to develop the space that we created for the project into a studio. This studio will be used after lockdown to provide new opportunities to young people to develop skills in film, youtube and podcasting. Giving young people creative freedom.  During the lockdown, Ollie’s parents, unfortunately, split apart, the YMCA gave Ollie a space to develop himself and a place to escape. 

VOTE FOR OLLIE

This award recognises a young person for the impact they have had campaigning for a cause.

Alex Taylor

VOTE FOR ALEX

Alex has been a Youth Ambassador for YMCA since the programme’s inception. She has been involved in the YMCA since birth and serves as a young trustee (since the age of 21) at her local YMCA in Barnsley. Alex is a qualified youth worker and specialises in youth voice and participation.

Alex not only champions young people at a local and national level but also internationally, sitting on the YMCA Europe Youth Policy Group and representing YMCA on the European Youth Forum and UN ECOSOC in a voluntary capacity.

Over the past year, Alex has gone above and beyond to call on the Government to prioritise the needs of young people. Last year, Alex became YMCAs youth representative on the Back Youth Alliance, which is a national group speaking directly to the government about the needs and experiences of young people. In particular, Alex has played a pivotal role in challenging the government as they formed how funding would be distributed so that it benefited the most amount of young people and those who needed it most and is holding them to account with other youth representatives to ensure it is delivered.

When funding was seen as being at risk, Alex quickly mobilised her support networks to back the YMCA call for immediate funding release during the Government’s Autumn Spending Review. She held a session with other young people on what the current situation was and how they could support it. Alex not only took action herself but mobilised others to do so as well, which is the sign of a great campaigner.

As it stands now, the Government has recommitted to delivering on funding youth work and is listening to the voices of young people in how the fund should be delivered – to which Alex is at heart. 

VOTE FOR ALEX

G

VOTE FOR G

The reason that we are nominating G is that they have gone above and beyond – being a role model, supporting the LGBT+ Community, advocating for positive mental health and also delivering Trans Awareness Training to hundreds of young people, key adults, professionals and organisations to enhance their awareness and understanding of the trans community during the lockdown.

G is a pillar of support for other young people that attend our Good Vibes LGBT+ Youth Group at YMCA Swansea and constantly goes out of their way to ensure that other young people feel safe, have fun and feel supported. As a young person who identifies as trans, G felt safe and supported when they joined YMCA Swansea Good Vibes Group and, as a result, wanted to ensure that any new members who joined felt the same support that they had received. G is passionate about advocating for LGBT+ rights, equality and diversity and, as a result, is involved with Bridgend Youth Council lobbying to enhance & influence policy & services.

As part of our Y-Connect Project – enabling young people to engage as peer educators, developing training around Trans Awareness, LGBT+ Equality and Diversity and Mental Health Awareness, G became a peer educator & developed an accredited Trans Awareness Training programme on topics such as; mental health in the LGBT+ community & Hate crime in the LGBT+ community.

G has volunteered over 12 months & delivered trans awareness sessions face to face & digitally to young people in schools, youth groups and professionals working with young people and has transformed peoples’ mindsets to be more accepting and understanding of those who identify as trans & providing tools and knowledge to equip people on how to address and support a person who identifies as trans. G is an inspiration. 

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Genevieve Duque Adao

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Genevieve (they/them) created and runs the organisation Queers Christian’s Brighton.

They research all the churches within Brighton to find out their stance on LGBTQ+ people and relationships and share on an Instagram and Facebook page which churches are safe for LGBTQ+ people (with accessibility information too). Some people also message the page for emotional support, which Genevieve provides. Through researching and personal experience, they’ve found that churches rarely want to admit if they are queerphobic and use coded language to appear affirming when they aren’t.

They post information debunking coded language and helping identify safe churches themselves. They are planning on supplying more resources on the stances different denominations have, book summaries and recommendations. Via the Facebook group, they’re going to have in-person meetups (when it’s safe). At present, they are trying to get universities to let them be a part of their church search as they currently only promote queerphobic churches.    

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Katie Alsop

VOTE FOR KATIE

Katie is an amazing young person who always wants to develop more awareness of young carers and mental health. Katie has now been on the YMCA Cardiff Young Carers Project for 3 years. During this time, she has been interviewed for Channel 4 news to talk about young carer experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown, spoke on the radio about young carers and even sang a song and told her young carer story at a regional young carer event.

Katie has been a young carer all her life to her Mum and her Nan. When the lockdown hit, becoming a full-time carer at home and balancing online school was a challenge, but she always made time for the young carers online activities online. She wanted to create music and stories to help raise awareness of young carers, and she achieved this with the help of the project and the ministry of the life youth project. 

When lockdown eased, more opportunities became available to raise awareness of the young carers’ community, and Katie was always there wanting their voices to be heard. Below is the link for Katie’s Channel 4 interview that was widely viewed and even helped the YMCA Cardiff Young Carers Project by recovering public donations for help, support and respite activities.  

Check out an interview with Katie here: https://youtu.be/dEWbKG70Jp4.     

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This award recognises YMCAs that have delivered innovative and inspiring projects that have had a tangible and positive impact on young people and/or the wider community.

Families & Community Project

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The Family and Community project team have stepped up significantly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic delivering a wide range of therapeutic support, counselling and mental health services, continuing to work in family homes providing support and helping families with homeschooling.   

When it wasn’t safe to do so (attending a family home), the team took the initiative to complete virtual visits from outside the family homes to ensure that the safety of the children was paramount.

The team have delivered over 7,000 hours of support through rapid response/return alone, supporting 393 families in crisis.  

They have worked hard to continue to house and support single parents in our Umbrella services, providing a safe and secure environment for their children providing additional support, food parcels, additional parenting support and ensuring the best opportunity to sustain change.  

The team have offered both online, and face to face counselling to over 410 individual’s as well as mental health services for children/young people aged 4 -25, offering 75 1-1 sessions for children and 119 sessions with parents.   

They have delivered resilience training, external therapeutic supervision to teachers during covid and further training around increasing resilience in children for families and schools as well as further Mental-Health-First-Aid training for 136 young people and 24 adults.  We have also offered family therapy and support to 643 family members.   

Working in 39 schools, we have delivered mindfulness sessions and further support around mental health.  

The team have responded brilliantly and flexibly in a very difficult year to develop services, adapt training and support to meet the needs of schools, families and young people.

“On behalf of Norfolk CC Children’s Services, I take this opportunity to thank you very much for all the work that you did with S and her family, ensuring that D was safe and well cared for at all times. The approach and tact you applied in working with the family were clearly beneficial for them, and they are very complimentary of your work”. – Social Worker.

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Herts Family Centre Service

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In March 2020, the Hertfordshire Family Centre Service did not provide any digitally delivered services. Two particular areas of need emerged: expectant parents were unable to attend free antenatal courses and increasing numbers of parents became concerned about their child’s speech and language development.

In March 2020, the FCS Communications team led a multi-partner project by setting up a new One YMCA hosted online learning platform that would allow parents to access the same course content they would have received during face to face sessions online. Our team of three sets to work to learn the technical aspects of video recording and editing, and hosted filming days with Midwives from two different NHS Trusts, Health Visitors from a third NHS Trust and staff from our own organisation. Over two hours of bite-sized video segments were uploaded alongside newly created graphic and text content to create a three-module antenatal course that could be delivered to parents in weekly instalments, mirroring the original course. It was launched to parents on 15th April 2020, just three weeks into the first lockdown.

Work to record, edit and create a digital version of the ‘Early Talk’ course for children with an assessed speech delay began soon after and this 6-week online course was launched to parents on 15th May 2020. 

The advantage of developing an online learning platform versus public platforms such as YouTube was that tracking and impact data could be collected and shared with Commissioners, demonstrating how One YMCA could pivot to deliver impactful services in exceptional circumstances. The project was so successful that we continue to deliver online courses on behalf of other FCS providers.

To date, ‘Preparing for Baby’ Online has supported over 2,000 families, and ‘Early Talk’ Online has supported over 200 families across Hertfordshire. 

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Mediation & Counselling

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The Mediation & counselling service provides help at critical moments. Our counselling service is offered to all clients who move into our housing sites, and Mediation is open to young people & their families. The service is managed by 2 staff and several volunteers.

In March 2020, we worked quickly to move services online and provide video meetings using what’s app, Skype & messenger, with all sessions recorded for safeguarding purposes. In September 2020, we offered a ‘Return To School Tensions’ service to support the return to education after the long break. 

During the year, we received 50 mediation referrals, delivered 378 sessions/612 contact hours. We asked participants, “What helped you most in mediation?”:

  • “More confidence to manage (daughter’s) depression.as we discussed all together and understanding each other.”
  • “Being able to express my feelings to my sister and my dad and feeling like I was being listened to.
  • “You helped me feel connected.”
  • “It’s the only space where I felt heard.

The Counselling service received 66 referrals/ delivered 624 hours of counselling. There was an increased need for clients to talk through anxiety-related to Covid 19, shortage of food and supplies, loss of social contact/isolation, concern over others not adhering to guidelines, lack of access to routine medical care, relationship difficulties and loss of routine and structure.  
The pandemic has made us all think & feel differently, and we will continue to offer the online mode of service in the future, even when face to face meetings are available. This service has impacted the lives of many clients living with us and many young people & their families.  

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Shine Allotment

VOTE FOR YMCA TRINITY GROUP

With a lack of safe outdoor places for children and young people to learn and grow, alongside the declining heritage of growing your own fruit and vegetables, the Shine Allotment Project was born. With a long waitlist for plots, those we took on have needed large amounts of work and with the help of volunteers we have transformed these into safe, outdoor learning environments for children and young people aged 2-16 years old across Lowestoft.  

2020 saw the addition of a new double plot complete with a 25-foot polytunnel, enabling us to grow more over winter and run sessions all year round in all weathers. We also included a wildflower meadow to increase insect habitats, raised beds for the nursery children to access more easily and a large pond. This space has allowed us to engage with children and young people safely outdoors.  

At least 30 young people visit the site per week, including our nurseries who currently bring children four times a week. The allotment space allows young people to engage in nature and enjoy the outdoors away from technology, mixing generations and learning skills that could so easily be lost in relation to methods of growing, crop rotation and natural pest control. Educational sessions include looking at what plants need to grow, learning about the cross-pollination of plants, creating new habitats for wildlife, recycling and why it’s important to look after the environment.

The produce from the allotment is used in our youth cooking sessions so that young people see the full transition from planting a seed to eating a healthy homegrown meal. The space also provides somewhere young people can just be in the peace and quiet or take part in art and craft activities that are therapeutic and support positive wellbeing. 

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Swansea Young Carers Project

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During the pandemic, Young Carers found themselves providing care 24/7, during which YMCA Swansea regularly supported over 150 young carers & their families.

Young Carers had to balance providing more care than usual whilst maintaining friendships and relationships only online, keeping up with schoolwork and looking after their own health and wellbeing. Young carers were no longer able to have respite, and so YMCA Swansea adapted their services to ensure young carers were supported appropriately during this time. Offering them an opportunity to participate in fun and interactive online group sessions ranging from indoor quizzes, afternoon teas, meeting each other’s pets to baking brownies and cookies.

YMCA Swansea provided Activity Packs containing all equipment and materials to all young carers to ensure they were able to participate in weekly activities and that there were no barriers. All Young Carers were given Fitbit’s and supported by YMCA staff to participate in daily physical online fitness sessions, not to just focus on physical health but to support their mental health and wellbeing. This was also a tool to ensure they remained active and connected when young people were becoming isolated and disconnected. Laps tops, dongles & mobiles were distributed to ensure digital inclusion & connectivity.

The team also developed well-being journals that were delivered to young carers; this focused on; sleep habits, mindfulness and self-confidence. Individual online, telephone and face to face counselling for young carers & family counselling was also provided. Staff ran weekly online group & 121 sessions throughout COVID. The project also provided tutoring lessons for young carers to support them with schoolwork. 

During the lockdown, Young Carers developed 2 animated films on ‘Young Carers Awareness’ and developed a training programme for schools & key professionals. Young Carers continue to support each other & work together to shape ongoing services in Swansea. 

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This award recognises YMCAs that have delivered innovative and inspiring projects that have had a tangible and positive impact on young people and/or the wider community.

E-Learning

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The E-Learning Service offers individually tailored provision for students based on their unique learning needs and ability levels across a wide spectrum:

  • Students not accessing mainstream education.
  • Excluded or at risk of exclusion.
  • Suffering physical health conditions.
  • Suffering from social, emotional or mental health conditions, including anxiety.
  • Poor school attendance/refusing to attend school.
  • Dealing with challenging life circumstances.
  • Students with ASD.
  • Teenage mothers.
  • Students travelling out of the county with their families.

This past year has been particularly challenging for young people who are on the margins, and their education can often suffer as a result.  We are privileged to have had the opportunity to work with 175 young people this year, providing them with specialist education when they could so easily have lost all interest in their learning. 

A sample of some comments received this year:
“John has taken J all the way through his GCSE English, and they have an incredible rapport (sic)…It would be fair to say that John’s tutoring has done wonders for J’s confidence and has given him a love of English he didn’t have in year 10. Many thanks. Mrs J, Parent”

“I am very impressed with every aspect of the service provided by the E-learning team. The work which is provided is tailored to each individual pupil’s needs, and regular feedback is given. I have full confidence in the service provided and would not hesitate to recommend them.” Alex Edgar, Assistant Head, Reepham High

“The level of service and support is outstanding to both student and parent, going above and beyond for the benefit of the student. Teaching quality is excellent, and teachers work with the student adapting to the level and method of teaching required. Encouragement and support are always given, which in turn builds confidence and belief. Excellent service.” Mrs S, Parent. 

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Y Cook

VOTE FOR YMCA NORTHUMBERLAND

Y-Cook has become one of YMCA Northumberland’s most important projects. It has successfully taught young people the important life skill of cooking independently and creating healthy meals. 

The project consists of various weekly sessions that introduce young people between the ages of 10 and 17 years old to new recipes, new cooking techniques and new foods.

Some of the benefits the project delivers are:

  • Building an important lifelong skill.
  • Creating an appreciation for food and new foods that young people haven’t tried before.
  • Building young people’s confidence and self-esteem.
  • Helping to inform young people about the link between food and health and wellbeing.
  • AQA Certification helps to build young people’s sense of achievement.

To date, over 150 young people have been through the programme, with over half of them engaging in over 20 sessions and learning to cook at least 7 meals on their own, using fresh ingredients from scratch. The project has also helped 40 young people to earn AQA certification. Young people’s feedback about the project has been very positive. It has been one of the most engaged projects delivered by the organisation and one that has pushed us to seek additional funding and create a waiting list.

Having a dedicated training kitchen, supported by the YMCA Movement Trust fund, has enabled new projects within the YMCA for young people and other organisations to share this resource, which has had a bigger impact on the local community.  As we continue to move forward, we are listening to young people’s ideas carefully to guide the future development of the project to engage and support more young people in their transition to independent living.

The kitchen space created for this project consists of six workstations, which enables us to work with a maximum of 12 young people at any one time. One of these workstations is suitable and adapted for wheelchair users.

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Y Heritage

VOTE FOR YMCA LEICESTER

The Y Heritage Project was awarded £707,500 over 3 years by The National Heritage Lottery Fund in 2018. Young people have been empowered to commission local heritage projects up to £30,000, leading to some incredible placements in unusual venues; printshops, museums, national parks, hospital archives, archaeology digs and cemeteries, to name a few. Heritage projects must include a meaningful work placement for a young person and, in return, learn how to engage young people with complex needs, a win for everyone. 

Since our very first project restoring a Victorian printing press in 2018, Y Heritage has engaged over 150 young people and awarded funding to 15 heritage projects that would otherwise not have taken place. Heritage organisations have learnt not to underestimate what young people want from heritage or can contribute. Young people clearly value the rich work experience opportunities and have a sense of achievement and improved skills. Residents have started to explore their own heritage and the value of heritage in society, participate in new experiences and learn that heritage is more than a visit to a museum (although, of course, that can be a fantastic experience!) 

Highlights of the past year were: 

  • Residents created their own interactive event for Heritage Open Days, researching the history of Leicester YMCA and the YMCA movement, developing an exhibition and audio guide, delivering public tours & talks of the Y Theatre.  
  • Training 8 residents in their PADI Open Water Diving qualification as part of an Underwater Heritage project looking at 300-year-old shipwrecks.
  • Young people participated in archaeological digs in partnership with Leicester University, discovering a city centre Roman dig right in the middle of a large housing estate and learning the skills that archaeologists use.
  • Creating a diverse programme of podcasts based on city and county heritage

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Y Supported

VOTE FOR YMCA SWANSEA

The Y Supported Employment Project provides paid supported employment for young people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training in Swansea. Young People access 16 weeks of paid work placements with a local employer, e.g. Solicitors – legal administration and related skills; Martial Arts Academy opportunities for administration, sales, coaching, barista; GP Clusters – Medical Administration; YMCA Swansea Fitness Centre and so on.

Each young person also accesses a 16-week intensive support programme in work-related accredited Training Programmes & attends the Weekly ‘Fun Club’ – providing mentoring, job coaching, interview skills and confidence building led by experienced volunteers. The Online Learn My Way Digital Hub also provides access to a suite of short non-accredited training courses in online basics, office programs, more internet skills, online safety, finding a job online, improving your health online, managing your money online, public services online. At the end of their time on the project, young people aim to enter employment, education/ training, or volunteering and will be equipped for life and work with improved life skills and employability skills.

Each young person has a personal development plan to increase their skills, increase their confidence and help them become more resilient. They also gain access to mental health support, counselling, personal fitness training and eating plans, which improve physical and mental health.

The Project is supported by experienced Youth Workers and delivered by a Team of Employability Workers who have expertise in supporting vulnerable young people experiencing chaotic lifestyles and diminished life chances due to poverty, discrimination & poor health. The Project provides an intensive support programme for those most in need and has a 95% success rate for young people progressing to jobs and education and training as a direct result of engagement.

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Y Talent

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Y-Talent provides a community-based service for young people to access music and the arts, to learn and play instruments, to record music, songs and poetry, to create music using IT, and to film and produce videos and online project content. As a result, young people are able to explore their feelings and express themselves through the arts and to develop meaningful interests and pastimes, which may lead to accredited learning, formal courses and even further and higher education. 

Based at YMCA Swansea in purpose-built Music Studios, Theatre & Dance Studios, during the lockdown, Y Talent has intensively supported 60 young people weekly, providing digital sessions. We adapted to working from home and set up mini recording studios using domestic equipment for creative purposes. This was used to support children and young people on a one-to-one basis virtually with the use of tuition in guitar, bass, keyboard, singing and music technology lessons as well as group workshops in lyric & songwriting. The setup was a great engagement tool to motivate young people and show them that there is always a way around things.

Children & young people on the project managed to learn new songs from start to finish, write new lyrics and get their thoughts and feelings out in a creative way. We were also able to donate home recording studio equipment to those most in need, as well as smaller activity packs to keep young people active and food donations. We maintained a compassionate, professional support service and ‘safe space’ online for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our community in Swansea during COVID19. We ensured young people felt safe & secure, stayed connected, reduced loneliness and isolation and supported their mental health & wellbeing. 

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This award recognises YMCAs that have delivered innovative and inspiring projects that have had a tangible and positive impact on young people and/or the wider community.

Easy Peasy Pods

VOTE FOR YMCA TRINITY GROUP

During the COVID lockdown’s the Easy Peasy Pods project ran takeaway services and activities for parents, children and residents at the YMCA to help provide interaction and stimulation for the babies. During a time where restrictions were in place, this gave our residents one of the few outlets to have fun with their children and a small sense of normality in otherwise confusing and scary times.

Our residents were also given the chance to take part in the Lullaby project, working alongside professional musicians to create special songs for their children. Easy Peasy Pods is a home learning programme designed for parents and babies living at the YMCA focusing on 8 children’s books over the course of a year. It incorporates a variety of activities such as messy play, arts and crafts and sensory play to help parents encourage their child’s development and meet their milestones.

The staff on the parent and child department who deliver Easy Peasy Pods work hard with the young people to give them the support and encouragement they may not normally have to help ensure their babies have the best start in life; this work has resulted in our young people having less involvement with social services during their child’s life. 

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Green Lane, Walsall

VOTE FOR YMCA BLACK COUNTRY GROUP

The staff team at Green Lane work tirelessly to improve the lives of their residents. With consistent tools to monitor progression developed within the setting, the staff team wanted to develop a programme that enabled residents to focus on their aspirations, and have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in order to demonstrate they are ready to move on. So, they developed the ‘YMCA BCG George Williams Award.’ 

Residents work through the programme with the help of a support worker. It can take as little as 9 months to complete but is very much driven by the resident. Only when a resident is nearing completion will discussions start to take place around whether they are ready to move on. Residents then move on with confidence in their ability to maintain a successful tenancy, independent of any support services.

Resident Josh said “Before I moved into the YMCA I lacked confidence and social skills but the YMCA run the George Williams Award which really helped. The workshops; Sensible Spending and How Clean Is Your House especially were really informative. I learned how to manage my money on a fortnightly basis.

This included paying rent, council tax, water and gas. I also learned that if you plan your meals this will help you budget and save money. While doing the workshops, my confidence and social skills improved and I started speaking to more people.

Staff at YMCA helped me stay on track with things like keeping my room clean, paying rent on time and helped me take my first steps into my career. While living at the YMCA I have gained knowledge and skills to help me maintain my flat. I feel like I’m ready to move on and be independent”. 

The Green Lane team never stop trying to improve the lives of their residents, always reaching further, developing more, and being innovative!  

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MCISS (Medium Complex Intensive Support Service)

VOTE FOR ONE YMCA

On the 16th March 2020 when the call for ‘everyone in’ came out there were 83 known rough sleepers in Watford. All of them were entrenched, had complex needs, demonstrated highly challenging behaviours and had failed to maintain any tenancy over the past 5-10 years. 

It was clear that unless something radical was done this group would not only be in a life-threatening situation themselves, they would also be a huge transmission risk for the wider community.  

One YMCA stepped in (far out of our usual comfort zone) and made it our mission to adapt, innovate and deliver to ensure they were able to truly belong, contribute and thrive. As of the 16th March 2021, there remain ZERO rough sleepers in Watford! 

The MCISS utilises highly experienced mental health, offending and substance misuse specialists to deliver goal-orientated person-centric support on a trauma-informed basis. All monitored, managed, and directed through extensive use of the Outcome Star system. All combining to ensure the right type and amount of support (6-8 hours PW) is delivered in the right way, at the right time and in the right place. 

We have created multiple micro-communities of only 22 residents, with a dedicated staff/concierge team, in a secure / access controlled and psychologically informed environment. This has been pivotal in creating a sense of safety and aspiration, bringing the asset and support pieces together to deliver a highly effective service.  

This MCISS approach has already seen 14 residents move on positively (eg into PRS), 1 alcohol dependant resident (previously hospitalised fortnightly) required no such intervention for 2 months, 14 remaining residents achieve tenancy sustainment for over 10 months and 100% of residents are engaging with support and paying rent. 

Over the last year, One YMCA has #endedroughsleeping in Watford.

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MEWA

VOTE FOR YMCA ST PAUL’S GROUP

YMCA SPG’s Merton Emergency Winter Accommodation (MEWA) has been a community-driven project for the last 9 years.  It runs in response to the increasing homelessness issue by providing vital shelter over the coldest winter months.  

In its pre-Covid-19 guise, the operation was an impressive multi-faith project using 20 different volunteer groups and their venues throughout Merton. These venues included Christian churches, a Synagogue, a Mosque and a Hindu temple group operating out of a Methodist Church. 

Covid-19 forced us to entirely rethink how we operate. We worked with Housing Justice, Public Health and Merton Council to develop plans in accordance with the Government’s “Operating Principles for Night Shelters” guidance. 

Instead of our existing multisite communal approach – we ran the project from a 5-bedroom flat that was part of the Lantern Church building in Wimbledon.  Using community fundraising, we were able to comfortably furnish the flat and provide high-quality accommodation for people who were previously street homeless. 

Guests were supported 24/7 by our brilliant volunteers and a small team of paid staff.  Daily hot breakfasts and dinners were provided by our faith-based volunteer network and delivered at distance, which allowed older or medically vulnerable people to safely volunteer who might otherwise be excluded. 

In November 2020, we were successful in applying for funding from Homeless Link and Housing Justice which enabled us to book rooms at a local Premier Inn for people we could not house in the Lantern flat. 

We ensured all guests knew MEWA provision was a short-term solution, and we would work on finding longer-term or permanent accommodation that met their needs. 

Together, we kept 13 people off London streets since November 2020 – 10 of whom secured permanent accommodation by the end of the project on 31st May 2021. 

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St Michael's House

VOTE FOR YMCA CHELTENHAM

St Michaels House is a 16-bed low support project based in city centre Gloucester. Our goal is to prepare our residents to move on to independence and break the cycle of homelessness. Since opening in 2015 we have endeavoured to build a community that celebrates diversity and empowers individuals to become the best versions of themselves that they can be. Our approach to supporting is one of strength and positivity. We believe that by celebrating a person’s success, their self-esteem and confidence improve and subsequently, they feel more able to tackle the challenges that they may face. 

From the moment a resident moves in with us, we want to make them feel as at home as possible. We provide a welcome pack, which include a toiletry pack, a survival guide and a welcome booklet explaining what will happen within the first four weeks of their stay in order to any reduce anxiety around living in supported accommodation for the first time.  

Resident feedback is extremely important in how we shape our service and as a result, we now have a resident’s hub for our service users to be able to access emergency toiletries, food, first aid and entertainment.  

We have put a wide range of measures in place to support residents to safely self-isolate, including organising virtual activities to combat loneliness and isolation.  With the use of Social Media, we have been able to maintain engagement with our residents helping them to continue to develop the skills and resilience needed for moving on. 

Over the last twelve months, we have seen 16 out of 17 residents move on to independence. This is a testament to their perseverance and resilience and the supportive and nurturing environment that the team at St Michael’s works hard to create. 

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This award recognises YMCAs that have delivered innovative and inspiring projects that have had a tangible and positive impact on young people and/or the wider community.

e-wellbeing

VOTE FOR YMCA DOWNSLINK GROUP

e-wellbeing is an NHS approved digital wellbeing service supporting the emotional health and mental wellbeing of young people: www.e-wellbeing.co.uk. We launched at the height of the pandemic to help young people receive access to the support they need. e-wellbeing works with young people to co-create mental health content, provide services and resources for young people in need of support.

This includes videos of young people talking about their mental health to help reduce stigma, psychoeducational ‘feelings’ modules to normalise different mental health conditions and an easily accessible Quiz to identify how best to support their emotional wellbeing. We are passionate about raising awareness of youth mental health through youth voices and making a social impact. This is demonstrated through our youth-led podcast and campaigns.

Since its launch in June 2020, the e-wellbeing website has had more than 14,000 site visitors and over 50,000 page views from young people, parents/carers and professionals seeking online mental health support for young people.  There is a search function on the platform where local young people in Sussex are guided to find mental health services, which has been used by over 3,000 young people. 

Last summer, e-wellbeing launched a Back to School campaign (https://www.ymcadlg.org/blog/back-to-school-e-wellbeing) to support the transition into school routines after the first lockdown. This attracted local and national media coverage with an outdoor advertising campaign, a mention in the Director of Public Health for Brighton and Hove City Council’s letter to all schools across the region and coverage on BBC Radio Sussex.

And this is only the beginning. e-wellbeing is more than just an NHS approved website. It is a movement for social change, putting the mental health and wellbeing of young people at the heart of everything we do.  

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Exercise Referral

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

YMCA East Surrey’s Exercise Referral sessions enable those with chronic health conditions and disabilities to get active and healthy under the guided supervision of experienced instructors. 

When the pandemic hit, the vast majority of our Exercise Referral members were classed as extremely vulnerable and shielded. Most were isolated from their family and friends, leaving them at much higher risk of loneliness. YMCA East Surrey quickly set up online Exercise Referral sessions for our most vulnerable members to exercise at home.

Whilst a lot of online physical activity content is widely available, it is mostly pre-recorded and geared towards a more mainstream audience. Our virtual Exercise Referral programme is innovative as it offers those with long term health conditions a personalised approach with live, interactive and targeted classes. Participants gain valuable corrective feedback and are able to develop a personal connection with both the instructor and others taking part.

We launched a full virtual timetable of classes, including seated exercises, Stroke Rehab, Breathe Easy and Cardiac Rehab sessions. In addition, we hosted a number of virtual coffee mornings providing social interaction. Our Exercise Referral team have been able to reach a much wider audience online, receiving 6,051 online attendances from April to February. Even with 50% fewer classes in FY20, monthly attendance figures are only 30% less than FY19.

86% of attendees have increased their levels of activity during the pandemic due to the online offering. 83% also stated their health has ‘improved’ or ‘greatly improved’ since the online classes were introduced.

Members have spoken highly of the sessions and how they have helped them both physically and emotionally during these difficult times. One user, Mrs S, said: “I feel stronger and know the exercises to work with my pains. The other benefit is the social side. In this pandemic, shielding has curtailed many activities for me, so meeting up with the new friends I’ve made through YMCA is again positive to my wellbeing.” 

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Health & Wellbeing Team

VOTE FOR YMCA BRUNEL GROUP

During lockdown one, the H&W (Health & Wellbeing) club closed its doors, staff were furloughed, and memberships all frozen – BUT – instead of sitting back and waiting to reopen, the staff put on a timetable of Zoom Classes which we decided would be FREE to everyone – not just members – so that people not only in Bath but all over could access our classes online.  We have thousands attend classes over that first lockdown, and some chose to make donations, but most were genuinely grateful to still see the smiling faces of their instructors in a little box welcoming them to the online class.

Also, there was the most amazing sense of community – classes became a place to meet up – so people would arrive early and leave long after the classes were complete – welcoming the opportunity to chat and share or just listen but to feel the part of a community. People joined us from different parts of the country and indeed the world—all for FREE. The staff also set up a YouTube channel and posted regularly on social media platforms to keep engaged with followers and sharing H&W hints and tips. We had the most amazing feedback from people – saying that our classes kept them going through all the lockdowns, that they genuinely don’t know what they would have done without us.

Even though there are thousands of free classes available online, it became apparent that they wanted us, our faces, our team and the community we have built around our H&W work. In subsequent lockdowns, we kept the classes going for Free to all members, despite freezing membership fees, and asked for a nominal fee from non-members of £4 in lockdowns 2 and 3 to just help cover some of our costs.

One instructor and 2 members raised over £1000 doing 2600 yoga sun salutations each in a week, and more recently, they have been raising money to help the situation in India. The YMCA H&W centre in Bath is something we are so proud of, and members often refer to us as their fitfam because we feel like a family to them. Now we are re-open and still offering classes on Zoom to those not ready to come back in – but when they are ready to return, we will be there to welcome them in!  

VOTE FOR YMCA BRUNEL GROUP

This is Derby

VOTE FOR YMCA DERBYSHIRE

Over the last 12 months, YMCA Derbyshire’s Health and Wellbeing team, along with two other organisations in Derby, has been running a project to engage and empower young people.

A bit different to many other projects for young people, ‘This is Derby’ combines expertise from a variety of areas. With the addition of two other organisations, we can offer our young people the chance to experience things they may never have dreamed of. 

YMCA brings the project together and offers advice and guidance, Derby County offers the chance to stand on a real football pitch and learn about the physical and mental advantages of exercise, and Baby People has a full music studio with high-tech equipment that many young people may never have had the chance to see. 

In January and February, even in the height of lockdown, 284 sessions were available online for young people to get involved in. These ranged anywhere from football quizzes to lyric writing and DJ sessions to an hour of reflecting about thoughts and feelings.

Kyle, who engaged with sports sessions, said:
“I have learnt more about football and the rules. I have also learnt not to lose my temper as much and how to keep my language appropriate. Watching the online skill videos has taught me how to improve my dribbling.”

By supporting and guiding our young people to succeed, they will have so many of the required skills to move forward and get excited about their future. ‘This is Derby’ gives young people a space to be themselves without pressure, somewhere to grow, make friends and feel safe.

We aim to increase the number of young people developing positively in school, their personal life, confidence and skill set. We use the power of sport, arts and cultural activities and essential life skills support to give our young people the stepping stone they need when creating a happy and fulfilling life. 

VOTE FOR YMCA DERBYSHIRE

WAVES (Wellbeing Awareness & Voice for East Surrey)

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

WAVES (Wellbeing, Awareness & Voice for East Surrey) is a youth group with a difference. Run for young people by young people, WAVES aims to raise awareness of emotional health and wellbeing by providing a safe space for young people aged 13-19 to come and talk about their mental health and wellbeing.

Young people at WAVES have promoted awareness of mental health by creating public artwork and by talking to the local MP about how to better support young people and families around mental health. Several young people also trained as Mental Health Champions to support peers in their schools and colleges.

During the lockdown, young people quickly decided with youth workers to keep WAVES going. Daily online sessions were run with positive wellbeing activities giving young people somewhere to talk about what was going on and to socialise with friends.

Many young people reported that support they normally received from school dropped away during the first part of lockdown. We received 27 new referrals from young people who found themselves without support, and WAVES youth workers helped to fill this gap.

Our reach also grew online, and we had young people join us from inner London and Croydon. We made sure that 13 WAVES members got access to computers/internet or equipment such as pens and writing books so they could access the group and school from home.

The focus is now on supporting young people who are worried about going back into public by providing safe face-to-face group sessions again, alongside our online programme.

As one young person says, “I don’t know what I would have done without WAVES over the last year. I felt very hopeless at the start of the lockdown. I was scared for my family, missed my friends and felt trapped. I stayed alone in my room, but WAVES gave me an online space where I could talk about how I was feeling with others, meet my friends and also just have a lot of fun! Although I found it difficult to go back to school and leave my home, WAVES gave me the encouragement to get out and about. I have a long way to go, but I feel more confident.” 

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

This award recognises a YMCA that has delivered a project or initiative that actively encourages and/or promotes diversity across either age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability.

GoodVibes

VOTE FOR YMCA SWANSEA

GoodVibes is an LGBTQ+ Youth group that supports young people between the ages of 11-25. It supports young people to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, build peer friendships and confidence. It connects with networks and other organisations that will give them the best and equal access to opportunities that interest them. 

Young LGBTQ+ people tend to face greater injustice than their counterparts of the same age. They are more likely to face bullying, discrimination and social isolation. It is widely understood that young LGBTQ+ people are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and self-harm due to social isolation and/or bullying. Good strong social support is a protective factor against this, which is what GoodVibes provides the young people of Swansea. 

GoodVibes aims to help young people learn about their rights and be proud of who they are; to foster confidence and self-esteem. The young people who attend describe it as their safe place, their family away from home. Many young people rely on the group as being central to their lives and identity. GoodVibes operates on the basis of strong values of inclusivity and diversity regardless of who you are.

Young people can come to GoodVibes without fear of judgment, harassment, bullying or discrimination and social pre-conceived norms.  In GoodVibes, they can be 100% themselves and can also use it as a safe space to explore their identity. It’s a group where young people can come and introduce themselves, their names, their preferred name, their pronouns and their favourite things. And what they receive from each other is acceptance, without questions.

Through this very accepting environment, we have seen young people flourish. Young people embracing, holistically, their identity. Seeing young people letting their identities adapt and change and grow with them is a real honour. 

VOTE FOR YMCA SWANSEA

Responding to #BLM Group

VOTE FOR CENTRAL (MIDLANDS) REGION OF YMCAs

This nomination is a statement of intent, a work in progress and an intentional encouragement for other YMCA to get serious about diversity.

The “Responding to #BLM Group was set up in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis – USA on 25th May 2020, and the reverberations of pain felt in Black communities throughout the world and within our YMCAs.

Listening to the voices of Black staff and service users and trying to make sense of the phenomena responding to the #BLM call to action, a group of like-minded staff from 6 central-region based YMCAs formed a working group with the intention of creating structural change within the Region.

The Responding the #BLM Group is in itself not a ‘quick fix’. Participants have committed to work together for up to 2 years to bring change. The group is carefully constructed; 6 participants, 1 each from 6 YMCA’s (Black Country, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Heart of England, North Staffordshire, Worcestershire), 3 female, 3 male, 3 Black, 3 White, 3 CEO’s, 3 wider staff.

Building trust, understanding and learning from shared experiences were essential elements of group formation. It’s been important to be open, honest and vulnerable, sharing language and ideas in a non-judgemental supportive group. There has been anxiety, fears, and tears shared as the group has learnt to work together, switching between face to face gatherings to remote zoom meetings.

In addition to the necessary time taken to form, the group has produced a term of reference and a work programme (both now endorsed by Regional CEO Colleagues). 2021/22 priorities include facilitating a range of Diversity / Unconscious Bias training programmes for regional CEO’s and Chairs, promoting trustee Diversity Champions across all regional Boards, and conducting an equality and diversity perception survey within regional staff teams. 

VOTE FOR CENTRAL (MIDLANDS) REGION OF YMCAs

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

VOTE FOR YMCA TRINITY GROUP

UASC stands for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. The heart of this project is to support Asylum Seekers, between the ages of 16-21, across Ipswich. Ipswich is already a diverse town, but there is definitely a divide between locals that have been there for years and those that have moved into the town from other countries.

The team that works on UASC dedicate their time to making sure that these young people that come into the country feel as welcome as possible. Integrating into any new community is difficult, but when you come into a whole new culture, where the community don’t even speak your own language is extremely difficult. The teamwork with the young people to build their independence, so they can go out and live on their own.

Sessions on building independence include: teaching them cooking and cleaning skills, showing them how to call the doctor, teaching them how rent and finances work, mock job interviews, driving lessons, English lessons, how to use public transport and many more things. 

Because the young people come from all walks of life, and many different countries, the teamwork hard to know how to communicate with them as there are many different languages. There are also many different religions and views, and teamwork helps young people find places of worship and support them in their religion. This allows the young people to connect with other young people that speak the same language, have the same religion and come from the same culture. But the team love it when they see the young people mix with other young people that come from different backgrounds and break the cultural barrier down.

Overall, the team will fight for these young people to fight against hate and cultural differences. They promote diversity and never let unwanted views get to them or the young people they work with.

VOTE FOR YMCA TRINITY GROUP

 

Yippee & Yip4Youth Disability Clubs

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

Yippee (age 5-11) and YipYouth (age 12-18) are YMCA East Surrey’s play and youth clubs for children with disabilities and complex needs. The clubs provide a stimulating, welcoming and safe environment for children to play and make friends whilst also benefiting their families by giving them a break from often demanding caring responsibilities and time to spend with other siblings one-to-one. 

Yippee & Yip4Youth offer peace of mind to parents through trained staff, high staff ratios and bespoke care plans. Activities are tailored and aim to promote social interaction, with each day having a theme, e.g. arts and crafts, cooking, magic and swimming. In FY19/20, the schemes provided over 39,000 hours of care to 405 children.

During the pandemic, the team stepped up to support families throughout each lockdown. Family life stuck at home can be tough, but with a child with disabilities, it can be even more isolating. Our staff provided hours of online content through videos on the YMCA East Surrey Short Breaks Facebook page ranging from storytime to science experiments – plus a virtual tour of the popular YMCA minibuses – which to date has been viewed over 550 times!

Staff also hosted live online events for children to attend and interact with each other, sent over 250 activity packs to children at home and even assisted with getting medication to some children when that was difficult for families.

Feedback from these online activities was overwhelmingly positive. As one parent said, “Please just keep doing what you are doing – for some of us, it is a vital lifeline, especially as we don’t get any respite for our child.” 

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

This award recognises a YMCA that in the last year has had a tangible and positive impact on young people and the wider community.

One YMCA

VOTE FOR ONE YMCA

Homelessness cannot be solved by one single solution or approach, and COVID has given us a unique opportunity to innovate and adapt at a phenomenal pace. This opportunity has enabled us to design, develop and fully mobilise our Dynamic Pathway to Independence! 

The pathway consists of 5 distinct services, each with a very different type, specialism, and amount of support delivered in equally different and psychologically informed living environments (PiE). With each stage seamlessly integrated to the next via our Outcome Star system, which provides full consistency and visibility of support needs and risk data management on a step-up, step-down basis.

Working with various local authority partners, MHCLG and Homes England, we have secured over £2.76 million in funding to develop almost 150 new units of accommodation during the COVID period. This has ranged from major development, as part of the NSAP programme, through to acquisition and refurbishment funded more locally. 

All of the new units form part of the pathway and are specifically designed to meet the distinct support needs and level of independence applicable for residents at that stage of their journey. We are now able to deliver the right support at the right time and in the right place to ensure each resident can belong, contribute and thrive as they progress towards independence.

We have completed extensive work with specialist consultants to design a PiE led design approach that ensures the living environment complements and enhances our support. This has seen us support previously entrenched rough sleepers (street homeless for 5-10 years) maintain tenancies for 12+ months. 

The Dynamic Pathway to Independence has now become a recognisable and scalable model. With commissioners from other counties now actively requesting (and funding) specific stages of it for their own areas.

Creating a sustainable #EndToHomlessness through innovation and consistency! 

VOTE FOR ONE YMCA

YMCA Black Country Group

VOTE FOR YMCA BLACK COUNTRY GROUP

Though challenging, YMCA-BCG has continued to develop its services with the completion of its new £8.5M Headquarters in June 2021 comprising a new young worker transitional housing model (63 units), state-or-the-art childcare facility (115 places), retail, training and office spaces. Intensive fundraising successfully covered the £1M gap in funding which existed at the commencement of the scheme.

Despite being ‘hammered’ during Covid, our young nursery staff teams have provided an essential service for children and keyworkers throughout, and the YMCA has added an additional 3 settings (Stourbridge, Coseley and Pelsall) during the year, with another 2 more in the pipeline.

International Partnership: Staff from YMCA BCG coordinated the global devotions services at the heart of the pandemic on behalf of the World Alliance of YMCA, involving several hundred live participants across the 4 live-streamed services from 6 continents and over 12,000 viewings via Facebook. The spiritual support this work provided continues in 2021, with YMCA BC working with a team of over 40 international young people to produce creative content for the 2021 YMCA-YWCA World Week of Prayer.

Innovative Covid Support: YMCA BC has shown incredible flexibility during the year; with 99 employees being on furlough at the beginning of the pandemic, only 4 staff have been made redundant due to the impact on services, and all have successfully found work elsewhere. While support for the 328 young people in our accommodation services remained stable, the demand for emergency night-stop services for 16-17-year-olds sky-rocketed with 2986 night-spaces needed in 2020/21, an increase of nearly 40%. Innovative online delivery has been developed with a web-based gym membership, new digital marketing, and an online training platform offering remote learner courses. Our remote youth work programme (Headstart) exceeded its targets, with praise being heaped on staff by local commissioners.  

VOTE FOR YMCA BLACK COUNTRY GROUP

YMCA Burton

VOTE FOR YMCA BURTON

YMCA Burton is entering this award as we feel in this year of the global pandemic, our staff and volunteers have delivered an outstanding service to the 10,000 people that have sought our support. While our shops’ staff were furloughed, our Housing staff delivered furniture items to 52 families in crisis referred to us by statutory agencies. Our Outreach staff helped to get 46 homeless people off the streets and into a local hotel within 48 hours.

Our Foodbank saw a 51% increase in demand for the first 3 months of the pandemic at a time when we had to put out a major appeal for additional food to support those that were shielding. We had to recruit a new team of volunteers for the Foodbank because our elderly volunteers having to shield. Over 27,000 meals were distributed to the community by a new team of volunteers.

Our Activities Worker engaged with young residents who had been asked to stay in their homes by providing support through virtual means and playing window bingo from our car park. We applied for funding to provide all of the residents with a mobile phone and access to a laptop to prevent them from becoming isolated and cut off from others during Covid. Our Mediation Service moved online, and this service suddenly found that it was supporting members of the NHS who found that the demands and pressure they faced was putting a strain on their family relationships.

Our YMCA led the way in organising the first-ever virtual sleepout, raising over £42,000. We shared our experience with YMCA England & Wales and with YMCAs across the Nation, and many others used our learning to do the same.   

VOTE FOR YMCA BURTON

YMCA Derbyshire

VOTE FOR YMCA DERBYSHIRE

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, YMCAD has regularly adapted services to meet the ever-increasing and changing needs of young people and the community.

From consistently keeping in touch with young people through 1-1-, socially distanced support, it was recognised that many were struggling with poor mental health, food and/or digital poverty, loneliness, isolation and unemployment.

In addition to that, YMCAD is fortunate enough to have a Community Connector, whose role is to keep in touch with organisations and individuals in the community. Because of the fantastic relationships we have with mental health charities like Head High and elderly community support like Age UK, the need for individual/family support was also recognised.

Last year, YMCAD achieved so much to help others. Over 1,000 emergency food parcels were sent to individuals and families who were affected by the pandemic. This could have been due to loss of work which impacted income, lack of resources to buy food, needing to isolate due to health conditions, or simply being too afraid to leave home. 

One elderly lady said:
“I was so pleased to avoid the extra journey to the shop; it meant I didn’t have to mix with anyone, and it made me feel much safer until my delivery came later.”

The team also cooked and delivered over 200 warm meals a month to those who could not buy fresh produce due to mental health or financial issues. These were simple meals that could be frozen, then distributed by our team to doorsteps across the city.

Thanks to more fantastic relationships with community members, businesses donated laptops, mobiles and dongles. This was a huge relief to so many who would have otherwise been completely isolated with no connection to the world as they could not leave home or afford the technology.

Our accommodation/health and wellbeing teams have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Virtual sessions and groups ensured every young person’s opinions and concerns were heard. Our Community Connector also offered a free virtual quiz every Friday for 6 months to allow a couple of hours for those who felt alone to have some fun.  

VOTE FOR YMCA DERBYSHIRE

YMCA Essex

VOTE FOR YMCA ESSEX

Throughout the pandemic, we were able to keep our services operating well, adapting to change. We created an online offer to all for benefits, housing, childcare and youth work and ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ to keep young people motivated.

Our nursery remained open for the majority of the pandemic, and we are opening a further two Out of School Clubs this September. Ordinarily, we host a one-holiday club over the summer; however, due to the pandemic and the clear need, we have committed to running 12 county-wide holiday clubs that will help combat holiday hunger and provide health education and activities to children and young people.
We were able to provide detached, drop-in (to front doors) and outreach youth work in a variety of locations to provide positive activities for young people to build healthy relationships, to be mentored, and to engage in community programmes that reduce anti-social behaviour and promote engagement.

Our Family Support service team remained able to provide wellbeing support, albeit in an adapted way, but visiting families in local parks and dropping off games and toys to help families struggling. We have acquired an allotment for young people to come and participate with, learning about how to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers.

We have 44 flats available for young people. During the pandemic, we had very few voids and remained financially stable. The young people channelled their time into good causes.
Staff and tenants have created innovative ways of fundraising with the wider community. As a result, brand awareness increased, as has goodwill and financial donations.

We have established a great relationship with another housing association situated near us. By working together, we were able to prevent a young man from remaining homeless by staying with the other organisation until we had a room available.  

VOTE FOR YMCA ESSEX

This award recognises an individual who has gone above and beyond to support their community during COVID.

Egija Cinovska

VOTE FOR EGIJA

During COVID, Egija worked tenaciously to adapt YMCA Swansea Young Carers Service to provide online support to all young carers in Swansea. Egija implemented a new way of working for her and her team of youth workers to deliver fun and interactive online sessions to young carers to ensure they were able to have a break from their caring role and stay connected with each other.

Egija ensured staff were trained and equipped to deliver activities that included 1-2-1 sessions and group quizzes, issue-based workshops, arts & crafts, fitness activities and baking sessions online. Egija organised, prepared, and delivered activity packs, baking ingredients as well as digital devices to all young carers so that they were able to take part in activities. Egija worked with young carers to start ‘Y-Fit’ to promote staying active and connected during the lockdown.

Egija continued to raise awareness on young carers by hosting live social media sessions and joining live discussions with Welsh Parliament members to raise the young carers flag. Egija worked with young carers to design and launch the Welsh Government National Young Carers I.D Card, as well as working with them to develop a Young Carers Animation that will be used as a tool to help Swansea identify ‘Hidden Young Carers’.

Additionally, Egija led a group of 6 young people to represent Wales in the global YMCA Youth-Led Climate Action Summit to develop a new initiative to tackle global issues. Egija worked above and beyond throughout lockdown, on top of the back-to-back zoom sessions, every hour of every day would be too much for anyone. Still, Egija powered through, always smiling and being the brightness that young carers needed.  

VOTE FOR EGIJA

Harry Flack

VOTE FOR HARRY

Harry Flack is an appropriate adult volunteer in Cambridge. He volunteers to go into police stations to support vulnerable young people who have been arrested and need help, advice and guidance. Harry has continued volunteering throughout the pandemic and has placed himself in situations that required him to wear significant PPE whilst working in the custody areas.

The physical setup of the custody in Cambridge restricts the ability to maintain safe distances from the staff and detainees. The risks of contracting the virus in the custody environment are significant. Being an appropriate adult requires a commitment to supporting young people in times of crisis.

This can be a stressful and difficult job without the additional pressures of working with Covid. He has approached his work with calmness and resilience in times when many other volunteers have taken a step back from going into custody because of the increased risks. Our service would, in my view, have struggled to deliver support without the efforts of Harry and a small group of appropriate adults like Harry. Harry has grown and developed because of these experiences.

The YMCA Trinity Group, Appropriate Adult service, have received admiration and respect for the support provided to vulnerable detainees. Harry was a big part of that effort. He continues to be a mainstay of the service. Since the pandemic has started, Harry had volunteered almost 600 hours of his time to help others when they needed support.   

VOTE FOR HARRY

Phil Gray

VOTE FOR PHIL

Phil Gray is YMCA BCG’s Christian Mission Coordinator. During the pandemic, Phil has been a true Hero who I applaud for his commitment to our community and beyond. Despite his own fears for himself and his young family, he has shown outstanding commitment to our staff and service users alike. When in lockdown, Phil would travelling to each of our operational sights, standing on the doorsteps or chatting through opened windows, checking in with everyone. He spent 1-1 time with staff who needed a listening ear; he encouraged service users who were struggling with isolation, loneliness and frustration.

He phoned every single one of our staff members who had been furloughed to reach out and offer support. He lives our organisations values – most evidently, compassion and the way he engages with individuals from all walks of life is inspirational.

Phil has lead devotions at Senior Leadership Team Meetings and prayed on a 1-1 level with individuals when requested. He has counselled staff through loss and bereavement and walked a journey to faith with service users.

Phil’s reach has gone far beyond our YMCA throughout the Pandemic. During the lockdown, Phil was instrumental in creating the worship content of the World YMCA global devotions, bringing people together in praise, worship and reflection at such a desperate time. He had also reached out to our neighbour Worcestershire YMCA when their CEO and Chaplain left – he provided spiritual support and advice on how the chaplaincy role works to the senior team and incoming CEO.

Whenever someone needs help… Phil is there. He has been a true COVID Community Hero, gone above and beyond and made a significant contribution to the lives of so many!  

VOTE FOR PHIL

Sophie Mattei

VOTE FOR SOPHIE

Sophie has worked tirelessly for YMCA Essex, particularly during the pandemic. Her role as Head of Housing goes far beyond her contracted full-time hours. Sophie spends the majority of her free time back at the project, dedicating her time to staff and tenants to ensure everyone is supported physically and mentally. She has the ability to get the best out of everyone, encouraging them all to help volunteer for YMCA and community causes.

Sophie has taken her own initiative on numerous occasions to improve wellbeing and take on fundraising activities:

  • Sewing 300 face masks and selling for donations to YMCA, totalling £600
  • Raising funds for a new bike shed, totalling over £1500
  • Setting up a Christmas stall and wrapping Christmas presents for donations to YMCA, raising £250
  • Delivering presents to local children in need over Christmas
  • Joining forces with a new community organisation called ‘The Anti Loo Roll Brigade’ (ALB), set up during the pandemic, now has 12.9k members. Sophie is on the Board and first in line to assist. She rallies the tenants to help people in need, keep busy and make a difference. This also positively promotes YMCA and what we do too
  • Through Sophie’s connections with ALB, one tenant was offered an apprenticeship
  • Another tenant shared that doing volunteer work has transformed her way of thinking and the career path she wants to pursue now
  • Overseeing Covid jabs, ensuring all staff and tenants have access to Sophie’s enthusiasm and ‘can do’ attitude is infectious

She dedicates all her time to giving back to the community, and as a result, this impacts others’ lives positively and builds the community spirit favourably. She is passionate about making a difference in her community, and in turn, this makes others feel exactly the same.

VOTE FOR SOPHIE

Tom Foster

VOTE FOR TOM

Tom is a wonderful member of our team and a great supporter & member of our community. Tom has given over 30 years of dedicated service to YMCA Burton and has supported 1000’s clients, customers & many colleagues. He has seen many changes to our Charity, but his dedication & commitment to our cause never changes, and he will help anyone if he can.

We nominate him for his exceptional support to others during the pandemic when he continued to help those in need. There are many examples to share, from his working week or Tom willingly using his own time to serve others.

These include the collecting of much-needed resources for our foodbank, helping to move clients into their new homes once they leave YMCA – particularly important for clients who have no family or external support to do this.  He responded quickly to calls from housing associations & housing providers who had families in crisis, leaving dangerous domestic abuse situations and being rehomed.

Tom put their needs & safety as paramount & supported with collecting furniture from our stores & delivering to their new homes and helping to fit some of the goods, e.g., washing machine. Discretion & kindness are always assured. He supported neighbours & community members who could not get out by fetching shopping & items for them as well as doing their gardening alongside mowing the lawns at several local churches.

Tom is kind, generous with his time & knowledge and nothing is too much trouble; he is friendly, approachable and has been a true community hero during COVID Times. A hero to his colleagues, his family & our community. We are very proud to know Tom, and his commitment to YMCA Burton, his community & faith make him the most deserving winner in our eyes.  

VOTE FOR TOM

This award recognises a YMCA that has delivered a project or initiative outside of the scope of their normal offer, serving the community’s needs during COVID.

Community Impact

VOTE FOR YMCA DERBYSHIRE

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, YMCA Derbyshire has regularly adapted services to meet the ever-increasing and changing needs of young people and the community.

From consistently keeping in touch with young people through 1-1 (socially distanced) support, it was recognised that many were struggling with poor mental health, food and/or digital poverty, loneliness, isolation and unemployment.

In addition to that, YMCA Derbyshire’s Community Connector (whose role is to keep in touch with organisations and individuals in the community) recognised a need for individual and family support.

In 2020, YMCA Derbyshire achieved so much in its fight to help others. Over 1,000 emergency food parcels were made from food donations which were accumulated through strong relationships with local area coordinators, supermarkets and political figures. These were sent to individuals and families who were affected by the pandemic, whether that was  due to loss of work impacting income, lack of resources to buy food, needing to isolate due to health conditions, or simply being too afraid to leave home. 

YMCA Derbyshire’s team also cooked and delivered over 200 warm meals a month to those who could not buy fresh produce due to mental health or financial issues. These were simple meals designed to suits a variety of tastes and distributed by our team to doorsteps across the city.

Thanks to fantastic relationships with businesses in the community, YMCA Derbyshire’s residents also benefitted from donated laptops, mobiles and dongles. This was a huge relief to so many who would have otherwise been completely isolated with no connection to friends and family as they could not leave home or afford the technology. 

YMCA’s accommodation/health and wellbeing teams have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep young people engaged, supported and feeling good. Many exercise classes were set up in the yard for young people to join in with, as well as bingo and art sessions which were socially distanced but a chance to feel together.

Virtual sessions and groups ensured every young person’s opinions and concerns were heard. Our Community Connector also offered a free virtual quiz every Friday for 6 months to allow a couple of hours for those who felt alone to have some fun.  

VOTE FOR YMCA DERBYSHIRE

Exercise Referral

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

YMCA East Surrey’s Exercise Referral sessions enable those with chronic health conditions and disabilities to get active and healthy under the guided supervision of experienced instructors. 

When the pandemic hit, the vast majority of our Exercise Referral members were classed as extremely vulnerable and shielded. Most were isolated from their family and friends, leaving them at much higher risk of loneliness. YMCA East Surrey quickly set up online Exercise Referral sessions for our most vulnerable members to exercise at home.

Whilst a lot of online physical activity content is widely available, it is mostly pre-recorded and geared towards a more mainstream audience. Our virtual Exercise Referral programme is innovative as it offers those with long term health conditions a personalised approach with live, interactive and targeted classes. Participants gain valuable corrective feedback and are able to develop a personal connection with both the instructor and others taking part.

We launched a full virtual timetable of classes, including seated exercises, Stroke Rehab, Breathe Easy and Cardiac Rehab sessions. In addition, we hosted a number of virtual coffee mornings providing social interaction. Our Exercise Referral team have been able to reach a much wider audience online, receiving 6,051 online attendances from April to February. Even with 50% fewer classes in FY20, monthly attendance figures are only 30% less than FY19.

86% of attendees have increased their levels of activity during the pandemic due to the online offering. 83% also stated their health has ‘improved’ or ‘greatly improved’ since the online classes were introduced.

Members have spoken highly of the sessions and how they have helped them both physically and emotionally during these difficult times. One user, Mrs S, said: “I feel stronger and know the exercises to work with my pains. The other benefit is the social side. In this pandemic, shielding has curtailed many activities for me, so meeting up with the new friends I’ve made through YMCA is again positive to my wellbeing.”

VOTE FOR YMCA EAST SURREY

Yippee & Yip4Youth

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Yippee (age 5-11) and YipYouth (age 12-18) are YMCA East Surrey’s play and youth clubs for children with disabilities and complex needs. The clubs provide a stimulating, welcoming and safe environment for children to play and make friends whilst also benefiting their families by giving them a break from often very demanding caring responsibilities and time to spend with other siblings one-to-one.

Yippee & Yip4Youth offer peace of mind to parents through trained staff, high staff ratios and bespoke care plans. Activities are tailored and aim to promote social interaction, with each day having a theme, e.g. arts and crafts, cooking, magic and swimming. In FY19/20, the schemes provided over 39,000 hours of care to 405 children.

During the pandemic, the team stepped up to support families throughout each lockdown. Family life stuck at home can be tough, but with a child with disabilities, it can be even more isolating. Our staff provided hours of online content through videos on the YMCA East Surrey Short Breaks Facebook page ranging from storytime to science experiments – plus a virtual tour of the popular YMCA minibuses – which to date has been viewed over 550 times!

Staff also hosted live online events for children to attend and interact with each other, sent over 250 activity packs to children at home and even assisted with getting medication to some children when that was difficult for families.

Feedback from these online activities was overwhelmingly positive. As one parent said, “Please just keep doing what you are doing – for some of us, it is a vital lifeline, especially as we don’t get any respite for our child.” 

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YMCA SPG Chaplaincy

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YMCA SPG’s Chaplaincy Team have been a vital lifeline to YMCA residents, staff, and local community members throughout the pandemic. As a team of three members of staff (two part-time) have provided over 1,250 support sessions throughout the past year. These support sessions took place face-to-face and online, supporting residents who felt suicidal, those who were struggling with severe depression and those that were dealing with the aftermath of serious incidents. 

Alongside residents, the team provided 1-2-1 and group support for staff who were struggling with personal and work-based pressures. Sadly, throughout the year, the Housing Teams needed to deal with the death of both residents and colleagues.

As well as providing support in dark times, the team sought to bring light. Working with the ‘People Team’, they coordinated staff get-togethers, including thank you videos for staff and a virtual Christmas event where staff gathered to chat, share their experiences and compete in activities, including a ‘challenge the CEO’ competition!  

For the wider community, a virtual Choir was launched that sought to connect members of the community who were feeling isolated, lonely or shielding throughout the first lockdown. Using funds donated by Health and Wellbeing members, the virtual choir provided a vital place for 21 people to meet and connect over initially singing, then this expanded to include virtual coffee and chat as the team identified how lonely many of the attendees were.

Alongside the work across London, the Chaplaincy Team also supported YMCA work nationally and internationally. In Easter 2020, an international challenge was put together with World YMCA connecting people in over 40 different countries through an egg-throwing competition.

The subsequent video went viral! Support was also given to work in England and Wales with coordination of the Founder’s Day services in 2020 & 2021. 

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YMCA Worcestershire

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YMCA Worcestershire was the lead provider for a multi-agency Holiday Hunger initiative, known as Ready Steady Worcestershire, across the county. As a result, the charity secured over £80k, including a Covid response grant from National Lottery.

This enabled YMCA Worcestershire to directly deliver over 2,200 Food and Happiness Hampers to families facing adversity in the 12 months from May 20 – Apr 21. The project saw a collaboration across Early Years, Youth, Housing, Employability and Central Services to bring the whole organisation together under one banner truly. Staff practitioners designed activity cards to create engaging and age-appropriate activities using a ‘hamper’ of provided toys and activities.

Additionally, as lead provider across the county, we were able to fund strategic partners across the public and third sector, resulting in the support of over 12,500 children at risk of food poverty. Following the success of this Covid response, our local authority partners were able to secure £1.4m for Holiday Hunger delivery in 2021.

One of the hamper recipients said, ‘Can I please pass on massive heartfelt thanks from myself and my family. I can’t put into words how grateful we are for your kindness and generosity. It will help us so so much. The kids were so excited when they got to look inside their fun pack, and they loved every single item. My daughter is now trying hard to teach her four-year-old brother how to skip, which is hilarious to watch.’ 

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