Kevin’s YMCA story – Fairthorne Manor

YMCA Fairthorne Group deliver services to over 40,000 children, young people and families across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

We’re delighted to be working with YMCA Fairthorne Group as part of the YMCA Leadership Roadshow 2021 which also invovles YMCA Dulverton Group and YMCA Thames Gateway. This roadshow allows us all to build up our YMCA network, share ideas and learn new skills and practices together.


Kevin is a night porter at our Time Stop accommodation site in Peterborough. He experienced support from YMCA Fairthone Group when he was younger and has fond memories of Fairthorne Manor:

“At the age of 16, I was a bit let’s say of a “handful” and lots of my friends were getting into trouble with the police. I lived in London and there were not a lot of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities. I struggled a bit because of a bad attitude but managed to get employed by Royal Mail as a postal messenger boy. A part of this training was to help us adjust to working life and taking responsibility for our actions because as a group we were very troublesome. The decision was taken to send us on an outward-bound course at Fairthorne Manor.

The course was an excellent experience with a couple of things that stood out.

The first one was an activity involving traversing a very muddy swamp using teamwork to achieve a goal: to get to an island by using ropes. This was our first night so was a bit of a giggle! We ended up just jumping in and wading to the island. However, a strange thing happened whilst doing this; we started acting as a team by helping each other get out of the swamp.

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Another session that was very memorable was a ‘Night Exercise’. This was basically a map reading to find a camping site where you slept in bivvies not tents. We got lost whilst on this exercise. We were on this disused railway embankment and observed a group of people with torches coming towards very rapidly, so we were a bit concerned.  It was the local constabulary, the other side of the embankment was a testing station for animals, we looked suspicious walking around at night in camo gear and we were directed to an RV point and taken to the camping area.

The staff debriefed every day with an open meeting with us as a group, so we could convey our backgrounds and get to know each other. There were other activities to help us with communication skills, team building etc. Staff were there to assist if we needed a chat. I had always up to then struggled to honestly talk about things that troubled me but in this environment it was easy. So, for me this gave me the opportunity to learn to speak about problems privately or in a group, work in a team, and have fun whilst doing it.

We are getting more and more young people, struggling with mental health issues and lacking in confidence. I believe in the work YMCA is doing. Structured programmes like at Fairthorne help to address these issues in a neutral area away from pressures for a week, with access to counselling, wellbeing exercises and activities and just a good environment to get some help to cope with life. A perfect opportunity to help more people in a pleasant and safe environment away from distractions.

37 years later and I’m enjoying working at YMCA and will never forget the good time we had at Fairthorne Manor.”

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