Our Semi-Finalists for the YMCA Youth Matters Awards 2021

Youth Matters Awards is YMCA’s annual awards event which celebrates the achievements of young people, staff and volunteers. The concept of honouring the exceptional work and practice of YMCAs across England was born in 2009. The categories for this year’s Youth Matters Awards are:

  • Young Achiever of the Year
  • Young Leader of the Year
  • Young Volunteer of the Year
  • Young Worker of the Year
  • Young Campaigner of the Year
  • YMCA of the Year
  • Accommodation Project of the Year
  • Family Work Project of the Year
  • Health & Wellbeing Project of the Year
  • Training & Education Project of the Year
  • Diversity Award
  • COVID Community Impact Award
  • COVID Community Hero Award

This year we are so proud to have FOUR semi-finalists! These are:



Please have a read through why each person/service/project have reached the semi-final and it would be much appreciated if you could vote for each of them. You’re allowed one vote per category and deadline for voting is Friday 13th August. 


Harry Flack


Harry 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. Since the pandemic has started, Harry had volunteered almost 600 hours of his time to help others when they needed support. 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 our view, have struggled to deliver support without the efforts of Harry and a small group of appropriate adults like him. Harry has grown and developed because of these experiences. 




Shine Allotment


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.  

Last year 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. 



Easy Peasy Pods


During the COVID lockdowns, the Easy Peasy Pods project ran takeaway services and activities for parents, children and residents 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 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. 




Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children


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 team work 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. 

As 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.