Inspiring evening from YMCA Norfolk team
YMCA Norfolk residents and staff put on an inspiring and entertaining evening at the Open venue in Norwich last night (Nov 13) as a celebration of a year of work for the Christian charity. Keith Morris reports.
An audience of around 150 supporters, residents and staff were inspired by stories of skydives, sponsored sleep-outs and heart-felt personal tales of how the YMCA has helped young people when they are at their most vulnerable. They were also entertained by guitarist William Brown, dancer Reana Bepery – all the way from Bangladesh – animation from Lisa Manning and a sneak preview of the YMCA Christmas pantomime, which takes place at the St George’s Theatre in Yarmouth on December 3.
YMCA Norfolk chief executive Tim Sweeting said that during the past year the organisation has housed 623 young people and families and helped more than 80 young people into work. He also said that lots of young people who have been users of its services have started to actually work for the YMCA, including Sonya who is now a support worker and “able to use her experiences, as well as her considerable skills and talents, to help others and is an inspiration to the young people she now serves.”
During a year of immense change, YMCA Norfolk officially merged with Umbrella Housing Group – taking on its properties – sold the original St Giles Street YMCA after 150 years and saw the My Place facility on Bethel Street officially opened by HRH Princess Anne.
Tim also outlined plans for the coming year, including expanding housing stock in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, developing more jobs and life-skills programme and expanding the Big Lottery funded Life Ready programme from supporting just its own residents to supporting any homeless or at risk young people in Great Yarmouth.
Tim concluded saying: “The thing that so motivates me is seeing the day-to-day journey of transformation in young lives and the chance to give young people chances they haven’t had. It is about more than a roof over somebody’s head, it is about valuing them for all they are and all they can become.
“As the winter weather draws in we become all the more aware of children, young people and families who are without a home. Last year we would have needed an additional 200 homes to house all the people who applied to us,” said Tim. “So we are redoubling our efforts to provide a safe warm home through our ‘Home for Christmas?’ campaign.
"There are children and young people out there who are sleeping on the streets, in cars, or on a series of friends’ floors until they run out of options. They have no safe place from which to build a life for themselves. So we are encouraging the local community to join us in making sure no child or young person experiences the instability and fear of having no place to call home.”
Closing the evening, YMCA patron, the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “This is easily the most entertaining and inspiring annual meeting I ever go to. It demonstrates the confidence which the YMCA gives to so many young people on their adventure in life which helps them to go on and achieve.”
Pictured above is YMCA Norfolk chief executive Tim Sweeting addressing the annual celebration and Reana Bepery dancing. Pictures by Julia Holland.