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25 June 2024    |    General

YMCA @ National Youth Work Awards 2024


#E Project – Adoption UK in Scotland

The #E Project uniquely serves children and young people from adoptive, kinship, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) families across Scotland, reaching 128 participants aged 2-to-28. 

Its innovative approach focuses on developmental stages, not age, ensuring that every activity, both online and in-person, is accessible and tailored to meet the participants’ specific needs. Led by people with personal experience in adoption and FASD, the project offers a genuinely empathetic and understanding environment.

In just under two years, the #E Project has successfully created peer-led groups that have not only produced valuable resources and infographics on key life skills but also launched their own #E Zone Magazine, entirely designed and written by the participants for young people who share their experience.

At the heart of the project is the celebration of the care-experienced identity, challenging the stigma around adoption and the misconception of achieving a ‘happy ending’ once adopted. The project empowers these young people to use their voices powerfully, whether through group discussions, their magazine, or even presentations in parliament, to explore trauma and highlight the barriers they face in life, education, and employment.

The #E Project instills values of engagement, empowerment, education, personal growth, and employability, ensuring participants develop skills that resonate beyond their immediate environment. From initial shyness to achievements in public speaking, education, and employment, the project champions every small victory, creating a supportive community where resilience shines, and lifelong friendships are forged.

One young person spoke of how the #E Project has given them a heightened agency over their sense of identity, saying: “The #E Project has really helped me to come out of my shell. I grew up not really knowing anyone like me and having to reshare my story over and over. Carol is an inspiration to me and shows me how the past does not define your future. That we are not what happened to us but what we choose to become.”

Find out more: https://www.adoptionuk.org/the-e-project

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PromiseAUKScot

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thepromise_aukscot/

Shortlisted Nominees

South Ayrshire Young Carer Project

The Weekend is a short film created by a group of young carers supported by South Ayrshire’s Health and Social Care Partnership, in partnership with Thriving Communities, offering a powerful exploration of their lived experiences and challenges. This youth-led initiative, supported by multiagency practitioners who are themselves former young carers, stands as a testament to the project’s authenticity and relevance. The film is not only a tool for raising awareness across Scotland and the UK but also serves as a vital training resource for staff in schools and youth organisations, thanks to its inclusion in a national CPD accredited module by Education Scotland and Carers Trust Scotland. 

Watch the video here.

Originally designed for local audiences, the film’s impact has expanded significantly, having been recognised through awards and extensive media coverage. It tackles crucial issues such as parental substance use, inspiring young carers to embrace their roles with pride and confront stigma head on. Winning the Scottish Public Services Award for Championing Diversity & Inclusion, The Weekend has created an enduring legacy, enhancing support for young carers, challenging misconceptions, and fostering a deeper understanding of their experiences. 

With known cases of young carers rising fivefold in recent years, this project has notably increased the visibility of young carers, enabling access to much-needed support. The young participants themselves have grown personally, socially, and emotionally, discovering new skills and talents while strengthening their community ties.  

The project has also fostered strong, supportive relationships between the staff and young people, encouraging a collaborative approach to nurturing young talent in filmmaking. As a result, these young carers have not only achieved a Dynamic Youth Award but have also become inspiring figures for their peers, showcasing their stories to effect positive change. 

Speaking of the project, Heather, one of the young filmmakers, said: “I am so proud to have been a part of. It was good to tell stories about our experiences and lives and it’s even more amazing that the film is now going to be used to help others understand young carers as well.” 

Amy Small, Renfrewshire Council Youth Services

Amy Small, a seasoned sessional youth worker with over 20 years of experience, plays a crucial role at the Additional Support Needs and LGBT Safe Space Youth Clubs. Balancing this alongside her day job as a resilience officer with the Scottish Ambulance Service, Amy is a dedicated champion of equality, inclusion, and creating supportive environments for socially isolated young people in Renfrewshire. 

Her work focuses on educating young people about their rights under the Equalities Act 2010, the UNCRC, and initiatives such as Disability Scotland’s I Am Me campaign, as well as providing guidance for young people on how to report abuse and seek mental health support.  

Amy’s deep understanding of the challenges faced by young ASN and LGBT communities, combined with her awareness of intersectionality within these groups, makes her a pivotal figure in their lives. 

Actively listening and offering sound advice, Amy has become a significant role model for many, helping them navigate through dark times. She co-delivers workshops on a range of critical issues, from sexual health to mental health, promoting a culture of intersectionality and care. 

Under Amy’s guidance, the clubs have evolved into nurturing communities, with nearly 100 young people with protected characteristics finding a sense of belonging and voice. Her efforts have led to the formation of committees, aiming for further engagement through funding, consultations, and social activities. 

Amy’s compassionate approach and innovative planning have been instrumental in the clubs’ achievements, including the attainment of the Bronze Chartership award and working towards Silver. Her commitment not only empowers young people to embrace their identities and live proudly but also significantly impacts their confidence, self-esteem, and community cohesion. Amy and her work epitomise the profound difference one individual can make in the lives of young people, earning recognition as a runner-up in the Council’s Positive about Youth Awards in December 2023. 

One young participant at the clubs said: “I wouldn’t change anything about this club because changing it wouldn’t make it the same. I feel more confident. Amy is very nice, very kind and caring – and also good fun! I feel like she sees us as her children.” 

Find out more: https://www.nhsinform.scot/scotlands-service-directory/health-and-wellbeing-services 

Touch of Love Young Achievers

Touch of Love Young Achievers’ Club has made a profound impact on over 450 young people from minority ethnic backgrounds, offering a sanctuary that promotes cultural identity and counters isolation. Through weekly gatherings, Touch of Love addresses crucial issues such as disrupted education and mental health challenges, providing a pivotal support network that encourages participants to embrace their heritage and navigate the barriers of inequality. 

The initiative shines with its holiday clubs, engaging 300+ children in enriching activities while offering free meals, providing vital support beyond term time. Unique programs like the African dance and talent show have played significant roles in promoting youth development, enhancing unity, self-esteem, and encouraging cross-cultural interactions among its participants. 

Moreover, TOL YAC’s Youth Conference presents practical life skills and solutions for positive living to 97 young people, reinforcing the club’s commitment to personal growth, equality, and community cohesion. This comprehensive approach to youth work has not only bolstered personal confidence and social skills among 95% of its participants but also set a benchmark for inclusivity and mutual respect. 

Through initiatives like the Aberdeen Mela and a visit to the STV News newsroom, Touch of Love champions cultural pride and broadens horizons, leaving a tangible legacy within the community and opening new pathways for its young people.  

Volunteer Youth Worker of the Year: Willie Mowbray, YMCA Larkhall

Willie Mowbray, Larkhall YMCA

Since 1981, Willie Mowbray has been the backbone of Larkhall YMCA, dedicating over 42 years to shaping the lives of young people in his community.  

Willie’s impact extends far beyond the athletics track. Generations of young people have found guidance and support under his mentorship, with some current young athletes being the children of those he coached decades ago. His coaching prowess, coupled with his unparalleled dedication, has earned him the reputation of being the kindest and most generous youth worker in the club. 

At the heart of Willie’s approach is his firm belief in the transformative power of athletics as a form of youth work. Through personalised guidance and unwavering support, he empowers young people to not only excel in sports but also to develop resilience and self-confidence. 

Under his leadership, Larkhall YMCA has become more than just an athletics club; it’s a safe space where young people find belonging and support. His work in organising trips, coaching, and celebrating young people’s achievements have gained international recognition, reflecting the positive impact he has had on countless lives. 

Ted Zokas, President of Larkhall YMCA, describes Willie as the glue that holds the community together. His dedication, especially during challenging times, has been instrumental in ensuring the YMCA’s survival and continued service to the young people of Larkhall. 

Chloe, one of the young athletes mentored by Willie, echoes the sentiments of many whose lives he has touched: “I can’t thank Willie enough for everything he has done for me. I hope this award, if he receives it, sheds a light on the tremendous amount of hours he has dedicated to all of us.” 

Find out more: https://larkhallymcaharriers.org/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LarkhallYMCAHarriers  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LarkhallHarrier  

All photographs are provided by Youthlink Scotland and Alan Rennie Photogrpaphy. Wording has come from Youthlink Scotland.

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