The work of the world’s oldest youth movement in turning around the lives of troubled youngsters has been celebrated in Norwich.

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Supporters, staff and young people helped by YMCA Norfolk gathered at the Open Venue on Bank Plain to look back on a year of successes.

Chief executive, Tim Sweeting, praised the work of the charity in the past 12 months, but warned about the future.

He said: “It is a scary place to be in our sector at the moment, not knowing what comes next.

“We know the demand for our services is increasing.

“Coming welfare reforms will mean that more young people will need our support and we must be innovative in the face of external factors.”

The story of the YMCA’s success was told through the young people it helps with rapper Obi showing his lyrical talents.

David Malcolm who lives in the YMCA’s new development on Bethel Street told how he had arrived in Norwich on a train, hoping to start a new life.

“It was scary, but there was a chance, a chance to change,” he said. “The YMCA has helped me to become a different man. So just keep it coming, it works, they are changing us.”

The audience of around 120 people heard about the charity’s work to get vulnerable youngsters into work and education. Their projects include the Stepping Stones Café at the YMCA’s base on All Saints Green. The cafe opened in September as a social enterprise to give young people work experience. In Great Yarmouth, a project called Generate 7, which tackles hate crime was also celebrated. And YMCA staff told the audience about how their programmes, called Get Ready and GOYA, have got 16 young people into paid work at the seaside resort. There was a special mention for the volunteers who give homeless youngsters a bed at a moment’s notice. Awards were presented to Jean Steward and David Tiley for providing the most nights for homeless young people and to Lin Mcfadden for being the longest-serving host.

Rounding off the evening, chairman Richard Pennington said: “It is always awe-inspiring to see the work being done with young people and the work they do themselves to help change their own lives.

“Transformation is what we are about and giving people a second chance and a third if necessary. Young people often come to us after running out of chances because of money, drugs or relationships.

“We want to help them belong, contribute and thrive.”

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