Young people share their incredible stories and achievements at annual celebration
- Credit: Julia Holland
An award ceremony heard from young people from across the county of their resilience after enduring life-altering hardships.
The annual celebration held by YMCA Norfolk on Thursday, November 8, at OPEN, in Norwich, was attended by Norwich City footballer Christoph Zimmerman, Sheriff of Norwich Ros Brown and General the Lord Richard Dannatt along with scores of supporters, staff, volunteers and clients.
Speaking at the event, YMCA Norfolk chief executive Tim Sweeting said: 'Our aim tonight is to celebrate the young people and families we get to serve – their talents, their development and their achievements over the last year.
'Those of us who have the privilege of being staff and volunteers get to see this every day and tonight is a window into some incredible journeys of change and development.
'It is important to remember though that there are so many for whom barriers are placed in the way of their potential. It is a sad fact that in Norfolk the quality of a young person's start in life still too often determines their future – this is not acceptable.
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'In too many cases help is only provided when crisis occurs. That is why we have sought to focus more and more on preventing crisis from occurring in the first place.
'This year, in addition to targeted support to help 66 families stay together and the 458 young people we housed, we also worked on the issues that young people have told us led to crisis for them.
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'We trained 650 young people in mental health awareness, 470 engaged in positive activities at our youth clubs, we helped nearly 200 into employment, education or training and engaged thousands on the streets of King's Lynn through our SOS bus,' said Mr Sweeting.
Mr Zimmerman and Lord Dannatt then presented awards to a number of winners.
The Healthy Living Award went to Brandon Laxton, who was praised for his cooking skills which he helped to teach others as well.
Young volunteer of the year went to Jasmine 'Jas' Mickleburgh, who helped lead campaigns including one for Better Living. She had also taken part in the EDP's Young People's Takeover earlier this year.
The healthy living award went to Brandon Laxton, who was praised for his cooking skills, and tenant of the year was Amy Morris, who was described as a model tenant.
Young achiever of the year went to Jamie Copping, who moved to independent living and was an inspiration to other residents, and the inspiration award went to Chris Forster.
The celebration evening heard the inspirational stories of a number of young people who have been supported by YMCA Norfolk, among them was Jas Mickleburgh.
'I was 12 when my mum passed away and my family unit quickly fell apart. I was trying to play the role of mum by looking after my dad and three brothers. The next five years were hell and they took their toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally.
'I attempted suicide earlier this year and, after this, I knew I needed to move out. That's when I was advised to contact YMCA. That was six months ago and I now feel so different about things.
'The old me was too shy, too scared and in a bad emotional state to be able to take in opportunities, never mind grab them.
'I have gone from feeling isolated to now being able to have a voice and being listened to. I have taken time to accept myself and I use my voice as a source of strength – it's like a new power.
'Since I moved into the YMCA in Norwich I've become more confident in everything I do. I have taken on the role as choir of a Youth Advisory Board and spoken about social mobility at a number of events. I have also been invited to speak soon at Westminster and at the Norfolk Governors Conference.
'I've recently been reminded of when I was young, I wanted to be an actor. I enjoyed playing different roles and I loved the challenge of playing new characters and re-creating myself.
'It almost feels like the YMCA has given me this platform to finally start using some of my potential. They have shown me so much, from practical steps to enjoying new positive experiences. I am starting to like and accept myself.
'I have just turned 18 and I am excited about it. My message to others like me is don't be afraid, even if you don't believe it YMCA will and are there to support you.'