A YMCA Norfolk mental health project and an inspiring young worker have been named as finalists in a prestigious national youth awards competition and local people are being asked to give them their backing in an online vote.
The youth charity, which is celebrating 160 years of service this year, has seen its Young Mental Health Champions project shortlisted as YMCA Health and Wellbeing Project of the Year in the YMCA Youth Matters Awards 2016 and staff member Siobhan Lillywhite as Young Worker of the Year.
Youth Matters is YMCA’s national awards programme that has been an integral part of the charity’s calendar since 2009.
Both Norfolk finalists will be up against four other entries in their award category and the top three will attend a finals night in central London hosted by TV presenter, June Sarpong, where the winners will be named. They will be chosen by online votes cast by the public, combined with judges’ choices.
The YMCA Norfolk Mental Health Champions project has successfully reached lots of young people across the county educating them about mental health and destigmatising mental health problems. The project uses peer education as a way for young people to pass on key mental health messages to other young people and to sign post to existing services.
Developments from the project have included Peace of Mind – a counselling service for young people, mental health awareness session/workshops – Providing young people, teachers and parents with practical tools for building resilience, self-esteem, confidence and good mental health, as well as delivery of the Mental Health First Aid qualification for teachers, parents and young volunteers.
Charlie Smith, Project Lead, said: “It’s fantastic that the project is getting the praise that it deserves. The Young Champions that volunteered assisted so much with the development of the project and assisted with the ability to work with so many young people across Norfolk’
“I really hope that people get behind this project and help it reach the finals, I am so proud of all those who have been involved with the project.”
Assistant manager Siobhan Lillywhite first started working at YMCA Norfolk in summer 2012 as a key worker, just before the team experienced the tragic death of their service manager.
“Siobhan provided commitment, consistency and quality in every aspect of her work, despite the terrible experience the team had been through. Her commitment to young people never wavered. Siobhan went on to become a senior support worker and assistant manager with unconditional regard, kindness, professionalism, commitment and wisdom” said YMCA Norfolk CEO Tim Sweeting.
“Siobhan’s work ethic is an inspiration to all. Each Christmas she spends time with residents to provide them with the best possible experience through their difficult circumstances and to allow colleagues to spend time with family. She is always able to identify strengths and provide young people with a sense of hope that they can take control to change their circumstances. She has the ability to respond to a crisis sensitively, calmly and with absolute integrity. Siobhan always has the goal at the forefront of her mind that her job is to give young people the skills and choices to do things for themselves. Siobhan embodies our mission of transforming young lives,” said Tim.
Siobhan said: “I am really excited to be nominated for such a prestigious award and to have reached this stage of the process. I am an honoured to work alongside young people with YMCA Norfolk and grateful for the opportunities that has provided.”
Tim Sweeting said: “We are overjoyed and excited to be nominated for these two significant awards and to have reached this stage of the process.
“We hope everyone in the local community will vote for us, as making it through to the final judging panel would be incredible.”