Two weeks after meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury, YMCA Norfolk volunteer Chris Forster has been named as BBC Radio Norfolk’s Education Volunteer of the Year.
Chris, who has been volunteering with YMCA Norfolk youth clubs across the county for the past 18 months, was told he was a winner earlier this week by BBC presenter Nick Conrad who broadcast an interview with him and his youth engagement worker Charlie Wall on Tuesday.
Archbishop Justin Welby met Chris at the YMCA during his recent three-day visit to Norfolk and heard how the Christian charity had been able to give Chris a room when the relationship with his partner broke up after their young daughter was born, partly because of Chris’s problem with anger.
It then supported him in both seeing his young daughter, deal with his anger issues, acknowledge his part in the break-up, reconcile with his partner and, eventually, restore the relationship so they are now a family once more.
Meanwhile, once living at the YMCA Central in Norwich, Chris started to volunteer with a YMCA youth club in Caister, helped by Charlie. As more youth clubs were opened up across Norfolk, Chris volunteered to work at several of them.
“Volunteering with the youth clubs makes me happy and I love the kids’ reactions when they get excited and look forward to what we do at the clubs,” Chris told Radio Norfolk. “We now have two youth clubs open almost every day from King’s Lynn and Norwich to Great Yarmouth.”
Charlie told Radio Norfolk: “Chris was keen to volunteer to get some qualifications so he could go on to support his own young children. He showed promise and dedication with his youth club volunteering so I invited him to do a youth work traineeship, level 2. He completed this successfully and YMCA saw his potential and wanted to invest in him, so we invited him to do a level 3 apprenticeship, which he is currently on.
“Chris is dedicated to his work and makes a real difference – he comes in, is passionate and wants to work. This award is well deserved.”
Chris said: “I already get a really good feeling about what I do, to have it recognised with an award is incredible.
“I hope to continue working for the YMCA, complete my apprenticeship and maybe work in housing as without the YMCA housing team I would not be where I am today.
“The YMCA is showing me the light at the end of the tunnel. It has given me a hope, given me a future, given me a career and given me my family back.”
The Runner-up for the Radio Norfolk award is also a YMCA Norfolk volunteer – Yvonne Mack.
Hear Chris being told he has won the award: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06pqvs1
Start listening at: 54:00
Pictured above is Chris Forster talking to Archbishop Justin Welby.
You can watch the video about Chris’s story below.