At YMCA Norfolk’s Annual Celebration 2019 on November 7, Yvonne, YMCA Norfolk Volunteer, and Martine, YMCA Norfolk client, faced the stage together to tell supporters their inspirational story:
“After witnessing the murder of a family member and other horrendous atrocities, I fled The Congo and moved to the UK. I was depressed, lonely and I found life very difficult especially with the language barrier. I moved to YMCA Norfolk with my young daughter and with the support of their ‘Umbrella Team’ I was introduced to ‘Yvonne’ my Volunteer Support Worker,” said Martine.
Umbrella Housing is part of Community Housing Norwich, YMCA Norfolk’s accommodation service working with single-parent families. Yvonne has volunteered with YMCA Norfolk for almost three years – working closely with a number of Umbrella clients.
“When I discovered I was pregnant again, I was devastated and worried about how I would cope with another child. I had nothing for a new baby, and I was unlikely to have support from their father. My pregnancy was complicated and high risk with Gestational Diabetes and High blood pressure. I was becoming more isolated and depressed with little interest in going out or eating properly,” Martine added.
Over the following months, which Martine described as extremely difficult, Yvonne visited Martine weekly – and her encouragement and support became a lifeline for Martine.
“We began collecting baby items through Baby Bank and from friends. I started to feel more confident and I actually found myself looking forwards to the future. I started to develop trust, I was getting more confident and my English was improving.
“I asked Yvonne to be my birth partner when I gave birth to my healthy daughter in April. I moved from complete hopelessness to the chance of building a good life for the girls and me. I feel I am coping well, building friendships and being a good mother to my children. I am working towards having my own house so my girls can have a permanent home.
“My faith in God has helped me and my prayers have been answered. I have two children still in The Congo and with support, I am beginning the difficult journey to try and get them to live with me here,” added Martine.
Following Martine’s exceptional transformation, Yvonne was named as ‘Volunteer of the Year’ at YMCA Norfolk’s Annual Awards last week; praised for her ongoing commitment to transforming the lives of others and setting an incredibly high standard for staff and volunteers to follow. Her colleagues commented on her ability to ‘prove time and time again that she is a dedicated, compassionate team member who embodies the values of the YMCA.’