YMCA Black Country Staff Awards 2014

Last week saw the announcement and presentation of the 2014 YMCA Black Country staff awards.  I was really proud to have two of the YMCA Open Door Team shortlisted for individual categories and to have the team shortlisted for Team of the Year.

We didn’t win Team of the Year, that deservedly went to the Walsall Housing Team who have worked so hard together to overcome some very challenging circumstances this year.  Nevertheless, it was great to be shortlisted and receive a bit of recognition – the team work incredibly hard and with great ability and compassion to deliver a fantastic service that enables 50 young people to stay in safe accommodation each night.

YMCA Open Door – Team of the Year Runners Up

Unfortunately, despite a tremendous record of recruiting Host families, fundraising and all round non-stop dedication, Rachael Taylor was only runner up in the Personal Achievement category.  But again deserved recognition to be shortlisted nonetheless and it was difficult to argue with Wolverhampton Nursery Manager, Charlie, being announced as winner.

Rachael Taylor – Personal Achievement Runner Up

However, despite these slight disappointments the rock of our Wolverhampton Supported Lodgings provision, Stanley Ifamene, was crowned Inspirational Colleague of the Year.  I was utterly delighted with this.  Stanley really is one of the most inspirational and exemplary humans I have ever met.  He works hard, cares with great attention and tenderness for the young people he is responsible for and, most importantly, he lives out every part and every moment of his life through his faith in Jesus.  He encourages me every time I see him, inspires me to greater performance and approaches every situation with a desire to give honour to God.  He is a true hero.

Stanley Ifamene – Inspirational Colleague of the Year Winner

It was a great fun evening.  The company was top quality and it was good to be reminded of the effective and wide reaching work that YMCA Black Country Group is responsible for.  The positive impact and influence of the organisation seems to be growing and building on the firm foundations of past generations.  The other award winners were James and Hashan who both work with great effort and enthusiasm in Aleksa’s nursery, and Tony who has worked persistently and tirelessly for years making sure the place doesn’t fall apart.  The final award was a Lifetime Achievement award for Board Members Eric and Brenda Moore who have given about 60 and 40 years voluntary service respectively to the YMCA.  That really was an inspiring and fitting end to the awards.  Looking forward to next year!


Self Harming Black Swan

I don’t watch films with a purpose of getting myself freaked but Black Swan made a pretty fair effort.  Who would have thought a film about ballet dancers could be so dark?!  I think that shows how little I appreciate ballet.

I was uncomfortable but it was a brilliant film.  I really respect that it deals with self-harm so vividly and disturbingly.  Self-harm is so often glorified in teen culture but in a film full of confusing hallucinations and psychotic episodes the only thing you know is real is the pain and self-mutilation.  The message is clear, self-harm is destructive.

As adults in the 21st century we need to understand that self-harm is endemic.  It is impossible to know how many children and young people try to hurt themselves.  However, according to a quick survey of mental health websites it is likely that well over 10% of teenagers will self-harm at some point in their adolescence.  And it is not just teenage girls.  Increasing numbers of boys are deliberately harming themselves and the issues linger on into adulthood for many, it is just that adults are more tactful when it comes to hiding their actions.

I feel that as responsible adults we need to keep our eyes open for the signs of self-harm, especially among the teenagers we have any contact with.  At the YMCA we have provided self-harm and suicide training for many of our Supported Lodgings Hosts and they have found it useful in there personal lives as well as when providing support through the YMCA.  There are loads of organisations out there with information and good advice.  A few good places to start for resources are Childline,  Young Minds or the National Self Harm Network.

No winners

I heard today some tragic news about a young man who used to live at the YMCA who took his own life.  I didn’t know him very well, had had a few good conversations with him back when he lived with us but that’s going back a couple of years.  Whenever you saw him he was always very welcoming and friendly, a nice guy who put you at ease.

It is very sad that he is gone.  There are no winners with suicide.  The one who is gone will never be back and the wounds are deep for those that are left.

I pray that the scars that remain will enable those who are hurting to eventually become stronger through the pain they experience now.

What strike?

I have sympathy with people losing out on pensions they’ve been working towards….

…but I didn’t notice the strike at all.  I may have been the exception but f it wasn’t for the news I wouldn’t even have known the strike was on.  At work I had contact by phone, email and face to face with quite a few public sector workers so they can’t have been on strike.  And Anya’s school stayed open – thank you to the headteacher and all the staff there – you deserve praise for working today that can’t have been an easy decision.

It made lots of news but did anybody else feel much impact?



“You’re a miserable pipsqueak!”

Finally, an elected Member of Parliament showing some passion!  This is Tom Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East where I work at the YMCA.

It’s with reference to the Government withdrawing funding for nine schools in Sandwell to have new builds.  I understand that there need to be stacks of cuts if we’re to stabilise the country but to take this away from young people in Sandwell is utterly heartbreaking.  I have never experienced a community where so many people are working so hard together in such messy situations and if anybody deserves a break it is the people of Sandwell.

I am disappointed that Michael Gove has not fulfilled his promise to visit Sandwell.  I think this is cowardly behaviour.

Also, how funny that ‘miserable pipsqueak’ is such an offensive term…no wonder Gove is nervous of coming to West Brom, he’ll get a bit worse than that there!

Lucky Boy I Am

I’m breaking up for half-term today.  I remember at school the last day before any holidays was AMAZING.  You just couldn’t believe your luck that you were gonna get a week, two weeks or even……six weeks off!  Well today I have a trace of that feeling somewhere…..I’m about to break up for a whole week!

But, even though that means 9 days before I’ll be back at work I’m a little perplexed.  Work takes up so much time and energy that it’s gonna be strange not going in and definiately against my current thought wiring not to be thinking about work.  But it will be really good to ‘switch-off’ from it for a while and re-focus on a couple of more important things.

Another reason that I’m it doesn’t feel quite exciting as it used to in Year 8 is because I actually quite like work.  In fact I love it.  I wake up in the morning and look forward to getting into the office, seeing colleagues and meeting families and young people.  Lucky boy I am.

How do you help?

Spotted this on Lee & Baz’s blog.  A challenging video.

Are you helping?

Rather than just slagging off the embarrassing, socially inept street preacher it’d be better for me to be constructive.

I try and live my whole life serving God.  I hope that lots of the little things I do actually, in some tiny way, ‘help’:

  • eating dinner with my family
  • taking time to listen to a friend at work
  • playing footy with the lads on a Monday night
  • being an advocate for disempowered young people
  • sharing my experience with a trainee youth worker
  • praying with someone who’s stressed
  • popping in for 10 minutes to see a friend
  • taking Anya swimming
  • writing a blog post(!?)
  • taking time out the day to meditate on who God is
  • writing to a politician about the situation in Palestine

The list goes on.  How are you helping?