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!


The Potential in Every Child

My good friend Rob shared this photo on facebook today:


That’s powerful.  We need to accept that the collective knowledge of humanity will always be limited by the extent to which we turn a blind eye to poverty.

Maya Angelou said:

“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.  That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.”

That is why the hard work of teachers and college tutors in the poor parts of our towns and cities is so vital.  If you are a fantastic teacher than please think about working, or staying, in the school where you can influence children and young people who others might not give a chance to.  Your care and effort could literally change the world.

And the same goes for health workers, social workers, youth workers, the police etc. etc.   Anything you can do to pave the way for a young person to get stuck into their education is making society a better place.

Do you know any kids you can invest some time and love into?  Take a chance and go for it and you might end up changing their lives and yours.

Cameron’s Benefit Madness

Now that the football is all done and dusted with, at least for a couple of days, I can look around at what is going on in the real world.  And what do I see?  I see that some numpty has announced he’d like to do away with Housing Benefit for under 25s.  I admit this rant is based on the headline, I haven’t looked into the detail, but what on earth are you talking about?

How on earth do you expect these young people to live anywhere?  I suppose you’re planning for everyone to stay at home until they’re 25 but what about those who don’t want to, or those that can’t?  No Housing Benefit for under 25s?  Sorry, but get a grip Mr Cameron, I have given you the benefit of the doubt so far but if this is what you want you are showing you really are out of touch.

I see there are 2 reasons that young people are unemployed:

  • There are no jobs for young people
  • Some young people are too lazy to bother looking for one or sticking at one

Your proposal Cameron might get a couple of hundred thousand off their sofas but it would plunge hundreds of thousands more into homelessness and poverty.  Sorting that mess out will cost a lot more than we’re paying for Housing Benefit.  Rant over.


I’m really gutted that Dad hasn’t been selected to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay next year.  I think the organisers have really missed a trick here.  If it comes to ranking people of this nation who are most appropriate and deserving to carry the torch surely Dad should have come somewhere near the top – he has that perfect mix of being a former Olympian and having devoted his life to helping, supporting and encouraging children and young people.

Does a day go by without Dad taking a coaching session, or teaching the kids from church, or running a community group, or spending ALL his spare time planning these things and reading up how to do them better?  No!  And that doesn’t even include the day job.

I think it would have been fitting for Dad to carry the torch but it wasn’t to be so I just thought I’d indulge myself and honour him on my blog instead.

A Very Proud Son.

I am unreasonable


What!!??  How stupid can a court be?  So we’re not allowed to use long paintbrushes or paint on the floor now?  I’m very sorry for the kid and his family but why should anybody be responsible for this freak accident?  It’s just one of those things.

You know this actually gets me really angry.  I refuse to pander to the health and safety obsession.  Our country must lose so many millions of pounds each year faffing around with risk assessments.  One of the best ways to be healthy is to have fun but we are stopped from doing fun activities because there is a minute risk of a freak accident.  This decision might make this kid rich but will terrify schools and businesses up and down the country.

But what do I know?  According to this judge, Lady Dorrian, I am unreasonable because I would not have taken steps to prevent a freak accident.  I really care for young people. that’s why I work with them, but I think this judgement, as reported by the BBC, is utterly ridiculous.

Should Titus Bramble still be playing?

Earlier this week Titus Bramble was arrested and then bailed on suspicion of rape.  I don’t know about other industries but in my line of work someone arrested for such an offence would certainly be suspended.  Probably for two reasons:

Firstly as a safeguarding measure to protect children and young people.  I would imagine that most football clubs have plenty of young people knocking around.  Someone who is under investigation for a sexual offence should not have access to young people.

Secondly, the suspected would likely be suspended for bringing an organisation into disrepute.  Should he be found guilty then it does not look good on Sunderland that they have continued to employ Bramble and utilise his skills.  For me it sends the message that they do not take this sort of issue seriously and would rather hang onto this player as long as possible regardless of what he has been accused of doing.

I am making no comment on the guilt or innocence of Bramble.  However, I think football is in a bit of a mess with regard to the behaviour of players off the pitch at the moment and allowing Bramble to play does communicate to young footballers and lads all over the country that it is ok to take advantage of women sexually.  Being a professional footballer will throw you into the media spotlight and every footballer and football club must take that responsibility seriously.

Tony: I’ve lost my family

A 16 year old boy moving from hostel to hostel then gets a council flat.  He hasn’t got a clue.  This BBC3 documentary was one of the most tragic things I have ever seen.

He has no family, one friend, no job, debt, challenging social skills, can’t do ANYTHING for himself.  Hardly understands ANYTHING about the world.

It’s lads like that that my work at the YMCA is aimed at, aiming to provide a room in a family home with a bit of structure.  I found this film a real challenge to what I do.  The kids are more than just stats.  Tony has so much character, personality and a creative streak.  And deep, hidden somewhere inside him there is a drive to survive.  Young people are great.

There’s some really positive twists at the end but there’s a long tough road ahead for him.

If you fancy watching it you can catch it on BBC iPlayer.  Well worth an hour of your time.