At the very heart of all YMCA does do is care for young people. We want to share Shannon’s story with you:
From her earliest memories, Shannon has known abandonment. Her father left before she was born, and she has been known to social care since 2008 due to ongoing concerns about her mother’s parenting. Shannon missed most primary school years, as none of the adults in the home would get up to take her there. Home life was unstable and there were numerous changes of address and schools, resulting in high anxiety and difficulties building a friendship group.
Things got even tougher for Shannon from 2016, when the lack of care at home became more apparent to her peers. The absence of role models and support meant she hadn’t learned even basic life skills, such as brushing her hair and putting it in a ponytail for school.
During secondary school years 7 – 9, Shannon started to act out of character. The regular disruption she caused often resulted in her being put into isolation. Her mental health was under great strain and her problems with self-harm only intensified. It was during this difficult period of her life that she learned that her mother no longer wanted her around. Having no family members willing to take her in, Shannon was placed in emergency accommodation before to moving into the YMCA.
Caring for vulnerable young people is not a quick fix. Years of neglect and the complete absence of supportive, positive role models in Shannon’s life had left huge gaps in her development, and the willingness to trust other people had been all but hammered out of her by the time she arrived at our doors. She didn’t know a soul at YMCA to start with, and understandably felt frightened and uncertain. This is where the work began – step by step, stage by stage, rebuilding a young life.
Shannon bravely let us support her, learning independent living skills such as hygiene, cleanliness, and cooking. Over time she got involved in some of our programmes such as the School of Artisan cooking, outdoor education activities, rock climbing (indoor and outdoor), and she particularly enjoyed weaselling – an activity combining above ground caving and parkour. Shannon also enjoyed music sessions, where she has learnt to play the piano/keyboard; something she wants to continue going forward.
These and other contributing factors have helped Shannon’s wellbeing, to the point where she states she is far more positive about her self-worth. We are proud of her for taking on an apprenticeship as a Teaching Assistant in a local school, which she is currently completing. Shannon attends the school 5 days a week, enjoys her job, and has been inspired to train as a teacher.
Shannon tells us that the biggest gain from her experience at the YMCA is the input and friendship of the staff members around her. They have been and remain a lifeline for her, supporting her in so many ways. As she is still under 18, Shannon lives in our 24/7 staffed young people’s accommodation, but when the time its right, we are confident she will successfully adjust to semi-independent and then independent living.
“I have noticed Shannon grow in confidence at YMCA. She has engaged well with activities, in particular the Artisan Cookery Course, and has formed close friendships with other young people in service. Shannon is a shining example to the other young people in terms of her ambition, drive, and determination to succeed. She maintains her room to a high standard and always takes pride in her appearance, while continuing to develop her living skills in preparation for adulthood. I am incredibly proud of her and see a lot of potential as she moves forward into adulthood.”
If you would like to help support young people like Shannon please: