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Naomi

“No matter what I’d done, my youth worker would always ask me how I was”

Sixteen and alone in LondonNaomi 300 pxls

When I was 13, I moved to Manchester with my mum. Then we had problems and eventually our relationship just collapsed. At 16, I came back to London on my own, and a relative took me in temporarily to prevent me going into care. Then, social services referred me to Ventura House – the YMCA in Hayes.

I thought the whole world was against me

My first night was daunting. Being in such a big building by myself – I couldn’t sleep and wondered if it was really hap­pening, but it was such a relief. In the first six months I suffered a lot with depression and was given counselling. I thought the whole world was against me, and was break­ing all the rules. But a big thing was that I never felt judged. No matter what I’d done, my youth worker would always ask me how I was. Someone even helped me in their lunch hour. I felt I actually mattered.

I’m proof that what YMCA does pays off

I joined a peer mentoring scheme and started volunteering with YMCA. This led to work with military children at the RAF, which promoted me to manager. I’ve also been a team leader working with youth programmes at YMCA West London . I’m proof that what YMCA does pays off. I want to stay working with them because they’ve put their faith in me. One day, I hope to run my own youth services for single parents and teens. Without YMCA West London, I would be dead or in jail by now. I would’ve got involved with gangs. But YMCA staff monitor what you’re doing and put you back in line. The biggest thing I gained is stability.