3 December 2014

Jade came to the YMCA following an unstable period in her life where she used all her strength caring for others until she had no energy left to care for herself. Now, she uses the creative workshops and volunteer programmes offered at the YMCA to rebuild her confidence and self-worth.

Jade, now 27, first came to YMCA Surbiton when she was in her early 20’s. She didn’t know anyone outside the hostel, and confidence issues made it difficult to get new friends. She thought the rules at the hostel were too strict, and got involved with activities that were for residents only.

Eventually, she moved on to a Housing Association where the living was much more independent. Only then did she realize the benefits of the personal and close support that had been available at the YMCA.

However, Jade came back to YMCA LSW one year ago, after the breakdown of a relationship. Living with her then boyfriend and his mother, Jade was the only one earning money in the household. All her money and energy went to care for the others. She only ate one meal a day, and when she finally moved out and in with her own mother, her sister started crying when she saw how skinny Jade looked.

A second chance

For Jade, the second time around at the YMCA has been very different. This time she is determined to take advantage of the support and advice available.

Because a lot of my issues stems from a lack of confidence I focus mainly on that,” she explains.

My approach to living here is a bit more mature this time around. I was only 20 when I lived here the first time and I focused more on the negatives like that you couldn’t have friends over whenever you wanted. This time, I focus more on the support and getting myself sorted. Now the YMCA is somewhere to study and focus”.

Through YMCA LSW, Jade gets counselling for depression and help with anger issues.

She has a close relation with the support workers. She has grown in confidence and now takes part in several projects involving both residents and members of the local community, making friends outside the hostel.

Volunteering in a radio station

Jade is also involved in a new project at YMCA LSW which provides homeless people with short term volunteer placements.

To be able to volunteer is so important because it gives people a sense of self-fulfillment and self-worth,” she says.

She herself is volunteering at a local radio station, where she gains experience in marketing and PR.

Volunteering helps me keep active and busy, and most importantly it helps me overcome my feelings of worthlessness”.

Singing and drama

Working in radio suits Jade perfectly, as she is a talented singer and songwriter. She sings with the YMCA Community Choir and constantly works on songs of her own.

Singing with the choir and performing with Benchmark Theatre has helped me rebuild my confidence,” she explains.

Katy, the Choir leader is amazing. She brings people out of their shells and makes you aware of your strong points.

And Clare who runs Benchmark is so passionate and engaging, and she writes stories everyone can relate to and that reach you on a personal level.

The Choir and Benchmark are great projects because they help residents socialize outside the building.

You get friends outside the YMCA, which is important, and by inviting people from the community in to the hostel, they also take away some of the stigma about the people living in the hostels.”

Took part in creative writing workshop

This summer, residents from YMCA Surbiton and YMCA Wimbledon went on a residential camp to Dunford.

For a whole week, they had the opportunity to take part in workshops where they learnt how to express themselves creatively with writing, music and drama.

The Residential was really good,” Jade says. “I was going through a hard time before we went, and the workshops became an outlet and something to focus on during this period.

I did a creative writing course with Sasha where I worked on some poems. In fact, the session was so inspirational it spilled over to the rest of the day and I actually ended up writing a song whilst I was there”.

Sleep Easy

Having been homeless herself, the annual YMCA Sleep Easy fundraising event is very close to Jade’s heart.

Sleep Easy is important because it’s about the reason we are all here at the hostel,” Jade says.

At the event night in 2014, she performed a self-written song about sleeping rough, titled ‘So Cold’, which you can listen to here.

She also spent the night sleeping rough and talking to people about her own experiences of having nowhere to live.

“I wanted to share that experience with other people. It was good to see people with a homeless background take part and deliver the message that everyone can be down on their luck”.