Kingsley Shaw moved in to the brand new YMCA building in Wimbledon in 1974. From being a resident he went on to become Chairman of the Board, working with the YMCA through a period of expansion and growth, but also financial difficulties.
“My involvement with the YMCA began in September 1974 when I moved to London to take up my first job as a teacher of French at Sutton Manor High School. Little did I realise 40 years ago that the introduction to the YMCA by my Headmaster would lead to an association with the YMCA in South West London that continues to this day,” Kingsley says.
“The facilities at the YMCA in Wimbledon were modern with 110 comfortable single occupancy bedrooms. It was almost palatial or hotel like, especially compared to many university and college halls of residence at that time.
The self service restaurant was comfortable, bright and airy; there were a number of choices for most meals. The overall impression was rather similar to a restaurant in a good quality department store.
The difference was that, instead of being seen as just another customer, the kitchen and restaurant staff took an interest in the residents and their well-being. That gave the residents a feeling that they mattered and were amongst caring, friendly people. This was a sense that extended to the cleaning, reception and other staff that we came into contact with on a regular basis”.
Residents from all corners of the world
Most nights, residents would eat when they came home from work.
“At the ‘Dining In Nights’ however, most residents would eat at the same time rather than over a period of some two hours,” Kingsley explains.
“At these nights, there was table service and a traditional meal, rather like a Sunday roast, and in addition there were speeches, celebrations or other activities to encourage residents to spend the evening together.
The residency provided a welcoming, safe and caring environment. It was home not just to people from the local area and from all parts of the United Kingdom, but also from many members of the Commonwealth and other countries around the world”.
In fact, the local press named YMCA Wimbledon ‘the UN building on The Broadway’ due to the many different nationalities living in the hostel.
Like most residents, Kingsley was busy working. Typical occupations held by residents were teacher, civil servant and members of local authority.
Visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury
“However, if there was something that interested me I’d take part. For instance I remember taking part in a photography course, attended some quiz nights and some tennis events in the summer.
A particular highlight from my time living in the YMCA was an evening in 1975 as part of the Centenary celebrations. The then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Donald Coggan was Guest of Honour at a dinner at the YMCA followed by a service at Wimbledon Town Hall”.
Kingsley moved out from YMCA Wimbledon in 1979, but continued to live in the area and to be involved with the Association.
“I became a Full Member of Wimbledon & District YMCA in 1982, and the following year was invited to join the Board of Management. Having first-hand experience with residency, the Board asked me to join the House Committee,” he says.
“Life had changed from being a user of the facilities and services provided for residents to discussing and deciding on the provision of these services, policies affecting residents and associated financial aspects”.
The Foyer programme
As a Board Member, in the early 1990s, Kingsley became involved with YMCAs work with The Foyer Federation.
“As Chairman of the House Committee I joined the General Secretary in the initial meeting which resulted in Wimbledon YMCA becoming part of a pilot project and one of the first five Foyers in the country. The aim of the project was to challenge rising youth unemployment and homelessness; the so-called ‘no home – no job, no job – no home’ cycle.
Our Foyer provided accommodation coupled with a structured programme to develop each participant’s work and life skills. The objective was to help homeless young people achieve their full potential in employment and housing. It offered support and guidance, access to training opportunities and assistance in securing move-on accommodation”.
Chairman of the Board
Although he moved from the area in 1995, Kingsley continued to be involved with the Board.
“In January 1996 I was nominated as Chairman of the Board serving for some two and a half years. It was a difficult period for Wimbledon YMCA, but also one of transition and looking forward to new ways of working and development.
In response to changing times the Board decided that we needed to adopt a corporate status. We needed a fresh start; a new Chairman succeeded me although I remained a member of the board of directors for another four years”.
After 2000, several changes happened to YMCA Wimbledon. First, they merged with Kingston YMCA to become Wimbledon and Kingston YMCA. Later, in 2009, the Association changed its name to YMCA St Paul’s Group, to better describe its range and remits.
All of this time, Kingsley has continued to be involved and show great interest and dedication to the Association.
Here for Good
In the future, he hopes YMCA St Paul’s Group will continue to encourage and inspire young people and helping them in building a future the same way it helped him.
“We have been in the heart of the community since 1874. Over the 40 years that I have been a member of the YMCA I have seen many changes. We have different focuses and initiatives, different structures and ways of working but there is one constant; we are ‘Here for Good’; here to do good for the community and here to continue helping young people achieve their potential for very many years to come”.