๐˜๐Œ๐‚๐€ ๐‹๐ž๐ข๐œ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ซ๐ž attend National Conference

 

YMCA England and Wales National Conference 2024 in Nottingham
YMCA England and Wales National Conference 2024 in Nottingham

 

Hold on to your hats because Thursday, July 4th, 2024, kicked off with Election Day and the start of the YMCA England and Wales National Conference! It promised two days of excitement and engagement at the East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham.

Roy O'Shaughnessy at YMCA National Conference 2024 in Nottingham
Roy O’Shaughnessy at YMCA National Conference 2024 in Nottingham

Hundreds of eager delegates from across the nation showed up bright and early, grabbing their tea and coffee before diving into a jam-packed day (and a night of election-watching!). Roy Oโ€™Shaughnessy, the Conference Chair and YMCA National Board Chair, gave a hearty welcome in the Conference Theatre. โ€œWeโ€™re here to celebrate YMCAโ€™s awesome work nationwide,” he cheered. It was a delightful mix of new and familiar faces, with some folks just weeks into their YMCA roles (including yours truly) and others boasting over 40 years of service!

Paul Brown CEO of YMCA Leicestershire at YMCA National Conference 2024
Paul Brown CEO of YMCA Leicestershire

Paul Brown, Chief Executive of YMCA Leicestershire and National Board member, then kicked off with an inspiring devotion, sharing his YMCA journey. His passion and drive led him to become Chief Executive at just 36, making him the only Black chief executive at YMCA England and Wales for over a decade. Paulโ€™s story, including dealing with a tasteless anonymous gift, highlighted his relentless fight against discrimination and his commitment to the youth he serves and why he is considered by many in attendance as someone we should all look towards in leadership.

Youth Ambassadors at YMCA National Conference 2024
Youth Ambassadors at YMCA National Conference 2024

The first main session saw Jack Chesterman, Campaigns Manager at YMCA England & Wales, introducing Youth Ambassadors Siana Beard, Declan Carr, and Jessica Marriott. These young heroes bravely shared their experiences and roles, overcoming nerves to deliver powerful presentations.

Denise Hatton at YMCA National Conference 2024
Denise Hatton at YMCA National Conference 2024

Next up, Denise Hatton, National General Secretary of YMCA England & Wales, delivered a punchy address on the theme “Now’s Our Chance,” inspired by YMCAโ€™s Manifesto and future work. โ€œYMCA is now larger, stronger, more influential, and more cohesive, with a clear direction to serve young people and their communities,โ€ she said. โ€œThis conference is the place to forge lasting working relationships.โ€

Mark Gifford at YMCA National Conference 2024
Mark Gifford at YMCA National Conference 2024

After lunch, Mark Gifford, Chief Executive of the National Citizen Service, highlighted some worrying stats: 20% of young people live in poverty, and over 10% are out of education and training. Despite these challenges, Markโ€™s message was one of hope and breaking barriers.

The afternoon was buzzing with workshops: Richard James on YMCA St Pauls Group’s new Wimbledon development, Chris Kirkwood and Leo Copsey on YMCA Lincolnshire’s Youth Investment Fund project, and many more inspiring sessions from various YMCAs.

Ben Page of IPSOS at YMCA National Conference 2024
Ben Page of IPSOS at YMCA National Conference 2024

Day one wrapped up hilariously with Ben Page, Chief Executive of Ipsos, dissecting the General Electionโ€™s implications for the charity sector with humour and honesty. And yes, he wore red socksโ€ฆ purely coincidental?

Soheila Hayek World YMCA at YMCA National Conference 2024
Soheila Hayek World YMCA at YMCA National Conference 2024

Day two kicked off early on Friday with more tired eyes than coffee cups, mainly through election watching and not the previous nights Bingo. Roy Oโ€™Shaughnessy welcomed everyone back before Soheila Hayek, President of World YMCA, discussed YMCAโ€™s global impact. โ€œYMCAโ€™s magic is in being both local and global, with YMCAs worldwide believing in our mission.โ€

The morning buzzed with over 15 workshops on leadership, marketing, impact data, and more. After a quick lunch, we dove into the final sessions.

Rev Richard Cole at YMCA National Conference 2024
Rev Richard Cole at YMCA National Conference 2024

The grand finale featured Strictly Come Dancing legend and part of The Communards, the Right Reverend Richard Coles. He delivered a keynote that took us through his incredible life journey, from homelessness to the YMCA, music, the church, and even a bit of dancing. (Marc, our new marketing guy, even snagged a cheeky selfie with him!)

Marc and Rev. Richard Cole at YMCA National Conference 2024
Marc and Rev. Richard Cole at YMCA National Conference 2024

The conference concluded with Roy Oโ€™Shaughnessyโ€™s final words, marking the end of a truly inspiring event. With over 350 delegates from more than 45 YMCAs, it was the most well-attended conference to date, already setting the stage for next year.

From my perspective as a newbie, the conference was brilliantly organised, filled with passionate people dedicated to empowering young people in England and Wales. YMCA, one of the oldest charities, continues to ensure every young person has a fair chance to discover who they are and what they can become. Cheers to that!

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