Youth Matters Awards 2023: celebrating young people - YMCA DownsLink Group

Youth Matters Awards 2023: celebrating young people

Youth Matters Awards 2023, the whole of the YMCA DownsLink Group team smiling with their fists in the air holding a colourful 'Youth Matters' sign

We were truly inspired at the national YMCA Youth Matters Awards on Friday evening. We were delighted to be joined by our three young finalists, as well as some of our staff, trustees, partners and supporters.


This year’s Youth Matters Awards was a huge success, with a record high 450 attendees joining the celebration. It wasn’t just YMCAs from across England and Wales that joined us but also representatives from YMCA Netherlands, YMCA Ireland, YMCA Scotland and even the Secretary General of YMCA Europe.

At the Youth Matters Awards. Temesgen (left) holding his certificate on stage, wearing a traditional Ethiopian shirt and trousers. Randy (on the right) is holding his certificate smiling, wearing a blue suit.

Throughout the evening, we were inspired by the stories of resilience, strength and determination from young people and projects within the YMCA network. The Youth Matters Awards are a platform to celebrate not only the incredible young people but also the projects and dedicated individuals who support and encourage them to thrive.

The event was held at Chelsea Football Club and was hosted by wonderful comedian Fern Brady. The evening was filled with inspiring speeches, laughter and tears of joy. It was an opportunity to step back and reflect on the brilliance of young people and to remind ourselves that there is a lot of good in the world.

A highlight of the evening for us was to be able to celebrate the achievements of our three finalists Randy, Temesgen and Chantal. Each of them has overcome extreme adversity to achieve things that none of them deemed possible before coming to YMCA.

The Youth Matters Awards

Temesgen and Randy, both residents in our supported accommodation, arrived in the UK as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and have turned their lives around since moving into YMCA. Randy’s determination and hard work has seen him excel as a top student at college and he’s now due to attend a prestigious university next year to study physiotherapy. Temesgen has immersed himself in the local community by volunteering, cooking meals for vulnerable locals and assisting elderly community members. Our third finalist, Chantal, manages the YMCA Surrey WiSE project, providing safe spaces for highly vulnerable and at-risk young people to navigate their experiences of abuse and begin the path to healing.

Temesgen told us,

“I had a good night. I’m really excited to be a finalist. It’s been very interesting to be here. From now I’m going to be doing more volunteering, helping elderly people. I’m trying to help myself for the future and am doing my GCSE English and Maths as well, after that I’ll get a job and it will change my life!”

Nader left, smiling in his blue suit. Temesgen, right, smiling holding up a glass of fizzy elderflower

We were also delighted to be joined at the event by Nader, another young resident who lives with Randy and Temesgen. Nader was a semi-finalist for Young Leader of the Year Award but sadly missed out on a place in the finals. Testament to his kind and inclusive character, Temesgen invited Nader to join him at the event as his special guest so that he didn’t miss out!

At the event, Nader said:

“I’m happy to be here to support my friend Temesgen. He’s helping others, for example he’s been working with Meals for You and he helped build the shed at Guildford. He’s working a lot and working very hard. That’s why it’s so good he is a finalist.”

Although we didn’t come away with an award, all of our young finalists and nominees are winners in our eyes!

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted for Temesgen, Randy and Chantal throughout the process. And of course, a massive congratulations to all of our Youth Matters nominees – we couldn’t be prouder! 

The Youth Matters Awards young finalists all stood on stage together holding their certificates and awards


YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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