Unsung hero: YMCA worker Amanda McWilliams who fights the corner of clients
A YMCA worker from Surbiton has been nominated as an unsung hero.
Amanda McWilliams, 29, was a volunteer youth worker on the Sheerwater estate in Woking before her 18th birthday, and got involved with the YMCA after a colleague found a job there.
She said: “I was a young person getting involved in a youth project when I was 15 or 16 when I didn’t have much direction in my life, and really enjoyed it and got on well with the staff.
“I became a volunteer running sessions there and when I turned 18 they paid me to become a youth worker there.
“I have always been passionate about giving young people a chance.
“I was given opportunities through the voluntary work and I just feel that the job I’m in allows me to do that for hundreds of young people through the YMCA.”
One of Amanda’s favourite projects is called Inner Journey, taking groups of young people to South Africa to expand their horizons. She has even used her annual leave allowance to do it.
She said: “We do lots of conservation education, and lots about self-esteem and confidence.
“We show them that they can achieve something if they really put their minds to it.
“Quite a few of the ones we’ve taken out have really changed their lives around.
“Ten years ago I applied for this job, not thinking I would ever get it. I look back and have to pinch myself because I love my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’d recommend it to anybody.
“If one young person I work with through what we can provide, can change their life for the better that for me is my job done. It’s a huge bonus for me.”
Paul Coates, centre manager for YMCA Surbiton and Wimbledon and Amanda’s old colleague in Woking, said: “Amanda is the sort of person who will fight for people’s rights and make sure they are heard.
“She’s one of those people who really pushes our residents to get involved in activities, she stands their corner and encourages them to seek out new opportunities and develop their skills.”
l Do you know an unsung hero? Call 020 8744 4273 or email newsdesk@ surreycomet.co.uk.