Clare Prideaux and Lydia Brown have incredible stories to tell of using their God-given talents to support vulnerable young people at YMCA Exeter

“I’ll only retire when God tells me to” Clare Prideaux 

Three years ago I joined the team of support workers at YMCA Exeter and I wouldn’t change it for anything. My job is about being patient and creative, empowering young people to springboard into work, further education or challenging them to work on themselves. I can only do it by letting God lead me, as I support each young person in the unique way they need. 

I always say my most useful tool is a cup of hot chocolate. It’s just amazing how a hot chocolate in the hands of a young person can help them relax and open up about something they may be struggling with. We go through bucket loads! 

It’s not a straight road but I love seeing the growth in young people, many who have come from very difficult backgrounds. A recent highlight has been getting one of our residents assessed for learning difficulties. She’s never had access to this before. But thanks to the assessment, she’s now studying for a degree. 

Sometimes you feel like a professional parent, but I always remind the young people they’re not doing this for me. They’re tackling behaviours, mental health issues for themselves. I want each young person to leave YMCA Exeter with their head held high, knowing they did this for themself. 

“I can’t change the past. But I can be part of the recovery” Lydia Brown 

My life ambition was to be a police officer, but it’s amazing how God knows best and today I’m using my God-given talents to support young people. 

I do find it really tough to listen to their stories. Some of the young people have come from horrific backgrounds and we’re their first safe space. A highlight for me was going to the wedding of one of our ex-residents. It was the first time she’d not been in an abusive relationship. When she called us her family I just wanted to cry. 

The hardest moments are when young people are in crisis. You can do everything you can to help, but there are times when you just don’t see any fruit. But there are also the amazing times when you see tiny steps of progress. There’ll be the first time a young person makes a call to the doctor by themselves. It seems small, but it’s a massive step forward. 

I’ve one resident at the moment who struggles with severe anxiety, but during the pandemic she’s signed up to be a befriender and help other people in isolation. She’s volunteered for this role all by herself. I’m so proud of her for stepping out. 

Clare and Lydia, along with the team at YMCA Exeter provide a safe and supportive home to over 60 young people each year, a place where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.