14 November 2023

I had an amazing childhood, I really did. My memories are so vivid; I remember the times we’d sit by candlelight playing “Name That Tune”, or toasting bread on the open fire in the kitchen.

I remember snuggling under mountains of blankets whilst my Dad stoked the coal fire and my Mum was outside chopping logs. She’d bring the logs in one at a time to keep the fire burning. It felt like such an exciting adventure.

My Mum would prepare porridge for us all in a great big old chunky pot and me and my sister would eat until our bellies were fit to burst.

We didn’t have much money.

Looking back some might say we were poor.

I had no idea. My Mum and Dad did an amazing job of hiding it, whilst making lots of sacrifices themselves.

The candles and the blankets weren’t just the exciting adventures 7-year-old me saw, they were my parents’ ways of reducing fuel bills when money was extra tight, but with an added element of fun.

Mum and Dad encouraged me to get involved with our local youth centre activities.

They made sure I kept busy and because of this I had lots of people in my life that I could trust; more people who made me feel safe and secure.

Not all children and young people have that love and security in their lives. They don’t have someone to encourage them or someone that they can confide in and trust.

A number of children I went to school with became very troubled adults. Alcohol and drugs were a big issue in some of the villages we grew up in and some of them fell into addiction or suffered from mental health issues. Sadly, some of them are no longer with us.

Now that I am older, and I see how my childhood friends have struggled, I know that my life could have taken a different corner.

I know that I am extremely lucky to have had the loving family I had, who made choices and sacrifices to keep me away from the issues on my own doorstep, and provide me with a safe place to be. Unfortunately, not every young person is that fortunate.

I choose to work for YMCA Doncaster as I have seen how issues facing young people can affect their lives and those around them. I’ve lost friends who felt that they had nowhere to turn and couldn’t see a way out.

It makes me proud to know that our staff are here to make sure that young people accessing our services have someone they can talk to and trust; someone who can encourage them and make them feel like their life is worthy, and help them realise that the corner they took that led them to us was the right one.

If you would like to help a young person choose a different corner please consider donating here.