“The staff at the YMCA Horley Young People and Family Centre feel like a second family to me now,” says 16-year-old Rhys. 

Referred by the pastoral team at his secondary school in Year 8, Rhys began attending the YMCA WAVES youth group which provides a safe space for young people who are experiencing emotional health difficulties. 

“At that time, I was not in a good place. I was very down and had some bad thoughts going on in my head. I had no friends to hang out with or talk to and some big trust issues.” 

“WAVES gave me the chance to be more active and make friends with young people of my own age. I learned how to be more confident in myself and I became happier and more in touch with my emotions.” 

“I’ve lost count of the activities I’ve done through the YMCA. The residential trips have been the most fun, but I’ve also loved trying laser tag and ice skating.” 

“At home, I spend most of my time in my bedroom. Without WAVES, I probably would never have gone outside.” 

Rhys was the first young person to attend our new Beatz music project, giving him access to the music studio based in the YMCA Horley Young People and Family Centre and the opportunity to play a selection of instruments and use music production technology. He hasn’t missed a session since it started. 

The Beatz groups are kept small and are led by a YMCA youth worker supported by two local music producers. There are plans to add a vocal coach to the team shortly. 

“It’s a great way to meet nice people and music lovers who are going through the same kind of things as you,” says Rhys. “You can work alone or in a group, sing, play instruments and learn how to create songs through music technology.” 

YMCA youth worker, Kate Terry, has been providing mentoring support to Rhys through 12 one-hour sessions and has noticed some positive changes in his attitude. 

“Rhys has always been nice, polite and punctual,” she says. “But when I first met him, he didn’t really want to be noticed.” 

“Now, he walks taller, he’s become more pro-active and he’s so empathetic. He tunes in to people and instinctively knows if they are feeling a bit down. He’s non-judgemental and I think he could be a great role model to others.” 

Rhys hopes to begin volunteering with YMCA East Surrey shortly. 

“I’ve known the worst of people, but I hope that through volunteering I can help others who are struggling like I was.  

“Everyone at the YMCA cares deeply about the people they support and that’s what I want to do in the future. The job that I want is one which will let me help others along the way.” 

“Without YMCA East Surrey, I’d probably still be in a bad place. I’d be an empty shell of a person. I don’t know quite where I’m going, but I know that I have friends at the Horley Young People and Family Centre who will show me the right path.” 

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