12 November 2019

Ella Sowton from YMCA East Surrey has conquered strong competition to be crowned Young Worker of the Year at the leading charity’s national youth awards ceremony on Friday 8 December.

Ella, 27 from Redhill triumphed over two other inspiring young people at the Youth Matters 2019 awards ceremony, which was held at exclusive central London venue 8 Northumberland Avenue, and hosted by acclaimed broadcaster and TV presenter Nihal Arthanayake.

The Young Worker of the Year Award recognises a young worker for their outstanding commitment to building a brighter future for young people and for going the extra mile to make a real difference to their lives.

Ella was one of three young people to get through to the awards night after battling through judges’ shortlisting and an online public vote.

She was praised by judges for her passion for mental health services and support of vulnerable young people, always going the extra mile for those in need. Utilising her support teacher background, Ella challenged herself by delivering detached youth work in some challenging areas in order to develop natural rapport with young people. She now manages the WAVES youth mental health programme, which has grown from one session a week to five across East Surrey.

On winning the award, Ella said: “I am really excited to have won such a significant award. Even reaching the final stage was overwhelming. My life has changed so much since getting involved with YMCA and I appreciate everyone who has supported me.”

YMCA East Surrey’s Head of Youth Services, Stuart Kingsley, nominated Ella for the award. He said:

“Ella has changed lives and saved lives. She is just amazing and in all my 30 years in youth work, I have never met anyone like her! Ella is a huge asset to the team; her peers think she is fantastic, and she thoroughly deserves this award. She has grown in herself, developing skills and is always there to inspire young people.”

Heads Together, which is run by YMCA East Surrey and provides vital free counselling for young people aged 14-24, also won the prestigious title of Health and Wellbeing Project of the Year.

YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together project has been providing counselling in East Surrey since 1994 and has recently become a partner in the Mindsight Surrey CAMHS service. The service provides free and confidential counselling for young people aged 14-24 and aims to help young people to cope with difficult emotional, family or personal circumstances, enabling them to lead fuller and more satisfying lives. With support from the Community Foundation for Surrey, Heads Together has been able to run new mental health and anxiety awareness sessions in schools and community settings.

The project triumphed over strong competition from other projects across England and Wales during shortlisting, a public vote and a final decision by judges. It was praised for its expanding support with a record number of referrals (789) over the past year, and 25 counsellors offering sessions in the largest ever number of community venues across East Surrey.

Ian Burks, Chief Executive of YMCA East Surrey said:

“We are delighted for Ella and for the Heads Together team who have had their work recognised in this way. These awards reflect the great impact that both WAVES and Heads Together have within our community, helping local people to change their lives for the better. Thank you to everyone who supported us with their votes; we couldn’t have achieved this without you.”

Youth Matters is YMCA’s national awards programme that has been an integral part of the charity’s calendar since 2009. It celebrates the outstanding skills and achievements of young people from across the country and also recognises the vital work that YMCAs deliver every day.

Locally, YMCA East Surrey provides services including sport, play, physical activity, counselling, youth work, housing and volunteering.