3 October 2014

Local young hero Zubairi Sentongo from YMCA Black Country Group has been shortlisted to receive the Young Achiever of the Year Award in this year’s prestigious YMCA Youth Matters Awards. Residents are now being encouraged to get behind Zubairi, 19, and help him reach the final stage of the judging process in an exciting online vote. 

When Zubairi moved to the UK from Kampala, Uganda, to join his Mother, he found she was struggling to find money to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. He took the decision to move out and slept on the streets to give his mum one less mouth to feed and began job hunting in order to support his family.

After a referral to YMCA Open Door, Zubairi was given the opportunity to move into their supported lodgings scheme. He thrived in the family environment, stepping up to help with chores and learn household skills. His charismatic nature, quickly helped him bond with his host Simonita. And when Simonita became unexpectedly ill, Zubairi helped care for her and visited her daily in hospital until she passed away.

Zubairi pledged to carry on and once again moved on to live with another host family. He excelled at college and began studying for his BTEC diploma in engineering. He is now living in his own flat and is focused on becoming an aerospace engineer. In addition, Zubairi has become a young ambassador for YMCA nationally, sharing his story and campaigning to improve understanding on issues affecting other young people.

Youth Matters is YMCA’s national awards ceremony which celebrates the outstanding skills and achievements of young people from across the country. It also recognises the vital work that YMCAs deliver every day to help transform the lives of young people and give them a brighter future.

The Young Achiever of the Year Award recognises the exceptional achievements of a young person who has overcome significant obstacles to make a real difference to their lives and their community.

Zubairi is just one of five inspirational young people shortlisted from YMCAs across England who will battle it out in an online vote for this hotly contested honour. The three nominees with the most votes progress onto the final stage where they will be judged by members of a high-profile panel.

Zubairi said: “I am really excited to be nominated for such a significant award and to have reached this stage of the process. YMCA has opened up a lot of opportunities for me and other young people in the Black Country. My life has changed so much since getting involved with YMCA and I hope everyone will support me and vote. To make it through to the final judging panel would be incredible!”

Nathan Adams, Manager of YMCA’s Open Door project said, “We are really proud of Zubairi’s achievements. He made the most of the support that we were able to offer him and worked really hard to get his life on track whilst in Supported Lodgings. Since leaving, he has continued to support the project that gave him a helping hand by mentoring other young people on the scheme and helping to recruit new Hosts and more recently becoming a YMCA, Young Ambassador.”

The nomination profiles and all-important online voting is now live and open to the public through YMCA England’s website www.ymca.org.uk/awards until Wednesday 8 October.