"Celebrating Young People" Awards 2019 With Million Minutes

YCW leaders and other young people from all over the country gathered together last month to celebrate their achievements at the “Million Minutes” awards night.

The ceremony saw hundreds of young people, youth workers and teachers, family and friends gathered in London to celebrate the inspirational lives of so many young people. The 2019 Celebrating Young People Awards, hosted by Million Minutes and with guest of honour Cardinal Vincent Nichols, highlighted some of the amazing young people across England and Wales who are transforming lives in their local communities.


There is a special Joseph Cardijn Award for those young people who protect the dignity of workers. This year there were plenty of worthy nominations and winners, including St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School in Newham who successfully managed to convince London City Airport through song to raise the wages of 100 workers. The group’s song, titled “Realise”, and its message has been supported by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The group were inspired to take up the cause as their school community is directly affected by low-wages, with many parents working 2-3 jobs. The Airport is also the largest employer in the area, with 60% of its staff living in its vicinity. The school successfully negotiated with the Airport to become a London Living Wage employer in March 2019.

Their teacher said “As students at a Catholic school, the children are encouraged to put their faith into practice by engaging with the community and serving in whatever capacity they are able to. Working with Newham Citizens and the Living Wage foundation, the group have been able to represent many members of their school and parish community, give testimony on the experiences of low income earners and be the voice of those who are not able to speak for themselves. By looking to Jesus' example, dedicating his life of servitude, our students have been generous with their time and energy.”

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Fellow winner - Daisy Alston-Horne - an 18-years-old from Prior Park College made an immediate impact on the community by her commitment to speak out for justice and her ability to inspire others. She dedicates herself to the dignity of other students - and primary children - acting as a peer listener, as a member of the student council and by engaging in in the local Youth Parliament. Daisy has said that growing up in South Africa meant there was no choice about being politically interested.

As an example, she has led the ‘Bus Campaign’ fighting for raise the age of child bus fares to 18 - ensuring that all can afford to travel, especially for work, and that the rights of her fellow students are recognised. She has advocated to leaders in this field and has contributed to British Youth Council to push forward this motion. She has also spoken to students at Prior Park and other local schools about the importance of youth participation.

Daisy Alston-Horne (r) with her Joseph Cardijn award.

Daisy Alston-Horne (r) with her Joseph Cardijn award.

There were also awards in other categories for YCW leaders and companions, including Dawn Wilkinson who has committed every Sunday for the last 16 years to the St Monica’s Impact Group in Flixton, Manchester. Through her time with the YCW she has helped enable hundreds of young people from the primary school to stay connected to the parish and to their primary friends, as well as walk a journey of faith and action together. The first generation of this young group are now well into their twenties and still think fondly of their time in the group.

As well as accompanying the young people Dawn has been an active member of St Monica’s parish. She established a mother and toddler group which she ran for over 10 years, accompanying young families and helping them to feel fully welcome and part of the parish community. She has been part of the parish forum group which has reached out to parishioners in the local area, visiting them at home and inviting them to church events. She also helped her parish to become the first community to sponsor a family to come from Syria and settle in the UK.

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Others who were “highly commended” also had an opportunity to be celebrated at the event. Another YCW/IMPACT group was in this category - Guardian Angels Impact group in Bury. They responded to their local bishop, John Arnold’s invitation to all parishes asking them to think about our world in light of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. The Group took their first step towards answering the call by creating a "Bugingham Palace Hotel" for creepy crawlies and a new wildlife-friendly garden space within the parish.

The local councillor and MP came to open the new Bugingham Palace Hotel. Following this, the group have been going for about a year and having made a great start they plan to do more. Their Parish Priest - Fr Paul Cannon said, “The group is over the moon to be commended for their project. I believe it will enhance their work for the local community and give them a sense of achievement for the great work they are doing caring for the environment.”

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President of the YCW, Marc Besford, who helped to present some of the awards on the night, said: “It was fantastic to be able to celebrate all the amazing young people who work to make our world a better place. They are an inspiration. And can I also thank all the team at Million Minutes for their hard work in putting this event on and for supporting our work at the YCW.”

Trafford Park YCW Group Reviews The World Of Work

The regular meeting of the YCW Trafford Park HQ Group met last month to look at a new enquiry into the reality of young people in the world of work.

The discussion was led by Marc Besford, who has been working alongside the GMB Union to develop a young workers’ charter for the “Year of the Young Worker” initiative. He began by asking what were the principles of decent work and whether or not the Group felt that these were the reality for young workers currently.

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The response was that increasingly the idea of decent work was being undermined in the labour market today - including examples of zero hour contracts, insecure employment, a lack of awareness of basic rights and casual work where the links between worker and employers were not clear.

According to St Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on Human Work, “Work is a good thing for humanity. It is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it.”

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Reflecting on this, the young workers in the Group judged the reality against this standard of “being worthy of man’s dignity” as falling short. As a result, there were a range of suggestions regarding how we could change this. For example, through the young worker’s charter idea, more could be done to educate young people on their fundamental rights at work and instil in them their inherent dignity as workers.

Marc Besford, commenting on the meeting, said: “This was a great opportunity to hear directly from young people in the world of work and get to the heart of the issues at hand. I am looking forward to building upon some of this initial feedback and using the “Year of the Young Worker” to grow the work of the YCW.”

New President Of The YCW Begins Mandate

The Young Christian Workers has officially welcomed its new President, Marc Besford, this week. This follows his unanimous election at the 80th National Council of the YCW held back in March 2019.

Marc has been a member of the National Team for the nearly 3 years and the paid worker for the last 2 years, following his time leading activity in his parish up in Billingham. The President is a voluntary position, involving chairing the regular team meetings and annual National Council, representing the YCW at home and abroad, and coordinating the training and development programme.

Marc will continue to work as the National Training and Development Worker and be based at the Trafford Park HQ.

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He takes over from Kate Wilkinson, a long-time member of the YCW who became involved in the movement when she was at high school. Kate currently works as a School Chaplain and is involved in numerous Catholic youth ministry projects. Thankfully, she will continue to support the work of the YCW alongside her other work around the country.


Commenting on his new role, Marc said: “I have experienced things through the YCW that I wouldn’t have dreamed of, I have met new people and made friends who have helped and supported me and most of all, I have developed my skills and learnt new ones as a person and as a leader. That is why I feel so privileged to have been elected President and I will do my upmost to keep our movement growing!”

This week also marked the 52nd anniversary of the death of Fr. Joseph Cardijn, who founded the YCW in Belgium in 1925 and was later to be made a Cardinal for his work with the movement. Cardijn visited Britain on a number of occasions, remarking that "it was the best retreat I made at the beginning of my priesthood." He was inspired by his talks with Trade Union leaders, clergy and of course, local workers.

YCW National Team Supports Salford Diocese "Parish Social Action" Day

Earlier this month, the YCW National Team attended the Caritas Salford “Parish Social Action” Conference and led a series of workshops during the day.

The aim of the Conference was to share best practice of activities in parishes, inspire others to take up new ideas and make each parish an active, missionary one. There were a variety of speakers and presentations, including from Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy. The day was also brilliantly compered by former MP John Battle.

The central theme within presentations was how we can respond to the growing need for positive social action to help those who need support. Andy Burnham highlighted the work he has undertaken to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester and tackle the underlying issues of homelessness. He highlighted how it needed a united response from national, regional and local government but also one supported by faith and voluntary groups. One of his flagship schemes relies on faith groups to volunteer and this has had a massive impact already.

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Sir Peter Fahy spoke about the importance of holding together our bonds as families, drawing on his many years of experience in the police as evidence of the struggles communities face when they lack a sense of togetherness. Sir Peter has in recent years supported many different charities and social action groups, many of whom look at building links within communities to help deliver positive changes.

Throughout the day there was also the opportunity to look at stalls of the many organisations that work within the Diocese of Salford, including the YCW. This gave us the chance to speak to over one hundred people about the movement in England and Wales and catch up with many former members who fondly remember their formation in the YCW.

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For the afternoon sessions, the YCW team split off and hosted two workshops, both using the See, Judge, Act method to help the attendees get as much as they could from it. One session was on how parishes can involve young people and the other was about how to involve the wider community.

The speakers used their experiences of the YCW to highlight the potential for building vibrant and active parishes, with young people growing as leaders that are inspired by the Gospel.

Overall, the day was very worthwhile and gave the YCW a chance to contribute something back to our host Diocese.

Visit To Preston YCW From American Youth Leader

This week the YCW in Preston hosted the acclaimed author and youth leader Adam Fletcher from the United States. Adam is the founding director of Freechild Insitute for Youth Engagement and has authored many books on the subject.

For more than 20 years, he has been working with nonprofit organisations, government agencies, schools and others to promote youth engagement. After spending a decade as a youth worker, education official and nonprofit leader, today he is a speaker, writer, trainer and consultant.

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Adam has been visiting our YCW and IMPACT! Groups in Preston and Lytham over the last few days to see how they run, what our young people discuss and what social actions they undertake. He also shared with us his experiences of youth engagement around the world and enthused the young leaders in their mission to be the difference.

Marc Besford, National Training and Development Worker, joined Adam and local adult companion Terry Mattinson in Preston, saying: “It was an enormous pleasure to join Adam and help show him the YCW movement in England and Wales. Thanks a lot to Terry who arranged his visit and does an amazing job across Preston.”

Bishop Of Shrewsbury Endorses YCW Leadership Programme

The YCW has been rolling out its own leadership programme - called Be The Difference - following a launch at National Council in March. Since then, resources have been produced and training undertaken to officially begin in September.

The purpose of this course is to give young people a definitive pathway to becoming a YCW leader. It is not an award scheme. Becoming a YCW leader is just a beginning!

We have sought endorsement for the programme and been incredibly grateful to have such a positive response. One of these endorsers is the Rt Rev Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury. He met with our National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford, to discuss the programme and look at how best it can supported.

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Marc said: “I am very thankful that Bishop Mark took the time to meet and discuss our new leadership programme. His endorsement will help us to get more young leaders on board and we hope to see more YCW Groups across Shrewsbury soon.”

The course is designed to help you develop leadership qualities and skills through a programme of 12 units, each with 3 stages. For each stage there are instructions on how to complete it and where to find the necessary information.

After completing Stage 1 of Units 1 & 2 you can complete the other units in any order.  You should try and complete the course in 9-12 months.

After each stage fill in the Record Card to keep track of your progress and ask your Adult Companion or a YCW National Leader to countersign.

When you have completed all units please send your Record Card and Final Reflection sheet to National Headquarters.

The National Team will arrange for a Recognition Ceremony, either locally or regionally, for groups of new leaders.