Sandbach YCW Group Visit Refugee Sponsorship House

Over the past year or so, we have been reporting on the amazing progress made by the Sandbach YCW Group in their efforts to sponsor and host a refugee family from Syria.

Recently, the National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford, visited the house that is being rented by the Parish, to see the DIY work carried out by the young leaders and their fellow parishioners. It is intended that the family will arrive at the house very shortly.

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In addition to this, the Group were joined by former National President Ricky Davies who came to speak to them about the current realities of Sandbach, what they liked and disliked and how they could change it.

As part of this they looked at volunteering, helping the local foodbank in the area and talked about loneliness amongst both young and old.

Marc Besford said: "Our movement exists to train young people to be leaders and an inspiration in showing their ability to lead and change the world for the better. I hope by Sandbach’s witness others will see the potential of our young people across the country.”

Preston IMPACT! Group Join Leadership Project For Women And Girls

With the focus on developing leadership among the young people of the YCW and IMPACT! Groups, we were proud to support an additional initiative from the Preston IMPACT!.

The group is getting involved in a UKYouth led project called “EpowHER” which is also supported by the British Red Cross. EmpowHER inspires young women and girls lead change in their community. The programme, delivered in partnership with the British Red Cross and Young Women’s Trust with funding from Spirit of 2012, aims to address low levels of well-being amongst young women and girls in the UK by empowering them to have a voice, be heard and give back to their local community.


Through face-to-face activity sessions, young women and girls will learn about individuals’ rights, empowerment and resilience. They will then be supported to give back to their community through inclusive and meaningful social action opportunities provided by the British Red Cross, as well as receiving specialised leadership training from the Young Women’s Trust.

The girls in the Preston Group are very keen to take up the opportunity to come visit London and visit the Red Cross Archive - with a  particular focus on the huge contributions and leadership of women and have lunch at Head Office. The Group will be joined by Red Cross role models for lunch. If there is time the Group may also arrange a visit to another Museum in London.

From the Calls to Action the group decided that they want to run a pop-up shop. They will collect and make items to sell and thought about combining with some other fundraising activities.

Kate Wilkinson, National President of the YCW, welcomed this fantastic opportunity saying: “We have been working hard over the past year to promote the development of leadership amongst young people and this initiative for young women and girls will really add to this. I’m looking forward to hearing about what they get up to!”

Trade Union Movement Looks To Support Young Workers

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has announced that it plans to do more to recruit, train and support young workers over the coming year. The move comes as recent figures show that nearly 90% of under 30s on low to median incomes work in the private sector — but just 6.3% of them are in trade unions.

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Back in 1891 the Catholic Church acknowledged the essential role of Trade Unions as the only reliable way to protect the rights, safety, and well-being of workers and their families. Pope Leo XIII used his encyclical Rerum novarum to depict the plight of the urban poor and condemn unrestricted capitalism. Chief among the remedies it prescribed were the formation of trade unions and the introduction of collective bargaining.

Unions would go on to successfully lobby for the creation of a five-day work week, eight-hour work day, pensions and benefits for families, living wages for workers, and safe working conditions.

Trade Unionism was also a driving force in the creation of the YCW. Our founder, Joseph Cardijn, originally called the growing movement in Belgium the “Young Trade Unionists” and it was the plight of workers that drew Cardijn to his lifelong mission of fighting for justice and the empowerment of young workers.

Therefore, we are looking forward to supporting the TUC’s efforts to engage with young workers across the country. Already they have took time to explore the issues and found that young workers are more likely to be employed in industries that have seen huge increases in casualised work over the last decade. Retail, hospitality and social care employ large numbers of young workers.

In addition, zero hours, temporary contracts, agency work, all mean it’s getting harder and harder to balance your working life with your personal life. That’s doubly the case for young parents, trying to balance unpredictable shifts with costly and inflexible childcare. Low pay makes it hard to get by and plan for the future.

National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford, commented on this saying: “There are so many common causes that the YCW and the TUC have been working on and I look forward to seeing how we can support each other over the coming months. We have already began greater collaboration with our colleagues at St Antony’s Centre for Church and Industry and we will be engaging with out young leaders to see how they want to get involved.”

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New Oldham YCW Group Supports Women's Refuge At Christmas

At the end of last year it was reported that the Oldham YCW Group had been working through the SEE - JUDGE - ACT Method and the young leaders decided that they would help their local Women’s Refuge - a place where women and their children can take refuge when they are suffering from domestic violence and abuse.

These refuges are vital lifelines for many women and in the run-up to Christmas many victims have to spend time away from family and friends in order to stay safe.

The refuge in Oldham has 22 women and 24 children. The Group were aware that the refuge did not have very much and so it was an opportunity to make a meaningful donation of things which they need and maybe a few treats as well.

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The young leaders had a meeting and came up with ideas as to how best they could help the families in need at Christmastime, aware of the fact that there would be restrictions as there are many regulations in place to ensure the safety of the women and children.

In the end they decided to fill stockings and gift bags full of goodies for the women and children in need. With girls and boys aged from 6 months-16 years they had to cater to a wide range of people. With support from their parishioners, donations were made of women’s toiletries and underwear, socks, gloves and scarves for the winter months, toys and games for the kids, and loads of chocolate.

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One of the young leaders, Max, reflected on the initiative saying: “A few of our members went along to the refuge before Christmas and gave our donations to them. They were all very grateful. It was fantastic to be able to develop our leadership and organisational skills over the weeks and months we’ve been planning this. We are all looking forward to doing more in the near future.”

Billingham YCW Developing Leadership Through Service

In the run-up to Christmas, Billingham YCW Group decided to use this time of Advent reflection to think on those who go without over the holidays. In response, they wanted to continue their support for the local Billingham and Stockton Borough foodbank.

The foodbank, which has been open since 2012, supplied 6347 3-day emergency food parcels last year and have to grapple with increasing demand on their generosity. In fact, it has been reported that many of the people who need foodbanks are actually in work, but they still struggle to afford enough food to feed themselves and their families.

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In response, the Group used £150 of their funds to buy specific items that the foodbank was most in need of and visited the centre to drop off the supplies in person. They wanted to more fully understand the reality of what the foodbanks actually do, including the range of services around just the supply of food parcels. Some of this work includes a job club, advice on Universal Credit and cooking courses.

Ben Sinclair, member of the Billingham YCW Group and current National Secretary, said: "It is really important that we develop our Christian leadership by being able to serve the poorest and most vulnerable. The Group have more plans in the near future to raise some more money, which we can then use to help even more."

YCW Review Of The Year

Over the past year the YCW has continued with its mission to train young leaders; serving, educating and representing other young people in their places of work or study and in their local communities by living out the Gospel through their actions.

We have had a busy year visiting and training groups all over the country, especially in our target regions of the North West and North East. We have especially been impressed with the number of new groups being formed and developed alongside our existing groups both of which are doing impressive work such as: refugee sponsorship, foodbank appeals, mental health awareness, supporting homelessness services and tackling environmental issues.


At National Council in April, we were sad to see Becca Henderson, long serving National Secretary, leave the National Team and we thank her for her service. In place of Becca we welcomed Ben Sinclair as National Secretary and in addition to this, Sean Smith has undertaken the role of National Treasurer. We hope you keep them all in your prayers.

A key part of our growing number of groups has been the identification and training of adult companions and chaplains to accompany the new groups emerging. We have held over the year a number of training events for our adult companions and chaplains these involved talks on youth loneliness and sharing good practices by introducing new adult companions and chaplains to more experienced ones.

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We have continued to further develop training of young people by establishing a leadership programme called “Be the Difference!”.  The purpose of this programme is to give young people a definitive pathway to becoming a YCW leader. The programme is designed to help young people develop leadership qualities and skills through a programme of 12 units, each with 3 stages. The National Team will arrange for a Recognition Ceremony, either locally or regionally, for groups of new leaders. But more about this award in the New Year!

The HQ has hosted several NEC and Trustee meetings over the year, allowing the National Team the time to plan and prepare the activities of the year and discuss the future vision of the YCW and IMPACT! in England and Wales. We have also hosted a number of existing and new groups at HQ and will look to continue bringing young people together from different areas in order to continue the solidarity of the YCW and IMPACT! in our country.

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During the course of the year our focus has been on our National Campaign called MIND! The Gap. We are now within the ACT stage of the Method and having analysed the responses to our online survey are working up a variety of actions for the movement to lead on. In particular, we feel that increasingly mental health is closely linked to the whole question of the environment and communities we inhabit, a point that Pope Francis repeatedly makes in “Laudato Si”. Therefore, out of this project, one of the things we are exploring is a practical scheme to transform the garden which surrounds our HQ into a place of relaxation, peace and community for the workers, parishioners, young people in the area and all YCW members.

Throughout the year we have continued our close involvement with other projects and organisations across England and Wales and within the Diocese of Salford, where our HQ is situated. The YCW remains a member of the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed) and have attended its meetings. We continue our links with St Antony’s Centre by participating in conferences on the world of work, such as the European Group for Workers’ Pastoral Care (GEPO) focusing on the “Social Europe, Workers’ Movements and Social Dialogue - A Common Vision for the European Social Foundation.”


We have also worked alongside the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Trade Union Congress, which focused on the theme “Working for a Better Future”. We also participated in Liturgies held within St Antony’s Church, including: Remembrance Sunday, Lenten Masses and Christmas Carol Services. A highlight of this year was the Adoramus conference held in Liverpool in which our National President, Kate Wilkinson, was part of the planning committee for the youth conference that took place within the main conference.

We are also partnered with the charity called ‘Million Minutes’ to sponsor an award named in honour of our founder, Joseph Cardijn. We've had several groups and members win recognition for their wonderful work and are very proud to see them achieve such success.

We still remain a member of the ICYCW and coordinating Movement for the European Commission and in which we have represented the International and European Team at meetings held in Rome mainly for the 1st General Coordination Meeting (GCM) of the ICYCW and also at a conference at the Vatican on “Laudato Si” where our Training & Development Worker personally met Pope Francis.

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Following on from last year’s successful 80th year celebration we are further developing our links with past members with a group involved looking at ways we can really engage with people and also our new monthly newsletter has helped engage with former members. We are sad to hear that the Cardijn Association will no longer be running we thank them for their prayers and generous donations. We also would like to thank the MCW with their continued support.

We hope that you will continue to pray for the Movement as we enter 2019 a year in which the Trade Union Congress has dedicated to young people. We hope that the young people continue their great work and also our adult companions and chaplains keep supporting them through their faith journey as Cardijn once said “everything by the young people but nothing without the chaplain”.