YMCA Swansea Volunteer & LGBT Advocate Wins Young Person of the Year, UK Youth Award

13th December 2016

Sol Campbell, Nigel Mansell CBE and The Minister of Civil Society joined the high-profile judging panel to select the winner of this years UK Youth Awards this week. Gabriel Cole, aged 21 from Swansea was awarded the prestigious Young Person of the Year Award. Gabe, an LBGT+ and hate crime awareness advocate has overcome his own gender and sexuality challenges to now support and inspire others to be strong, independent, and brave. The finalists were invited to an exclusive reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by UK Youth’s Patron, HRH The Princess Royal. Gabe was also awarded grant funding and mentoring to continue his positive journey.

The awards aim to celebrate young people’s astonishing achievements and the grassroots youth organisations that support them through their social development journey.

“Today will give Gabe the self-confidence to continue to be the strong, resilient young man and LGBT+ advocate that he has become. The whole team at YMCA Swansea are immensely proud” said Charlotte Davies, YMCA Swansea Youth and Community Manager.

UK Youth Awards Judge Sol Campbell said: “I know first-hand how crucial youth services are at supporting the next generation to reach their potential. Times can be tough for many young people and these youth groups do a tremendous job in supporting them along their journey. I’m proud to be able to honour their achievements at The UK Youth Awards, alongside the inspirational young winners, to showcase that a positive future is possible for all young people if they’re given the right role models, support and safe place to go.”

The following is a summary of the nomination made by Gabes Youth Worker, Carlie Torlop, that was read by the judging panel which led to him winning the award:

“When Gabe first came to the YMCA 2 years ago, we were met with a quiet, shy and timid young man. He was facing challenges with his gender and sexuality, challenges he still faces to this day. He was coming to terms with the fact that he was born in the wrong body and that he is a young transgender man. Growing up he felt no one understood him and the issues he faced, he couldn’t connect with the world around him, as a result, Gabe had a lack of social interaction and felt more comfortable in his own company, where he could be himself without judgement. When Gabe was in school he faced tremendous discrimination and bullying on a daily basis and he never felt as though he could be the person he truly was. He explains the bullying to have really impacted and affected his level of learning and education. The effects of this being that Gabe had a lack of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. However, over the last 2 years, Gabe has grown, developed and shone!! He has built relationships and trust with his peers at the YMCA as well as the youth workers.

Gabe volunteers every day at YMCA Swansea and has led trips with the GoodVibes youth group on local and national lobbying campaigns to do with LGBT+ rights. He has organised, planned and led a trip to Cardiff Pride with young people that have never experienced the wider LGBT+ community. He has supported and shared information with young people that want to access the Binder Bank and funding that can provide clothing so that they can pass for the gender that they identify with. Gabe this week has just secured funding from, different funding bids that he has applied for, for an annual “Pride Prom”, for LGBT+ young people that feel they cannot access their school prom for a whole host of reasons. He is working and including LGBT+ young people on this and leading on a full consultation to ensure it’s young person led. Gabe talks openly about his mental health and how he struggles continuously to overcome his barriers. His moto is ‘if I can make one person smile a day then it’s been a good day!’. This is the type of character he is. He puts other people first before himself and he cares about others deeply”.

At the ceremony Bolton Lads & Girls Club, based in Bolton was awarded Youth Organisation of the Year. One of the oldest and largest youth clubs in the country amassing over 127 years of experience to support 1 in 9 young people in the local area.

Rob Wilson, The Minister for Civil Society said: “Local youth organisations play an important role in supporting young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop the skills they need for life.”

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