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Springboard to Success: A Real-Life Transformation Story from Southend YMCA Supported Housing

Meet Darcy, a former resident of our supported accommodation, who is encouraging young people to explore the boundless opportunities beyond their current circumstances. Darcy visited us at Newlands last week to share about her life since moving on from the YMCA and to express gratitude to the staff for their role in her journey. Darcy had just returned from her third year of university abroad in Hong Kong! 

Before coming to Southend YMCA, Darcy articulated that her life wasn’t like that of other children and young people. As a young carer, taking on responsibilities that most kids her age wouldn't even dream of, Darcy used to live with her family, where she took primary care of her baby sister from birth until she was four. With her parents unwilling to provide the necessary care, Darcy stepped up, but it wasn't easy. Her life was filled with stress and a lack of support—“It was definitely a darker time of my life.” 

Desperate for a change, Darcy sought a place where she could feel safe and focus on her future. She moved into Southend YMCA’s Newlands Accommodation with high hopes of finishing school, going to university, and building a life worth living. She needed to rebuild her mental health and sense of self. 

When she moved into the Newlands building, she vividly remembered her first day at the YMCA. She was shown to her flat and immediately felt overwhelmed, bursting into tears. For the first two weeks, she mostly stayed in her room, diligently working on her sixth form coursework. The residents dubbed her "the girl in the window" because all they saw of her was from the window. 

Slowly, Darcy began to reach out to others. Her first connection was with a neighbour who had been struggling with mental health issues. Encouraged by this small success, Darcy continued to introduce herself to more residents, gradually forming friendships. What started as tentative interactions blossomed into a supportive community. 

Life at Southend YMCA allowed Darcy to catch up on everything she had missed while caring for her sister. She was no longer weighed down by the dread of going home to an unhealthy environment. Instead, she found joy in returning to her flat and taking care of herself. This newfound stability changed everything for Darcy. She completed her A-levels, applied to universities, and even celebrated receiving her offer letters with fellow residents. 

Darcy’s transformation wasn't just academic; it was deeply personal. Kelly, her support worker, and Alisa, a senior staff member, played significant roles in this journey. Kelly was always there to check in and provide support, while Alisa provided tough love, guiding Darcy with a mix of strictness and warmth. They were like family to her, offering the kind of support she had missed at home. 

Reflecting on her time at Southend YMCA, Darcy realised how it shaped her. She learned the importance of knowing what she wanted and pursuing it with determination, regardless of others' opinions. She emphasises the need for self-discovery and surrounding oneself with people who bring joy and a sense of belonging. 

“It (Southend YMCA) gave me the opportunity to do what I needed to do to become who I wanted to be. And to get where I am today and it let me learn a lot about myself. I learned what I did and didn't know about the world and people. And how to integrate better. And how to understand myself and everyone else better.” 

For Darcy, Southend YMCA was more than just a place to stay; it was where she found her footing and rediscovered her zest for life. Her advice to new residents and young people is to dream big and not feel tied down by their current circumstances. 

“Just the thought of you're not tied to this place. Yeah, you're not. You're not tied to this place. You can go further than the YMCA. You can go further than the city. You're not tied to the things that other people you've seen and met do. Not that anything like that is bad, but you can't always restrict yourself.” 

Southend YMCA taught her that while it’s a great starting point, there’s a whole world beyond it waiting to be explored. 

Darcy cherishes her memories at the YMCA, recalling it as her favourite part of life so far: 

“This living at Southend YMCA is probably my favourite part of my life so far. I miss living here. I miss the way that I used to live here. Life began here for me. It changed everything. It really did change everything that I learned. I think it really helped with other residents, especially my closest one, my neighbour. I definitely learned how to be free again because I wasn't where I was living before. I was able to really feel like I was living.” 

Southend YMCA provided a home where she felt truly alive and free for the first time. The support and friendships she formed at Southend YMCA were transformative, helping her break free from the constraints of her past and look forward to a promising future. 

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