I arrived in the UK from South Africa when I was 17 years old and I stayed in a hostel near Hillingdon. As my English was good, I started helping out the staff with a few things and found out that I enjoyed working with young people and helping them with their issues.

I was 21 years old and a care leaver when I attended Get on Track at the YMCA in Hayes. Uniquely, I attended two Get on Track programmes in Hayes back in 2014. I attended the first one for three weeks and then unfortunately I was ill so couldn’t attend the rest of the programme.  Despite graduating and receiving a certificate for the course, I recognised the value of it and wanted to complete it so much so that when the course was running again, I went back and started all over again. Doing it twice was great as it enabled me to help out more the second-time round, be a bit of a help to the staff and encourage and integrate other young people as I could see the benefit of what I had learnt from it when I did bits of it before.

Before attending Get on Track, I was working part time for the Hillingdon Refugee Support Group and also living on benefits, already trying to pursue my goal of becoming a youth worker. I was doing work placements, volunteering at the YMCA and also at Hillingdon Refugee Support Group where I had lived in order to gain a Level One qualification in Youth Work. It was the people at Hillingdon who gave me the opportunity and really opened my eyes to becoming a youth worker. I had tried a few different things education wise, but none of them really grabbed me like being a youth worker did… I heard about the Get on Track course as I was already doing a work placement at the YMCA and I was also helping with football programmes as well.

Before I attended the Get on Track programme the first time, I had some tough decisions to make. I could have taken a job in Retail that would have given me more money but would have meant giving up the voluntary work I was doing and the experience I was gaining at the YMCA and other places. I also had to make some decisions regarding friends who weren’t on the same path as I was. I  had to have some tough conversations about why I wasn’t staying out late or doing some of the things they were doing – as it just wasn’t compatible with the plans I had and what I needed to do in order to achieve my goals in life

On the Get on Track courses, I  got to work with world class athletes such as Lee Shinkin, Kate Haywood, Romaine Bailey and Hannah Beharry, of these Hannah was one of the athletes I found most inspirational.

She was really honest with everyone, not just telling people what they wanted to hear. She shared her story and you really felt that if she could achieve things in life, then so could you. She showed that people should stop making excuses, you have a say in what happens to you. All the athletes helped me stay driven to what I wanted to chase.

Hannah Beharry, ex boxer and athlete mentor

Alan was a shy young person who showed signs that he could become a great youth worker. He joined the Get on Track course and dropped out after a few weeks due to illness, however he re-joined the next course where he really shined, and his confidence grew. Soon he started volunteering at a placement that we had helped him get on to and it’s brilliant that he now works as a youth worker. Well done Alan! 

Working with athletes was amazing, as someone who loves sport, it gave me a real insight into professional sport. They really helped me in terms of my coaching and the power of storytelling

I got so much out of Get on Track. It really taught me to stop making excuses and that I can make things happen for myself. It really helped me to believe in myself and helped me to become much more self-motivated. Having a team of people around me was really helpful for me and I know it was helpful for the rest of the group I was with as well…

Sport and exercise has always played a big part in my life and after attending Get on Track I went to work with Little Foxes coaching football on the weekends and delivering football coaching sessions in the local community with the YMCA during the week  Alongside this, I was still doing my placement at the YMCA and working for the YMCA was a huge learning curve.

George Bergin, my manager at the YMCA was great and put me on as many workshops and courses as he could so I could continue to learn while I was on my placement. I did courses such as dealing with knife crime, working with vulnerable young people and safeguarding to name just a few.

I recently qualified as a Level Three social worker and it’s great that I’m back at Hayes where I first did Get on Track helping out now on the same programme, all these years after doing it myself. It was brilliant to work on the recent all girls programme we ran in Hayes. I was really able to put my experience to good use and explain to them the benefit of the course and how it could help them. Sport wasn’t always a big motivator for some of the girls so having people other than athletes there was really useful to give different examples, explain things in a different way and try and put it into context for them.

Recent All Girls Get on Track programme in Hayes

George, Alan's manager at the YMCA said:

Alan is the perfect example of youth empowerment. He lets me know what he wants to do, and we give him the tools to do it. He’s already a better youth worker than me and better than anyone I have worked with in thirty-five years’ football coaching experience. He’s one of the most amazing young men I’ve known.

Going forward I want to carry on doing more of what I’m doing already. I love the football projects I work on for the YMCA and I want more young people to get involved. I’m also keen to explore more one on one coaching with young people in the future, supporting them in all aspects of life including fitness and well-being.

Alan has recently reached the final of the YMCA Youth Matters awards in the Young Worker of the Year category.