Derby Grammar School pupils have spent a morning with YMCA learning about homelessness. They were also honoured to plant two shrubs to mark the longstanding partnership between YMCA Derbyshire and the School.

Derby Grammar School’s Year 8 pupils are focusing on homelessness and raising awareness of the issues around homelessness as part of their new PSHE lessons.

As part of the course, their teachers decided they wouldn’t just talk about the subject, but would help the boys to get a better understanding by taking a trip to the London Road base of YMCA Derbyshire and speaking to some of the residents.

Gillian Sewell, CEO of YMCA Derbyshire welcomed the boys and gave them a brief history of the YMCA. The boys were surprised to discover YMCA is a worldwide organisation.

A trip to the YMCA allotments followed. This is where the residents grow their own food and flowers. It is a special place that has been developed by the residents and is now often used for baptisms and confirmations.

YMCA residents John and Simon talked to the boys about the gardens and how working together to create them, has helped them on their journey. John said: “It is really important to be together and to be outside. It creates a healthier environment and the YMCA encourage us all to come over and muck in.

Creating the garden is certainly a team effort. Everyone pulls together and pools our knowledge and resources so that we can learn from one another, build a beautiful garden and grow our own produce.”

Following the allotment visit the boys returned to the London Road base where two pupils, Oliver Rushman and James Thompson, were chosen to plant two camellias in the raised flowerbeds to commemorate the longstanding partnership between YMCA Derbyshire and Derby Grammar School. This was a complete surprise and everyone was very touched. The camellias are marked by specially engraved plaques.

Ms Sellors, PSHE teacher, said: “We were made to feel very welcome by everyone at YMCA. The boys were surprised that the YMCA is in fact a worldwide organisation, and how much they support the residents.

We were incredibly touched by the planting of the camellias to mark our partnership. We have supported the YMCA for many years now. Each Christmas we donate a filled shoebox for each resident, and every Harvest festival we donate everything we’ve collected at our service, to the YMCA. We are also regular participants in the YMCA Sleepeasy.

It’s a very fulfilling partnership, with the YMCA supporting our own Tanzania project by selling cakes and donating the proceeds.”

Year 8 pupil Laurie Kirk said: “I didn’t realise the YMCA was so big; it operates in 151 countries.”

Ayaan Aziz added: “I didn’t know that the YMCA staff help people with training and support them in finding accommodation.”