YMCA Newcastle has been supporting young people across the City for 172 years and last year we recently established Urban Mushrooms, a social enterprise dedicated to providing unemployed young people with training and employment. Luke is one of our Urban Mushroom apprentices, read his story below to find out why Urban Mushrooms is so important.

Luke began working at Urban Mushrooms in November 2017 following a 3-week trial, he is well-known to staff at YMCA Newcastle and has been attending our City Centre youth project since the day it opened in 2013.

At the age of 3, Luke and his sisters were removed from the family home and taken into care as their parents were struggling to look after them. He has learning difficulties and was moved around a number of specialist schools throughout his childhood, but never seemed to fit in any of them. He was severely bullied throughout school and has low self-esteem and confidence, and, combined with his learning difficulties, this significantly hampers his prospects in job interviews.

He was re-united with his sisters and went to live with his uncle at the age of 15, but his uncle made it clear that he wasn’t really wanted. His aunt discouraged him from finding work or accessing an apprenticeship as this would impact on the welfare benefits that she would receive as his carer. The house was always full of children and Luke was always ill. Eventually he was made to leave the family home because he had secured an apprenticeship and the household benefits were reduced.

Hence, he left home and the apprenticeship and was homeless for a number of years, sofa-surfing at his friends’ houses and sometimes sleeping rough. During this time, Luke was accessing support at SPACE2... and completed his Silver Duke of Edinburgh award along with ASDAN qualifications, as well as volunteering full-time to support other young people at SPACE2...

With the help of SPACE2... staff, Luke moved into his own flat and secured an apprenticeship at Urban Mushrooms. He is confidently collecting coffee, working at the farm and selling products to clients across the City. He is working well with the other staff and apprentices and is looking forward to receiving his vocational business qualifications at the end of the apprenticeship. Staff are particularly impressed with Luke’s commitment to the job:  he walks an 8 mile round trip to get to work and back each day. This is the longest work placement that he has ever committed to and he is enjoying the training he receives as part of the apprenticeship. He hopes to gain a full-time supervisory role at Urban Mushrooms after his apprenticeship is over.

Luke says "I never got anything from school, but this is probably the best thing I've ever done".

You can help us to support more young people like Luke by buying one of our Urban Mushrooms GrowBoxes. Or why not make a donation or fundraise for us?