A New Chapter – Exploring the next steps for Paisley YMCA

With Paisley YMCA opening its doors again this week for the first time since its closure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the effects of the last year have marked a significant point in the charity’s long history.

The organisation was originally founded in 1832, when evangelist David Naismith visited Paisley and established the “Paisley Young Men’s Sabbath Morning Society for Prayer and Religious Purposes”. This organisation would bring together young men every Sunday for prayer and biblical study, while during the week they would engage in clubs, sports and other leisure activities. This would later become the Paisley YMCA we know today.

Since then, they have continued to offer exceptional help and support for young people living in Paisley at their base in William Street, with development workshops and access to equipment to help young people in the workspace to educational and fun clubs for younger residents.

However, the pandemic brought many changes and challenges to our work format. With many members suddenly having to work from home and adapt to the technology and communication required to keep work going, these circumstances prompted a re-evaluation of how Paisley YMCA could continue to provide our services without the advantage of a physical space. Many of the Makerspace clubs moved online, with members now required to sign in online and communicate via Zoom.

Darran Gillian, Youth and Programme Development Manager for Paisley YMCA, states his belief that the pandemic has had this effect on the regular makerspace clubs and activities that YMCA run, as many of them have made the online move:

“Young people are experiencing unprecedented change and disruption in their life’s due to COVID-19. The restricted access to front-line youth activity has severely impacted on young people’s learning in our Makerspace and outreach activities. The challenge for Paisley YMCA now is how to continue supporting young people’s identified needs now that centre-based youth work opens up again.” 

But the effects of the pandemic weren’t the only difficult circumstances for the organisation to overcome. In February of this year, the Paisley YMCA base in William Street fell victim to a horrific fire attack that resulted in the destruction of the property. The attack meant a needed change in base for activities, which provided yet another setback to potentially reopening its doors.

However, the securing of a space in 39 High Street in the Paisley area and the easing of restrictions has allowed the YMCA to finally reopen its doors to the public with a summer schedule of activities lined up for its young residents, including a Summer Gaming Café event taking place twice a week. Darran states that this is only the beginning of the future work Paisley YMCA hopes to accomplish this year:

“I’m pleased to say that we have an exciting line-up of STEAM-based activities starting with our Summer of Play programme where we have turned our high street offices into a gaming cafe for young people to hang out and have fun. 

“We will soon be launching our AWS DeepMind Racer AI-based autonomous race team to compete with other teams worldwide and as we build back better from the William Street fire, we now look at this space as the new Mecca for town centre-based youth activities”.

This reopening marks a positive step forward in rebuilding the face-to-face connection Paisley YMCA has maintained in the local community for over 150 years and also shows the growth and perseverance the staff and youth workers have accomplished over this difficult year. With elements of online communication that were made necessary by the pandemic now being evaluated as permanent additions to the way youth work is carried out while maintaining that face-to-face communication is still vital for lots of vulnerable young people living in Paisley, Paisley YMCA hopes to continue to demonstrate positive growth and providing vital care.

We’re very excited for the future holds and we hope to see many of you over the summer!