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A New Beginning with the YMCA

October 7, 2014

Jake Walker was just a stone’s throw away from living out his boyhood dream of joining the Royal Air Force when overnight his world was turned upside down. On New Year’s Eve in 2010 he was attacked with a bottle. A victim of unmotivated violence, he lost the sight on his right eye.

Jake Walker 3My uncle was in the Royal Air Force and I had always, ever since I was little planned to join and become a gunner,” says Jake.

Just before the accident I had passed all the tests and was ready to join. The RAF said they might have still let me in, if it was the left eye I had lost my sight on. But it was the right, so all of a sudden, I had to think anew and make new plans for the future,” he explains.

Future Jobs Placement

The solution came in the shape of Future Jobs, a Government scheme aimed at getting young people into employment.

I came to the YMCA via Future Jobs because I knew Jonathan, a Fitness Instructor at the Centre who himself was in the scheme. I also used to work out here myself”, Jake says.

So I spoke to Andy Kennedy, who was the Gym Manager at Hawker, and he took me on. I think I was possibly the last person in the UK to do the Future Jobs scheme, because they closed it down the day I signed up!”

Grant from Richmond Parish Charity

Jake Walker 1As a part of the Future Jobs scheme, Jake started working as a Fitness Instructor at YMCA Hawker for 25 hours a week for six months.

As my six months were over, I got extremely lucky because there happened to be a job opening for a Fitness Instructor position. I applied and got the job”.

Jake also received financial support from Richmond Parish Land Charity, who gave him a grant so that he could retrain and get into a new career.

With the use of this grant, I have done lots of courses, like First Aid, TRX etc. It has really helped me in my Fitness career.

Insanity and Functional Fitness

Jake has now worked at YMCA Hawker for three and half years.

The Fitness Instructor job at Hawker includes introducing new members to the gym, conducting the five steps Get Started programme and being available for members if they have questions or comments.

Besides Andy Kennedy, another senior staff member who has meant a lot to Jake is Gina King, Director of Health and Wellbeing at YMCA LSW.

Jake Walker 4YMCA LSW and Richmond Parish Lands have basically given me a new career platform and I am really grateful for that” says Jake.

With the training and experience he has received from good mentors at the YMCA, Jake now feels that he has what it takes to run a fitness operation.

He speaks passionately about how “functional fitness” is the future of fitness and how the industry is always evolving and how you have to change with it.

This summer, Jake and his colleague Zoe Emaldi both qualified as certified Insanity Fitness instructors, launching the popular work out at YMCA Hawker. They were among the first in the Kingston area to provide the class.

It’s been a tremendous success, with lots of people coming to the class, especially on the Sundays”, says Jake. “We’re even thinking of maybe adding another class”.