British Empire Medal for Porthcawl man

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

– Local People

by Philip IrwinGEM Reporter

A Porthcawl man who has become ‘the face of the YMCA’ has been awarded the British Empire Medal for “working with young people in the UK and abroad.

John Berry will be 82 later this month, and is still involved in the Porthcawl YMCA – in fact, this year will be his 60th anniversary of his involvement with the YMCA.

He was born in Lancashire, and has lived in Porthcawl since 1983. After finishing his National Service, he joined the YMCA.

John said: “For 25 years I worked around and out of the country in various roles – largely starting new work including turning Boys’ Clubs into mixed Youth Clubs.

“I also went to Jamaica and Belfast each for three years and carried out short term consultancies in Hong Kong and parts of Europe. The international and interdenominational aspect of the YMCA has been my particular interest.

“After three years in Jamaica I returned to the UK where I opened a new hostel for destitute teenagers in Norwich. After 12 months the then children’s department asked me to take on a new post running a pilot scheme for the Home Office.

“After three years I moved to Grays in Essex to be nearer to my parents and three years later returned to the YMCA, taking the post of general secretary at Shankill Road YMCA in Belfast.

“I came to Porthcawl in 1983 to re-open the YMCA, bringing the international movement with me. Many Porthcawl members have visited various parts of Europe as International Leaders with Eurocross, Euromeet and Inter Rail; nineteen were on the first work camp to Calcutta where we have a continuing relationship and we have developed contact with YMCAs in Armenia, India, Germany, Czech Republic and China. A young member of Porthcawl YMCA attended the YMCA World Conference in Aruba in 1988.

“Having served Porthcawl YMCA for seven years as general secretary I went to serve as assistant national secretary to the YMCAs of Wales.

“I was secretary of Porthcawl Council of Churches for 14 years and president for two years overseeing the transition from Council of Churches to Churches Together in Porthcawl.”

John soon found himself organising a range of events, including ‘Songs of Praise by the Sea’ as part of the Sea Festival, and the Thanksgiving Services for the 50th and then the 60th anniversaries of the end of World War Two in the Grand Pavilion.

John established the Porthcawl Civic Fund and chaired it for nine years helping raise some £50,000 over that time for the Mayor’s charities.

John continued:?“While supporting young gay people against the homophobia of the Christian Church I joined Stonewall and LGCM (Lesbian Gay Christian Movement) and for four years was a national director of LGCM.

“Most of my life has been involved in church music as an organist / choirmaster, a role happily fulfilled in various parts of the world including being invited to Hong Kong to play for a wedding!

“For six years (1999 – 2005) I was chapel organist and a Prison Visitor at Parc Prison Bridgend, which finished when I had a minor stroke in 2005.”

• Porthcawl Mayor Megan Hall presented John with a Town Plaque in 1990.

• The Mayor of BCBC in the first year of the awards presented John with a Silver Citizens Award.

• Porthcawl YMCA made John an Honorary Life Member in 1990 and he has been the president of Porthcawl YMCA since 1995.

• Churches Together in Porthcawl made him an honorary life vice president in 1994.

• Porthcawl Rotary Club presented John with a Paul Harris Fellowship in 2008 on behalf of Rotary International

John concluded: “I am delighted at being a resident of Porthcawl and hope I’ve made some contribution to the community – maybe I’m becoming accepted after 35 years!”

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