July 8, 2018
Our second day started off with a DIG “Mini” Conference at the Chiang Mai YMCA for the US Delegation. This was our opportunity to look through a diversity and inclusion lens on a national and global level, learning from our international YMCAs to see where there may be opportunities to improve our own programming and services to better serve our local communities. Carlos Sanvee, incoming General Secretary of the World Alliance, commenced the conference with words of encouragement and wisdom to all seeking to make a meaningful impact.
The conference was eye opening and a great learning experience that involved youth change agents from various YMCAs both within the US and internationally. Young leaders in the Y Movement shared stories of their work in their local communities, and representatives from international YMCAs spoke on topics of Gender Equity in Asia, Youth Inclusion and Identity at the YMCA of Kenya, and Mental Health from the YMCA of England and Wales. Young leaders from the East Jerusalem YMCA and YMCA of Vancouver spoke about their work in providing safe spaces and programming for their communities through the universally unifying topic of cultural arts involving visual art, food, music and dance.
Figuring out how to address tough issues and discuss difficult topics was at the forefront of the conference, and partaking in these meaningful discussions really showed me the passion and determination of how Y staff, and the Y organization as a whole is trying to make the world a better place.
We also met a number of great individuals—there are so many people in attendance that it will likely be impossible to meet everyone—but even speaking to some briefly, some in passing, and some more in depth, is a pleasure and eye opener. Domestically, I learned from Omar Torres of the East Los Angeles YMCA about their Youth and Teen programs as well as residential camp programs. I learned about how the YMCA of Indianapolis provides church services, how YMCA of Atlanta has a global teen leadership program, and how the YMCA of Seattle had a partnership with the Chiang Mai YMCA to create classrooms. On the international level, we met individuals from Columbia, Hong Kong (who has staff and university student exchanges with Y-USA), Ghana and more.
We later attended an exciting Opening Ceremony that involved first the business portion—the formal commencement of the 19th YMCA World Council Meeting, as well as an opening show introducing the theme of Youth Empowerment and history of the World Council. After dinner, we returned for a special cultural show put on by the drama and theater school in Chiang Mai that involved traditional music and dance from the various regions of Thailand. It was absolutely amazing to watch!
Tomorrow will be another full day of activities, where we’ll meet our groups that we’ve been assigned to for this trip! Until then…
Jenny and Emily