Dissolving Borders | Day 3 in Thailand | First Official Day & George Williams' Glasses


July 9, 2018

The first official day of the 19th YMCA World Council started off with morning devotions. Many international YMCAs place more emphasis on the Christian spiritual aspect of the YMCA in their operations and mission. The Devotions hour included singing, prayer on global issues especially the current situation with the team of young boys trapped in the caves of Chiang Rai, and reflection on how to do good. Following the Devotions time, the Secretary General provided a report on changes in the Y movement made since the last World Council meeting in Estes Park, Colorado, as well as his hopes for the future. According to data collected from 2012 to 2018, there has been a 16% increase on the number of youth engaging with the Y, with 40 million directly impacted and 25 million indirectly impacted. In 8 years, over 600 Change Agents have been recruited.


A special moment during his report was when he removed his own glasses and took out another pair to wear. The glasses were then identified as the very original glasses that George Williams, founder of the original YMCA, used to wear. By looking through the lens of George Williams, Johan Eltvik (Secretary General of the World Alliance), imagined seeing the issues and realities of our times but also, like George William, sees the potential within our youth and the power they have within them to push mountains and change tides. A quote that could best summarize the experience of tackling global issues is the anxiety of “flying an airplane while building it.”

I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of the YMCA of Philippines, YMCA of Malaysia, as well as YMCA in Singapore, all who were very warm and friendly. It was interesting to learn that the delegate from YMCA of Philippines was a Youth Trustee on their Board of Trustees, and that there were 3-4 spots on their Board that was exclusively reserved for youth in order to empower them and drive strategic programming within their YMCA. This was new and revolutionary, especially for a country such as the Philippines which still struggles a lot in the realm of gender equity.

The representative in Singapore with the Director in Education for their YMCA, and spoke extensively of the obstacles youth had to face with education and ability to be successful. The education system is very strict and is said that even if a student excels and passes all their subjects, if they fail English, they fail everything and have to start over. All in all, speaking with these delegates from Asia have provided me with insight into the various progresses and challenges they are facing with their youth today.

Emily met Juan Simoes Iglesias, the Secretary General for the Europe YMCA Area.  He was very humble as he discussed the work the Ys in Europe are doing around refugees and migration.  There is so much great work going on in our global movement, especially regarding empowering youth.

Tomorrow morning we will be meeting with the Peru Y and members of the Peru coalition.  Good night!



Jenny and Emily