July 13, 2018
Today’s the last day! We started off the morning meeting with the YMCA of Philippines with a number of other US delegates and members from Y-USA. The purpose of the meeting was to learn more about the YMCA of Philippines and to see whether or not there would be opportunity for partnerships. In attendance were myself and Emily from Summit, NJ, a delegate from Jacksonville, Florida, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Springfield College, Y-USA, World Service and the National CEO of YMCA of Philippines. Similar to the US, the YMCA of Philippines is also a federated association with a national council.
The USA has helped them with developing their governance structure, programs, and have created a partnership with Wells Fargo to help with economic empowerment and providing financial literacy to the communities in the Philippines. We learned about 2 main YMCAs out of the 26 throughout the Philippines, the San Paulo and Albay YMCAs. Both have extensive rehabilitation programs for the victims of the typhoon, and also provides training and preparation skills for future typhoons which are prevalent in the area. The meeting was definitely a great experience in learning about the great work and resilience of the community and staff of the YMCA of Philippines and I hope that there will be some capacity for the US to support them.
Everything seemed to happen very quickly leading up to our group presentation. Since we were Group 40 and the room was for presentations 40-44, we were up first. We were proud, excited, and ready! Sylvia from YMCA England and Wales started off our song, and with each line, other members of our group chimed in. As the song went on, we started snapping our fingers and clapping to the rhythm, and it was great to see that the audience members joined in and began singing and clapping with us. There was a unity in the room that was exhilarating. As we reached the last line of the song, we joined hands and raised them up with a final hurrah and our audience clapped and cheered for us. I was so proud of our group, and so happy that our final presentation ended on such an uplifting, unifying note. It will surely be an experience I will not soon forget.
Other presentations followed, and one of the presentations that resonated with me was where a delegate from the South African YMCA shared the concept of “Ubuntu” with us. Ubuntu is a belief that means “I am me because of you. You are you because of me. We are we because of us.” I found this to be incredibly beautiful—a statement that really symbolized the Y cause and how we should operate not only as an organization, but how everyone should function in order to attain a more peaceful world.
And that was that. We parted ways, hopeful for the future and excited to bring back these experiences in our hearts and to share with our local communities.
After lunch, Friday afternoon was more open than most of the other days in the program, so we booked it! After an hour ride out of the city, we entered the sanctuary where we were surrounded by lush green mountains. The tour guide showed us the correct way of feeding the elephants bananas, and shared with us some safety precautions. For example, don’t wave the food around and tease the elephants, because they can get mad easily. Look out for signals—if their ears and tails are flapping and moving, it means they’re happy. If they are looking straight at you and their ears are flared open and still, they are angry and might charge at you. After that, it was all fun! We hiked and bathed the elephants, and after we were done showering ourselves, we enjoyed a nice Pad Thai dinner before heading back to Chiang Mai.
And so ended our last day of an absolutely breathtaking experience in Thailand. From the people to the food, to the hustle and bustle of the city, to the amazing sights of old and new, cement and jungle, small community to worldly experience, humans to elephants with wisdom and beauty, I can say that this place has changed me for good. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I know that everyone leaving this conference is ready to go home and bring back their learnings to help make the world a better place. And with all these communities moving forward, albeit at different paces, I really do think a difference will be made, one small step at a time.
And it is here we are signing off and thank you for joining us on this fantastic journey. The Summit Area YMCA is here to serve the community, our youth, our adults, our seniors, and the world, for a better us. And we can’t wait to do it.
Jenny and Emily