Young Man's Christian Association (YMCA)
What is the YMCA?
The Young Man's Christian Association (commonly known as YMCA or simply the Y) is a worldwide organization with more than 58 million beneficiaries from 125 national associations. It was founded on 6 June 1844 in London and aims to put Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy "body, mind and spirit". These three angles are reflected by the different sides of the (red) triangle – part of all YMCA logos.
The different local YMCAs are voluntarily affiliated through their national organisations. The national organisations in turn are part of both an Area Alliance and the World Alliance of YMCAs. The World Alliance's main motto is: “Empowering young people,” and it is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
With regard to the history and purpose of the founding, this "organisation and its female counterpart (YWCA) were established to provide low-cost housing in a safe Christian environment for rural young men and women journeying to the cities." It was associated with industrialization and the movement of young people to cities to work. The YMCA "combined preaching in the streets and the distribution of religious tracts with a social ministry. Philanthropists saw them as places for wholesome recreation that would preserve youth from the temptations of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution and that would promote good citizenship."
Founding and Paris Basis
The YMCA was founded by George Williams, a draper, who was typical of the young men drawn to the cities by the Industrial Revolution. He and his colleagues were concerned about the lack of healthy activities for young men in major cities; the options available were usually taverns and brothels. On 6 June 1844, he founded the first YMCA in London with the purpose of "the improving of the spiritual condition of young men engaged in the drapery, embroidery, and other trades." By 1851, there were YMCAs in the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States.
In 1855, ninety-nine YMCA delegates from Europe and North America met in Paris at the First World Conference of YMCAs, held before the 1855 Paris World Exposition of the same year. They discussed joining together in a federation to enhance co-operation amongst individual YMCA societies. This marked the beginning of the World Alliance of YMCAs. The conference adopted the Paris Basis, a common mission for all present and future national YMCAs.
Its motto was taken from the Bible,
"That they all may be one" (John 17:21). Other ecumenical bodies, such as the World YWCA, the World Council of Churches, and the World Student Christian Federation have reflected elements of the Paris Basis in their founding mission statements. In 1865, The Fourth World Conference of YMCAs, held in Germany, affirmed the importance of developing the whole individual in body, mind, and spirit. The concept of physical work through sports, a new concept for the time, was also recognized as part of this "muscular Christianity.”
Two themes resonated during the council: the need to respect the local autonomy of YMCA societies, and the purpose of the YMCA: to unite all young, male Christians for the extension and expansion of the Kingdom of God.
The former idea is expressed in the preamble:
The delegates of various Young Men’s Christian Associations of Europe and America, assembled in Conference at Paris, the 22nd August, 1855, feeling that they are one in principle and in operation, recommend to their respective Societies to recognize with them the unity existing among their Associations, and while preserving a complete independence as to their particular organization and modes of action, to form a Confederation of secession on the following fundamental principle, such principle to be regarded as the basis of admission of other Societies in future.
1870s to 1930s – an influential period
The YMCA was very influential during the 1870s and 1930s, during which times they most successfully promoted "evangelical Christianity in weekday and Sunday services, while promoting good sportsmanship in athletic contests in gyms (where basketball and volleyball were invented) and swimming pools."
Later in this period, and continuing on through the 20th century, the YMCA had "become interdenominational and more concerned with promoting morality and good citizenship than a distinctive interpretation of Christianity. Today the YMCA is more focused on inspiring youths and their families to exercise and be healthy.
Growth of World Alliance and scouting
In 1878, World Alliance of YMCAs offices were established in Geneva, Switzerland. Later, in 1900, North American YMCAs, in collaboration with the World Alliance, set up centers to work with emigrants in European ports, as millions of people were leaving for the USA. In 1880, the YMCA became the first national organisation to adopt a strict policy of equal gender representation in committees and national boards, with Norway being the country that first adopted it.
In 1885, Camp Baldhead (later known as Camp Dudley), the first residential camp in the United States and North America, was established by A. Sanford and Sumner F. Dudley, both of whom worked for the YMCA. The camp, originally located near Orange Lake in New Jersey, moved to Lake Wawayanda in Sussex County the following year, and then to the shore of Lake Champlain near Westport, New York in 1891. By 1910, the YMCA was an early influence upon scouting, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and German Scouting. Edgar M. Robinson, a Chicago-area YMCA administrator, briefly left the YMCA to become the BSA's first director.
Rural development to World War II
In 1916, K. T. Paul became the first Indian National General Secretary of India. Paul had started rural development programs for self-reliance of marginal farmers, through co-operatives and credit societies. These programs became very popular. He also coined the term "rural reconstruction", and many of the principles he developed were later incorporated into the Government's nation-wide community development programs.
In 1923, Y.C. James Yen, of the YMCA of China, devised the "thousand character system", based on pilot projects in education. The method also became very popular, and in 1923, it led to the founding of the Chinese National Association of the Mass Education Movement. In 1928, a historic YMCA in Jerusalem was established during the British Mandate. During World War II, the YMCA was involved in war work with displaced persons and refugees. They set up War Prisoners Aid to support prisoners of war by providing sports equipment, musical instruments, art materials, radios, gramophones, eating utensils and other items.
United Nations to apartheid in Asia
In 1947, the World Alliance of YMCAs gained special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. In 1955, the first Black President of the World Alliance of YMCAs, Mr. Charles Dunbar Sherman from Liberia, was elected. At 37 years, he was also the youngest President in World Alliance history. In 1959, The YMCA developed the first nationally organised scuba diving course and certified their first Skin and scuba diving instructors. By 1974, the YMCA had set up a curriculum to begin teaching cave diving.
In 1973, the Sixth World Council in Kampala, Uganda, became the first World Council in Africa. It reaffirmed the Paris Basis and adopted a declaration of principles, known as the Kampala Principles, which include the principles of justice, creativity and honesty.
It stated what had become obvious in most national YMCAs; a global viewpoint was more necessary, and that in doing so, the YMCAs would have to take political stands, especially so in international challenges. In 1985, the World Council of YMCAs passed a resolution against apartheid, and anti-apartheid campaigns were formed under the leadership of Mr. Lee Soo-Min (Korea), the first Asian Secretary General of the World Alliance.
Challenge 21 and recent years
In 1997, at the 14th World Council of YMCAs, the World Council in Germany adopted "Challenge 21", giving even more focus to the global challenges, like gender equality, sustainable development, war and peace, fair distribution and the challenges of globalization, racism, and HIV/AIDS:
Affirming the Paris Basis adopted in 1855, as the ongoing foundation statement of the mission of the YMCA, at the threshold of the third millennium, we declare that the YMCA is a world-wide Christian, ecumenical, voluntary movement for women and men with special emphasis on and the genuine involvement of young people and that it seeks to share the Christian ideal of building a human community of justice with love, peace and reconciliation for the fullness of life for all creation.
Each member YMCA is therefore called to focus on certain challenges which will be prioritised according to its own context. These challenges which are an evolution of the Kampala Principles
Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and striving for spiritual, intellectual and physical well-being of individuals and wholeness of communities.
Empowering all, especially young people and women to take increased responsibilities and assume leadership at all levels and working towards an equitable society.
Advocating for and promoting the rights of women and upholding the rights of children.
Fostering dialogue and partnership between people of different faiths and ideologies and recognizing the cultural identities of people and promoting cultural renewal.
Seeking to be mediators and reconciles in situations of conflict and working for meaningful participation and advancement of people for their own self-determination.
Defending God’s creation against all that would destroy it and preserving and protecting the earth’s resources for coming generations. To face these challenges, the YMCA will develop patterns of co-operation at all levels that enable self-sustenance and self-determination.
In 2002, the World Council in Oaxtepec, Morelos, Mexico, called for a peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis. In October 2008, and again in 2009, YMCA of Greater Toronto in Canada was named one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc. On 11 July 2010, the YMCA of the USA re-branded its name to the popular nickname, "The Y", and revised the iconic red and black logo to create five colored versions.
Today, YMCAs are open to all, regardless of religion, social class, age, or sex.
A federated model of governance has created a diversity of YMCA programs and services, with YMCAs in different countries and communities offering vastly different programming in response to local community needs. In North America, the YMCA is sometimes perceived to be primarily a community sports facility; in Great Britain, the YMCA is sometimes perceived to be primarily a place for homeless young people; however, it offers a broad range of programs such as sports, personal fitness, child care, overnight camping, employment readiness programs, training programs, advice services, immigrant services, conference centers and educational activities as methods of promoting its values.
Financial support for local associations is derived from program fees, membership dues, community chests, foundation grants, charitable contributions, sustaining memberships, and corporate sponsors.
The first YMCA was concerned with Bible study, although the organization has generally moved on to a more holistic approach to youth work. Around six years after its birth, an international YMCA conference in Paris decided that the objective of the organization should become "Christian discipleship developed through a program of religious, educational, social and physical activities" (Binfield 1973:265).
Restore Ministries of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee provides an example of how the Christian influence in the YMCA still exists today. Founded in 2000 by Scott Reall, Restore provides support groups and individual counselling with an aim of "lifting the 'C'" (of the YMCA).
The International Coalition of the YMCA Universities brings together universities from all over the world. Including: Brazil, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Uruguay, USA, and Venezuela. The universities offer a wide variety of courses on different levels.
In the USA, various colleges and universities have historically had connections to the YMCA. Springfield College was founded in 1885 as an international training school for YMCA Professionals, while one of the two schools that eventually became Concordia University—started from night courses offered at the Montreal YMCA.
Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts) began out of a YMCA in Boston, and Franklin University began as the YMCA School of Commerce. San Francisco's Golden Gate University traces its roots to the founding of the YMCA Night School on 1 November 1881. Detroit College of Law, now the Michigan State University College of Law, was founded with a strong connection to the Detroit, Michigan YMCA.
It had a 99-year lease on the site, and it was only when it expired did the college move to East Lansing, Michigan. Youngstown State University traces its roots to the establishment of a law school by the local YMCA in 1908. The Nashville School of Law was the YMCA Night Law School until November 1986, having offered law classes since 1911 and the degree of Jurist Doctor since January 1927. YMCA pioneered the concept of night school, providing educational opportunities for people with full-time employment. Many YMCAs offer ESL programs, alternative high school, day care, and summer camp programs.
American high school students have a chance to participate in YMCA Youth and Government, wherein clubs of kids representing each YMCA community convene annually in their respective state legislatures to "take over the State Capitol for a day."
In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian-American, invented basketball while studying at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (later to be named Springfield College). Naismith had been asked to invent a new game in an attempt to interest pupils in physical exercise. The game had to be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play indoors in winter.
Such an activity was needed both by the Training School and by YMCAs across the country. Naismith and his wife attended the 1936 Summer Olympics when basketball was one of the Olympic events. In 1895, William G. Morgan from the YMCA of Holyoke, Massachusetts, invented the sport of volleyball as a slower paced alternative sport, in which the older Y members could participate. In 1930, Juan Carlos Ceriani from the YMCA of Montevideo, Uruguay, invented the sport of futsal as a synthesis of three indoor sports, handball, basketball, and water polo, maintaining the motivation of the sport football (soccer) on playgrounds reduced.
"YMCA" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.