Posted by: thebluemusicblog | August 23, 2018




* Most young people participating at a World Council

* Three new members welcomed

* New partnership agreement signed with The Harlem Globetrotters

* Release of 2018 Blue Book movement statistics with record numbers

* Release of second global research study – One Million Voices 2

* Safe Space Report received

* Life memberships awarded to Johan Vilhelm Eltvik and Peter Posner

* Election of new Executive Committee, including first female President

* First time a majority of females elected to Executive Committee

* Introduction of first African Secretary General designate

* Cohort 4 of YMCA Change Agents launched

* Funding for over 40 new Change Agents committed

* National General Secretaries share their journey of discovery

* “Youth Empowerment 4 Good” Strategy 2018-2022 approved


The World YMCA Staff Team ready to start implementing the 19th World Council with 1300 participants!

“What a week of World Council – a week of history.

A World Council better than Estes Park. I did not think that would be possible, but it was. And it is a reality today and it means we will have a better, a stronger and a more united YMCA movement as a result.

As many of you have reflected as you travelled home, we prepare now for a future with a good and exciting reality. Thank you to all of you who participated, whether in person in Chiang Mai or not.

Thank you to the YMCA of Chiang Mai, ably led by Rachan Maneekarn and all his team for their invaluable support. Thank you to everyone who contributed as a speaker, a workshop leader, a volunteer or in whatever way you contributed.

This Blogpost is designed to share with the movement the key events and business outcomes. It is not to recapture the entire event but to share an insight into the key outcomes of the 19th World Council.

The YMCA movement is in good hands for the future. The young leaders, including our YMCA Change Agents, ensure we head towards our 200th birthday in 2044 with a commitment for Youth Empowerment 4 Good.

The world will be a better place as a result.”



The Safe Space Learning Group shared their report which is part of a resolution from the 18thWorld Council to promote social inclusion and non-discrimination for all people within the YMCA.

Inclusion and diversity is at the YMCA core.
The World YMCA aims to empower all young people without discrimination. The group presented the two years of research and consultation on how to facilitate a Safe Space discussion abiding to the UN Human Rights Declaration to strive courageously against discrimination. The Report was received almost unanimously.

Safe Space Working Group (minus Kim)

A very historic moment for YMCA as we work towards becoming more inclusive to all.

The World YMCA Value Statement is not prescriptive and non-binding for any member movement, in accordance with World YMCA Constitution. Each member movement is encouraged to embrace Challenge 21’s invitation to engage with their needs according to their local reality – “Each member YMCA is therefore called to focus on certain challenges which will be prioritized according to its own context” – so we demonstrate our Christian and ecumenical position of being open, loving and inclusive of all.

“That they all be one.” John 17:21.
The Value Statement and Report can be read HERE.


Diversity around the globe was accepted in the founding document of the World Alliance of YMCAs in 1855, where it is stated that no issues, however important they may be, shall divide the YMCA. The focus is on unity in Christ – “that they all may be one.”

Therefore – diversity and inclusion are core to the YMCA movement.

Therefore – the YMCA movement is open and inclusive of all people regardless of their ability, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background.

However, we admit that we are not perfect in demonstrating God’s unconditional love, and that it is an ongoing process to become fully inclusive in order to improve our service to humanity.

Therefore the YMCA movement must strive courageously against any discriminatory behaviour and will always abide by the UN Human Rights Declaration.”

President Peter Posner was inspiring and served the World Council in so many different ways – thank you, Peter!

National general Secretaries … Our Journey Together

Nearly 50 NGS took the stage and stood together to share their processes and journey as part of the global YMCA movement focused on Youth Empowerment 4 Good. In 2013, they agreed the YMCA movement was like a “sleeping giant” and came together to be co-owners and co-creators of driving the global strategy to take the movement forward.

In this presentation they spoke if their work towards becoming united under one shared message and working together as an NGS network. This involved the importance of relationships – having a safe space to nurture trust, sharing and learning – building foundations together and a strategic focus.

Standing together. Our NGS uniting on the long journey

To help the awakening they invested in research such as One Million Voices and the development of youth leadership programs like the YMCA Change Agents program.

This was a great journey of unity and through this process we are moving closer to becoming a more unified global movement. The NGS are focused on continuing the journey together with the President and Secretary General to help the YMCA grow stronger and have a greater social impact on the world.

Harlem Globetrotter’s President and CEO, Howard Smith, giving an inspired speech about Basketball, James Naismith (picture), YMCA and the Harlem Globetrotters – fantastic!


This event announced the formal partnership between The Harlem Globetrotters and World YMCA. The YMCA invented basketball. The Harlem Globetrotters are the biggest brand in basketball on the planet.

Globetrotter’s President and CEO Howard Smith and Johan Vilhelm Eltvik signed an official partnership agreement, having first met at a Vatican conference on sport as a service to humanity. “Our values fit together.
Our history fit together. We both put

community first and we both have basketball at our core,” Johan said.

Three of the Globetrotters spoke passionately of their experience in the YMCA and how it helped form them and their futures.




YMCA Victoria’s CEO Peter Burns delivered an inspiring keynote addressing “Change Lessons Learned Aligning a Local YMCA with the Global Mission”. He focused on becoming more global and unifying under one message as a social movement.

“We need to ask: how can I create a YMCA to make an impact, more deeply, moreoften?”

“We are a movement, not an institution.We need to be brave. Young people needYMCAs now more than ever,” he said.

“Be bold. Be on the right side of history”

World YMCA released the Preliminary Report from the second global research project on the opinions and concerns of young people. The first report was released in 2016 and isbelieved to be the world’s largest research project listening to young people aged 15-24, across 55 countries.

Our Research advisor, Professor Marek Rymsza from the University of Warsaw, presented the Preliminary report. The final report will be available later in the year.

Insight into the challenges and possibilities around empowering young people is crucial if
we are to genuinely advocate for, and provide
the platform for the voices of young people.
The results highlight young people’s critical
needs in the areas of employment, health, environment and civic engagement and
propose solutions on how to address these issues.



“Despite the differences in cultures and languages – young people across the world face many similar disadvantages in areas like employment, education and mental illness.”- Secretary General Johan Vilhelm Eltvik.

The research was gathered across 25 countries from over 1,000 young people aged 17 – 20 years old. The preliminary results are eye-opening and will help local and national YMCAs know how to better provide for their young people across employment, health, environment and civic engagement.

The initial findings of this research showed that for many young people across the world:

  1. good social relationships are crucial for personal happiness and wellbeing
  2. educational systems are not satisfying them
  3. educational systems need more focus on practical skills, individual and subjective

    approaches and on mechanisms of personal protection and assistance

  4. a “good job” should be a place for personal development and wellbeing
  5. a high salary is not the most important

    component of wished for work, and a professional career is not worth the risk of permanent stress and psychological pressure

  6. mental health is a rising health issue and depression is seen as prevalent everywhere
  7. close family members and friends are the most important people to relate to their mental health challenges
  8. a healthy life style is too commercialised
  9. access to good but reasonably cheap sports

    facilities is an important element of a healthy

    life style

  10. campaigns have effectively raised environmental


  11. despite personal environmental sensitivity, a lack of organized activities at the local

    level is the obstacle for environmental engagement

  12. civic engagement at a local level gives more opportunities than national initiatives
  13. generally, participatory and community-oriented leadership is preferred.


Bob Tobin chaired the presentation of One Million Voices 2

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the Founder & Chief Executive of Rozaria Memorial Trust. She is former World YWCA General Secretary (2007-2016) and serves as African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage.

• The future is young and she is female.

• 12 million girls are ‘married’ each year. We can prevent child marriage, sexual exploitation, sanitised rape by speaking up; standing up and protecting human values

She noted that the struggle for injustice is the struggle for human rights, the fight against discrimination and inequality. It is the imperative of the movement, to young people, and to such intergenerational movements like the YMCAs. She also challenged us:

1. We must move beyond scaling up the status quo, to delivering a truly transformative agenda.

2. Exploring approaches in which youth empowerment and rights shifts from vulnerability, to leadership and organising. Beyond positional power to influencing.

3. Harnessing the power of local rootedness, global reach, authentic history and massive

numbers for impact and structural/systems/policy change.

4. Use of evidence research in policy advocacy on social and global justice which is youth lead, beyond the provision of services

5. Leveraging the power of technology and the media for advocacy and influencing.

6. Deepening the safe and empowering spaces for skilling, organising and engaging.

On persistence even in the face of injustice

“We have the legacy of never giving up, we will never die”

The election was a highlight of the World Council, ably led by Past President Ken Colloton. For the first time in a long period we had many candidates for every position, and the election was really exciting and not easy to predict.
That the time had come, and overdue, for us to have a female President, was shared with the majority of the delegates, and with great enthusiasm and stranding ovations Patricia Pelton from Canada was elected our new President for 2018 – 22, needless to say the first female in the YMCAs 174 year history. I know Patricia from the Executive Committee 2010-14 and from the Safe Space work the last years. She will be a great President! Congratulations!

 The Deputy President is Agustin Garcia Bolanos Cacho from Mexico and the new Treasurer is Ronald Tak Fai Yam from Hong Kong.

Patricia Pelton, the first female President in the YMCAs 174 year history in her acceptance speech:
“The women leaders in our movement, past and present, have worked so hard to pave the way and see this day. Inclusion in leadership benefits us all. This. Change. Is. Momentous.”

Flowers to Patricia!

My good friend Carlos Sanvee had already been appointed as my follower from 2019 in the post as Secretary General for the World YMCA. Carlos and I have worked together like brothers for a lifetime and I wish you the best of success and loads of blessings from our Lord! You will lead with brilliance!


Carlos Sanvee, the first Secretary General from
Africa in his acceptance speech: 
“Our collective and future story now has to be how
– as a global movement – we move ahead by tapping in to our great potential through anticipation, innovation and collaboration.”

And finally some snapshots of good friends performing their duties on or off stage:
Past President Ken Colloton leading a workshop on Governance.
Past President Martin Meissner explaining good governance!
Part of the great Ten Sing band lifting the emotions every day – great performance again!
Bob Tobin has been a pillar of support for me all my years in the leadership of the YMCA – a wonderful guy, professional, skilled and with a huge heart – thank you Bob a million times!
Posted by: thebluemusicblog | June 27, 2018


Olav Fykse Tveit is the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a fellow Norwegian. One evening in January we were sitting together, celebrating his birthday, when he informed me about a possible visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to WCC in Geneva. I heard nothing more for a while, until a couple of weeks ago when Olav called me and said that there was one ticket waiting for me, to participate in the morning service in the chapel at the Ecumenical Centre and at a celebratory ecumenical meeting with His Holiness the same afternoon. I had to register with the police to receive clearance for security, and security was very strict, hundreds of police officers were closing down the neighbourhood. After having waited for an hour in the chapel, the Pope came walking in to the chapel and smilingly greeting us all.X+V1%mJMSr+15DuK6r5xRQ

In his address to the ecumenical group, the Central Committee of WCC and we, representatives of sister organisations of WCC, His Holiness said this: “Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to thank you for your commitment to unity, but also to express a concern. It comes from an impression that ecumenism and mission are no longer as closely intertwined as they were at the beginning. Yet the missionary mandate, which is more than diakonia and the promotion of human development, cannot be neglected nor emptied of its content. It determines our very identity. The preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth is part of our very being as Christians. The way in which the mission is carried out will, of course, vary in different times and places. In the face of recurring temptation to tailor it to worldly ways of thinking, we must constantly remind ourselves that Christ’s Church grows by attraction.


But what makes for this power of attraction? Certainly not our own ideas, strategies or programmes. Faith in Jesus Christ is not the fruit of consensus, nor can the People of God be reduced to a non-governmental organisation. No, the power of attraction consists completely in the sublime gift that so amazed the Apostle Paul: “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings” (Phil 3:10)”


“What is really needed is a new evangelical outreach. We are called to be a people that experiences and shares the joy of the Gospel, praises the Lord and serves our brothers and sisters with hearts burning with a desire to open up horizons of goodness and beauty unimaginable to those who have not been blessed truly to know Jesus.”


“Dear brothers and sisters, I wanted to take part personally in the celebrations marking this anniversary of the World Council, not least to reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of ecumenism and to encourage cooperation  with the member churches and with our ecumenical partners. In this regard, I would like to reflect briefly the motto chosen for this day: Walking, Praying and Working Together.”



“Walking. Yes, but where? From all that has been said, I would suggest a twofold movement: in and out. In, so as to move constantly to the centre, to acknowledge that we are branches grafted onto the one vine who is Jesus. Out, towards the many existential peripheries of today’s world, in order to join in bringing the healing grace of the Gospel to our suffering brothers and sisters.”

“Praying. In prayer too, like walking, we cannot move forward by ourselves because God’s grace is not so much tailored to fit each individual as spread harmoniously among believers who love one another. Whenever we say “Our Father”, we feel an echo within us of our being sons and daughters, but also of our being brothers and sisters. Prayer is the oxygen of ecumenism.”


“Working together. Here I would like to reaffirm that the Catholic Church acknowledges the special importance of the work carried out by the Faith and Order Commission and desires to keep contributing to that work through the participation of highly qualified theologians.”


Then it was time for the Holy Father to leave the hall and continue the visit in Geneva by attending a service for 40 000 people in Palexpo, the huge exhibition hall in Geneva, where every year one of the most famous car exhibitions in the world takes place.


In my thoughts I went back 6 years, to May 28, 2012, when I visited Buenos Aires and the anniversary of YMCA Argentina.Cardinal Bergoglio was the leader of the Church in Argentina, and he participated in an ecumenical service to celebrate the YMCA anniversary. He is a great friend of the YMCA in Argentina.


During my visit to Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio invited me for an official audience, and we were talking together for more than an hour, He made a solid impression on me, he was genuinely interested in young people and the work of the world wide YMCA among young people. He asked a lot of questions and we shared a number of aspects related to YMCA and church.


A few months later I realised how small the world is and how intertwined we are with one another, like wheels turning around and around and moving one another. Late one evening we were sitting in front of the television screen waiting for the white smoke coming from the chimneys in the Vatican to announce the successful election of a new Pope. The small window went up and there I saw the new Pope. All the others in our room asked who that was, and I could immediately answer that this is the Cardinal from Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio, and I told with some pride that I had visited him a few months earlier, and that he was a friend of the YMCA!


In his final speech to us in Geneva, Pope Francis said: “Let us encourage one another to overcome the temptation to absolutise certain cultural paradigms and get caught up in partisan interests. Let us help men and women of good will to grow in concern for events and situations that affect a great part of humanity but seldom make it to the front page. We cannot look the other way.” It is problematic when Christians appear indifferent towards those in need.”

“The Lord, the Good Samaritan of mankind (cf. Lk 10:29-37), will examine us on our love for our neighbour, for each of our neighbours (cf. Mt 25:31-46). So let us ask ourselves: What can we do together? If a particular form of service is possible, why not plan and carry it out together, and thus start to experience a more intense fraternity in the exercise of concrete charity?”

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 28, 2018


From the very first welcome at the airport in Chiang Mai you feel extraordinary welcome. Thailand is all about friendship, smiles and hospitality. Rachan, who is sitting at my left hand side on the photo below, is the symbol of all of those values. The rest of Rachan’s team of local YMCA staff and volunteers are working extremely hard to make the whole world feel welcome in Chiang Mai when the world comes visiting this summer, beginning July 8.

Jose Varghese is my staff member responsible to lead the technical and programmatic preparations for the 19 th World Council in Chiang Mai this summer. He and Andrew McKenzie and I flew to Chiang Mai this month to visit all sites, to meet with key people from local authorities and to get the final overview of how the preparations are going. Entering the lobby of the main conference Hotel Empress, I immediately felt the welcoming atmosphere. I was expected and welcomed like an old friend.

Already the same day we started the meetings with the hotel staff and the conference centre staff. We walked through the whole hotel from basement to the top floor and identified meeting rooms for groups, special events and seminars.

Later on we did the same with the three magnificent floors of the conference centre. The staff was extremely helpful and flexible, and we were able to solve most of our challenges and get answers to all our questions.

One of the challenges we sought to solve, was to find a good place for the group photo, Big enough and close enough to the centre not to waste too much valuable time. Here Andrew is on the top of the world testing the photo opportunities – a real Kodak moment!

We spent a lot of time in the main conference hall discussing how to put the chairs, the size and strength of the stage, arrangements for sound and light, translation and video screens. We have excellent partners both from Bangkok and Chiang Mai to help us deliver technical solutions!

In these days with all kind of unrest we have to think seriously about safety and security. Therefore we were received by the local Police Force and had a very informative meeting with the responsible leaders of the Police as well as with the group of Police officers identified to work together with us during the World Council.

This is the Captain leading the group working with the YMCA. It turned out that his son is learning English in the local YMCA!

This is from the meeting in the Police headquarter where we established an excellent relationship with the leaders f the Police.

We met with 25 members of staff of the local YMCA, working extremely hard to prepare all the different details of a huge event like the World Council is. Not the least all the excursions are a huge challenge. We are going in tuc- tucs and red taxis, in mini busses and large busses and we are going to a wide variety of exciting places to study the impact of the social change programmes of Chiang Mai YMCA. It will be a day to look forward to!

In between we have new meetings with the hotel staffs from three different hotels to coordinate meals and transport and added services. It all goes well and we are all the time dealing with excellent professionals in the tourist industry.

Finally we got together for a last group photo before we are driven to the Airport. 70 days to go to the 19th World Council.

You are warmly welcome to Chiang Mai! We shall be ready for you!

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