Posted by: thebluemusicblog | July 8, 2017

CAMEROON YMCA REBORN

Early in 2014 I got two visitors in my office. As always I was really on my way to the airport to fly somewhere far away, but I took time to sit down together with Dr Alain Douglas Wandji Kamga and his Geneva friend Primo Bursik. I did not know much about Cameroon YMCA at that time, I only knew that they were suspended from Africa Alliance and that they were in a deep crisis. Several fractions of the YMCA were in dispute with one another, and the churches played a very difficult role in the whole theatre.

IMG_0054

 

What Alain said to me, seemed to make sense, and I could easily capture from his body language that he somehow was used to be rejected and therefore tried to use the few minutes he had to really convince me about the need to look deeper into the state of Cameroon YMCA just now. To his great surprise I immediately decided that we would send a fact finding mission to Cameroon to find out for ourselves what needed to be done.

IMG_0063.JPG

I knew that Carlos Sanvee had engaged himself several times with the matters of Cameroon. Carlos, in his double role as the Africa Secretary and as the part time Special Advisor to the World Alliance agreed to go to Cameroon again to visit Alain and his friends. Carlos made several visits and did an outstanding job first to get a clear overview of the situation and then to prepare them for a solid and well founded development of the YMCA organisation. Carlos’ conclusion was that Cameroon YMCA now was ready to be reinstalled with the Africa Alliance of YMCAs.

IMG_0071.JPG

The Youth Minister

Later in 2014 Alain made it to Estes Park and he participated in the 18th World Council. He listened very carefully to all messages about Youth Empowerment, he discussed with several of the other participants and he was a fast learner. In his own words: “I came to Estes Park and there I learnt what the vision was. I took it back home to Cameroon, and we changed the YMCA totally and we are now about Empowering Young People for the African Renaissance!”

 

IMG_0076.JPG

Three pastors, two of them from Cameroon

So finally this year we had planned for my first ever visit to Cameroon. They made a committee of more than 10 people to prepare for the visit, and they met every Sunday for three months. When I left my Air France plane in Yaoundé, the whole committee plus the Executive Committee of the National Council of Cameroon YMCA stood lined up at the airport with flowers and flags – it was an unusually warm welcome! I was taken straight from the airport to the home of the Treasurer, Duprince, where a celebratory welcome dinner already was on the tables. IMG_0080.JPG

Here they are building a new church for 5000 people

Next morning we started at 07.00 with breakfast in the outskirts of the capitol Yaoundé where one of the Patriarchs of the YMCA hosted a delicious breakfast. He had been the trainer and the coach for Alain and Duprince and all the other national YMCA leaders, way back in the 1980s and 1990s. He was highly respected and they wanted to show him honour. It turned out that in 2012 he and his wife, while visiting children in Germany, had turned up at Clos Belmont 12, my office, to say hello. I was not there, and they had been disappointed. Now I was coming to their doorsteps and harmony was reestablished!

IMG_0083.JPG

The office of the YMCA inside that big church

Full of energy from the good breakfast we turned into the city centre where we were to be received by the Minister for Youth in the Government of Cameroon. It became a very open and friendly conversation. We had decided what we were going to ask for, so during my opening speech I thanked the Minister for his way of including the YMCA in many events, and also for being well represented at YMCA events when he was invited. I therefore asked him if this good relationship between the National YMCA and the Government of Cameroon could not be formalised through a written partnership agreement? The Minister said yes across the table and Alain was invited back at a later stage to further develop the partnership agreement.

IMG_0092.JPG

We were a large delegation to the Minister, he had 7-8 of his staff there plus a good number of journalists, so nothing to complain about the visibility and attention showed to us. Dressed up in black suits and ties and shining shoes we went directly into the jungle. We arrived in a tiny little village having used some fairly challenging roads, especially since it was in the middle of the rainy season the cars were sliding quite a bit in the slippery mud.

IMG_0096.JPG

On our way we had stopped to buy rubber boots, and now we changed to these boots and started our expedition further into the jungle. The YMCA had bought a plot of land, 5000 m2. Still around US 10000.- were unpaid, but the fundraising is ongoing. Today we were to officially open the project. The plans were shared with us, a conference centre, a camp, residential guest hose for income generation and sports fields. After the land was purchased, it turned out that the main road, of course now being constructed by the Chinese companies being present in Cameroon, was to go very close to this plot of land. Therefore the value of the land already had doubled and is still on its way up. Good news for a YMCA so poor that there is absolutely no paid staff at all. All are volunteers working very hard for no payment.

IMG_0099.JPG

Having celebrated together with the neighbours from the village, we drove back on the same sliding, muddy roads and came to Rue-Manguiers local YMCA union. I must admit that it was quite a challenge to change from wet rubber boots and back to shining black shoes in a very narrow car, while the welcome delegation was waiting outside the car door with flowers and speeches. Finally I was ready and walked into a house filled to the capacity with all the YMCA people from that local union. Included no less than four Native Kings. In fact we met in their administrative building. They were members of the YMCA.

IMG_0103.JPG

The very first Ten Sing choir in Cameroon performed excellently for us, two Cameroonian YMCA leaders had been to Romolu’s Innovation Camp last year and learnt about Ten Sing. It was heart warming to see how things are connected now, and how inspiration and learning are transported around the globe within the network of the World YMCA. Great stuff!

IMG_0113.JPG

Very early next morning we started out to leave Yaoundé and go to prison. In a blogpost several years ago I described my experiences from visiting the largest prison in Lome, Togo, where the YMCA is running a fabulous programme for young prisoners. Now I was about to experience the same, here in Cameroon.

IMG_0116.JPG

Four native kings

The Prison Chief came in civilian cloths, since it was a Saturday. He took us to his office and explained how important he found the presence of the YMCA in his prison. It turned out that there was a YMCA union, as they call it in Cameroon, established formally inside the walls, run and operated by the young prisoners themselves. It was moving to be welcomed by the whole prison population inside the walls, speeches being given eloquently by the President and General Secretary of the Monatele Prison YMCA.

IMG_0138.JPG

I was also giving a speech to the prisoners and then shown around the prison and I was able to buy some beautiful bags handmade by the young people in the prison. As in Togo, the YMCA was assisting young prisoners who did not know how to deal with the bureaucracy, and several of them got released early because of the YMCA. I cannot imagine any form or shape of YMCA better adjusted to the original vision of George Williams. A YMCA in a prison is where YMCA belongs!

IMG-20170706-WA0016.jpg

Young YMCA prisoners singing

IMG-20170706-WA0007.jpg

Speaking to the prisoners

Wow! The programme was intens, we managed to visit two other local YMCAs before we had to head back to the big conference that had been planned to take place in the Cultural Centre of Yaoundé. 300 YMCA people from around the country were now travelling towards Yaoundé to participate in this conference. I was going to give a lecture about the present visions of the YMCA in the world, especially focusing on the Untold Story of Injustices towards Young People. The crowd was attentive, national TV was covering it, and when I was finished with my lecture, we had a long Q&A session with excellent questions and comments from the large audience. We were all served dinner in the break and then started a brilliant cultural performance by the different YMCAs in Cameroon. I was not the only one to be totally overwhelmed by the dancing and singing, acrobatics and fashion show. Cameroon most definitely has talent!

 

IMG_0161.JPG

 

More flowers followed me back to my hotel room. my room looked more and more like a wedding hall or a, no, I will not even mention it! But the hotel staff were observing my carrying of flowers with astonishment. In this jungle of colourful flowers I tried to find my bed, and collapsed into a well deserved sleep.

IMG_0183.JPG

Three Patriarchs in Foumban

Next day was the great travel day. we were going through half the country, 400 km each way to the west to visit Foumban. Therefore we started at 05.00 in the morning.  The Patriarchs of Foumban received us with all honours. A Patriarch is a honorary title within the YMCA to identify a specially respected and long serving leader of the YMCA. Here we had at least three of them. The one closest to Alain in the photo above, turned out to be a Prince of the native Royal family.

IMG_0189.JPG

He took us to his father’s palace and showed us around in the family museum. His father was the Sultan, and the plan was to visit the Sultan himself. He is very close to the President of the country, so this day he was called to come to the President in Yaoundé. His son was not a bad substitute. An English teacher and a strong leader of the YMCA and with a great sense of humour. His father had 6 wives and he himself therefore had 33 sisters and brothers. Quite a family!

IMG_0191.JPG

The museum was now inside the palace, but his father was building a new museum very close to the palace, and we were shown around this magnificent project in 5 floors. The architecture was a combination of a giant spider and a snake with two heads. The symbol here is the symbol of the local kingdom – to survive from the 13th century they always had had to attack in two directions at the same time to control their enemies. Therefore the symbol is the snake with two heads. Quite impressive, I must say, but probably not the ideal architecture for a YMCA building!

IMG_0197.JPG

In the photo below you can see what I mean with a sense of humour. With a glimpse in his eyes he shared with me the family history, His grandfather had approached German missionaries. He was interested in the new Christian faith and wanted to convert. The German missionary told him that he first had to get rid of 263 of his 264 wives. His grandfather therefore turned to Islam, who rather encouraged him to have more wives, not fewer!

IMG_0198

The Prince

The Prince of Foumban. My good friend and a good member and leader of the YMCA. He is also a leader of the political party supporting the President. He has been President in Cameroon since early in the 1980s.

IMG_0211.JPG

The Police Inspector

I had noticed the leadership capacity and skills of this young man, as he functioned as the Master of Ceremony. It was first at the farewell party that I discovered why he was such an outstanding leader – he was a high ranking Police Inspector.

IMG_0206.JPG

The Change Agent

I never get tired of praising our Global YMCA Change Agents. I am deeply impressed with their good work locally, with their good work for Change. Eugene Mel Is the Change Agent from Cameroon, and he embodies all the ideals and potential of the Change Agents. He is working around the clock and has no salary. In addition he is translating between languages and always in good mood, an exemplary leader. I hope that we will get him to Geneva as staff placement in the near future.

IMG_0218.JPG

The last photo from Cameroon is with three Change Agents. Eugene is already Change Agent and Lavette and Enok have been recruited for the third cohort. God bless all the Change Agents and God bless YMCA in Cameroon!

 

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | May 5, 2017

LACA ANNUAL MEETING IN HAITI

On our way from Dominican Republic to Haiti we were traveling in a bus. It was estimated to take 6 hours. It took 13. On the border between the two countries it was quite colorful and a big taxfree market was operating with great participation from both sides of the border. All the trading and business were stressful and after some hours this local businessman took a well deserved break.
The border control was unorthodox, but after a while we were through and we made progress on our long way together towards Port-au-Prince in Haiti.


In Haiti the rainy season was having its strong consequences, flood in the main streets and it felt more like driving through a major river!


This was a more colorful of our neighbors on the street on the way towards Haiti.


Marco from the Mexican UN Campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals opened the LACA regional meeting with a presentation of the 17 SDGs and challenged us to engage with the goals. This was also the theme for the LACA meeting.


The second day of the meeting we divided ourselves in smaller groups and we explored Haiti and its culture and YMCAs. 


Our group went to the National Museum and learnt about the French colonization and the fight for freedom, even fight against Napoleon and his army of 40000 soldiers. A history of suffering and pain, but also a history of pride and heroism!


Dorly, change agent from Haiti, is leading the presentation of the local YMCA youth leadership development programme under the headline of Youth Empowerment. We also learnt about a growing emigration from Haiti following the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Sad stories of humiliating discrimination and suffering for people looking for a better future.


The local chef and staff of a restaurant serving us exotic gourmet food and explaining to us what the different Haitian dishes contained and how they were prepared.


Engaged inputs from National and local YMCAs.

Our elegant host,  Haitian NGS, Gwenael Apollon and Antonio Merino, the LACA General Secretary.


This used to be a local gas station and four months ago was renovated into this very atmospheric restaurant.


These are four wonderful ladies from YMCA São Paulo under leadership of Marisia , the local CEO.


Here a coffee break meeting with NGS Oscar from Chile, located in Valparaiso, and Juan, CEO Santiago YMCA.

Greg, CEO Cayman Island YMCA, reporting from the Caribbean subregion.


Alveiro, NGS from Colombia, reporting from one of the sub regions of LACA.


The Executive Committee of LACA meeting on the last day of the assembly.


Antonio and President of LACA, Minoru.


We are still in the rainy season and the main streets look still more like a fishing opportunity!

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 30, 2017

YMCA OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 50 YEARS!

  • Andrés Fortunato has many friends around the YMCA movement. When he invites for the 50 years anniversary celebration, we come! Last time I visited Dominican Republic we had time to study nearly all Programmes of the YMCA, from basket ball teams in great numbers over child care to pre school to primary schools and all the way to the so called YMCA village, a place where the YMCA builds brick houses in stead of collapsing wood houses for the poorest of the poor.


This is and has been the profile of this YMCA. To help the most vulnerable. To create safe spaces for children and young people, to give hope to the poor. To be a continued incarnation of Christ to the population of Dominican Republic.

This is the President, the National General Secretary and a board member opening the celebration of the 50 years since the beginning back in 1967.


Already the day before a good group of international guests were arriving and we were taken under Andrés hospitable hands and a warm welcome.

The celebrations started in Catedral Primada de Americas, the first cathedral to be built in the New World. To start in the church is very much in the spirit of Andrés and the YMCA he is leading. In the church I was standing behind a group of young YMCA volunteers, and I was impressed by their T-shirts where it said: “Servir es nuestro norte!” To serve is our North! What a great slogan for YMCA workers and leaders!

The crowd filling the impressive cathedral is the clearest confirmation of a relevant organization serving its constituency well.


Young people carrying the flag of the YMCA through the cathedral with proud smiles on young faces.


And other young leaders carrying the bread and the wine for holy communion.


​Just take time to listen to the strong voices of the choir, lifting our minds and hearts to high levels and helping us to feel the unity and friendship with one another and with Jesus Christ our brother and Savior.


Here above you can see the front side of the young leaders with “service is our North” – T- shirts. You will see Minoru Kobayashi, the President of LACA, and Ingunn also in the photo, because we all enjoyed the good fellowship in the cathedral of Santo Domingo. The Priest was giving a wonderful sermon praising the good deeds of the YMCA.


Andrés together with the Brazilian delegation in front of the altar.


On my way from church today I met a very peaceful bull. We both realized that this was not our first encounter, and the bull grunted to me: “Good to see you back in old Santo Domingo, Mr Johan!”

I grunted back: “And great to see you in such a good shape, Mr Bull!”


Then it started to rain, the sky just opened up and poured water over us in tons and tons, it rained cats and dogs and cows and bulls and even an elephant or two. Without umbrella you were absolutely lost. Seldom had I been more happy to work for an umbrella organization!


As Secretary General of the World Alliance I find myself in a lot of surprising, but very interesting situations, and I thoroughly enjoy most of them. To my great surprise I was seated together with the National Postmaster of the country at the high table. We were about to launch a new postal stamp with motives from the YMCA, and I was invited to push the stamp and sign the first day cover letter together with the Postmaster and Andrés. Since we were at it so well, I quickly invited the Postmaster to sign another first day letter so that I could return from the high table with a great souvenir. You can see the Postmaster being awarded a plaque by Andrés on the photo above.


Karina Roesch has just started working for YMCA Germany, but was also given an award just after the Postmaster. She considered to send a letter home through the post to tell the news, but I beat the post by this blogpost.


Minoru and I felt that this would be a great motive.


Next day, on our way to an excursion to celebrate the anniversary together with YMCA staff and their families, we visited Parque Independencia and paid tribute to the national heroes fighting for independence of the country two hundred years ago.


The group of international guests has been growing in numbers and we all participated very actively in the family party.


On the bus going to the place where we had our party, I was traveling together with Fabian and his sister Maryfell and their mother. Fabian was a great guy and an excellent basket ball player and he assisted me in giving the WAY gift to the President of the YMCA.


In this way he became a representative of the young beneficiaries of the local YMCA as well as a good representative of all the Members of the World Alliance around the globe.


And me proudly being surrounded by the Colombian delegation – we are having a great time together and we are planning to ride on the same bus from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday morning.


A visit to the Museum of Modern Art belongs to a successful experience and here a painting by Yoryi Morel, an internationally known painter from Dominican Republic.


Very interesting sculptures expressing the closeness to the sea.


Naivistisk art by Iris Perez, very impressive paintings, and again the affinity to the ocean.

After that the rainy season hit us in the middle of the street and we sought rescue under a roof in front of a closed history of nature museum. Together with loads of locals we spent a couple of hours doing absolutely nothing while it was pouring down in heavy streams. Tropical heat can become very chilly!

Older Posts »

Categories