Posted by: thebluemusicblog | March 21, 2012


Two weekends ago the sun was shining and there was a brilliant spring day. We took some good visitors for a drive around Lac Leman and visited the castle  Chateau de Chillon outside Montreux. It was towards evening, so most tourists had disappeared and we had the castle more or less to ourselves. Romantic, beautiful, fascinating and with the most impressive and scary outside toilet I have ever seen, 50 meters free fall and with strong ventilation.

This is part of the castle with the sunset behind. The mountains in Switzerland are of course always breathtaking and hugely impressive.

You may wonder if we have nothing more to do than to visit old castles and admire the wonderful nature in Switzerland? The situation is that the time since Christmas has been enormously busy and intense, and the staff of the World Alliance has been deeply engaged in developing concept papers and implementation plans for Youth Empowerment and sharing these papers with the Global Staff Team, the leaders of the Area YMCAs, and consulting and discussing and revising the same papers. We have started to develop concepts for the World Council in 2014, making plans for a two years training and preparing of 200 Change Agents all around the world, young leaders for pilot projects in the Areas, taking us to the World Council in 2014. In fact the whole preparation of the World Council will be the implementation of the Youth Empowerment in Action initiative, which you can read about in my two previous blog posts. We are also preparing for the World Challenge, a mass mobilization of YMCA people from the whole world, to take place, locally in many, many YMCAs, on October the 13th. As a gag we will count how many people will play basketball at the same time, in addition to all the ordinary local  YMCA activities that will be presented in thousands of local communities.

Now we are going to Nairobi, Kenya, next Tuesday, to have a series of meetings with the Executive Committee of the World Alliance, with the Global Staff Team, with the International Secretaries and with a good number of what we call Stakeholders, senior leaders, volunteers and staff from more than 3o countries around the world. We will have a Stakeholders’ meeting with more than 70 leaders, included the 30 members of the Executive Committee. We will all talk about Youth Empowerment and how the YMCA can better focus on this in all what we do in the YMCA.

What has any of this to do with Chateau de Chillon? Nothing. But it was a brilliant spring Saturday and we enjoyed the romantic castle until we discovered that this was also the centre of witch hunt and witch burning a few hundred years ago, and that in the cellars of the castle, where we were walking around, women (mostly) were imprisoned in quite big numbers, waiting for the final verdict and punishment.

Walking around these cellars and reading all the information that was written on posters, gave me information that among these Swiss mountains there had been especially many witches being burnt, and there was no obvious reason for it. But the numbers were very high compared to Germany and especially Italy in those days. I shall not try to philosophize  over these mysterious facts and figures, but it made me think of the huge development this society had undergone since then.

It made me think of all the good people of Switzerland, who through those centuries brought their society in to more civilized and humane forms. It is absolutely possible to influence a society and change life for groups of vulnerable human beings. Somehow this afternoon walk through the cellars of Chateau de Chillon gave me a good infusion of optimism.

When we talk about Youth Empowerment and really changing life for young people in very vulnerable situations, this is possible and doable and we just need to join hands with other people of good will and other organizations of the same will and sharing the same values as us and just continue to fight for the good, to make small steps forward and one day we will wake up and realize that the world has changed. This is not a message for politicians who would want to be elected tomorrow. It is a message about hope for us who have long perspectives in what we are doing, it is a message about optimism for organizations like ours – the YMCA.

The Christian values on which the YMCA was founded and on which we are still building, helped our societies to become better societies. You saw the little boy playing with the barrels two photos up? These are the children and young people we are working for, fighting for, so that they shall have a better future and live lives full of hopes and future perspectives.

Then I left the Chateau de Chillon in the first light of spring and felt encouraged to go on. It works.

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