Posted by: thebluemusicblog | May 8, 2012


Peru. My first visit to Latin America as Secretary General. Peru. It is a land of mystery and magnificent history. Cusco, the  highland capitol of the Inca culture. I have seen the photos,  and thought that this must be the most fascinating place to visit in the world. Trujillo in the north, the centre of the Moche culture, the very advanced culture coming long before the Incas, from 50 – 700 after Christ. The land of gold and silver and ancient societies. The driest deserts in the world, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, clinging to the Andes Mountains.  The jungle with the rainforest and the mighty river Amazonas. The White Andes Mountains with eternal snow and glaciers. What a country!

We land in Lima, and it feels like we are going to touch down on the beach, the airport in Lima is very close to the waves of the Pacific, and we almost touch the hair of the windsurfers below us.

Edgardo Crovetto, the globetrotter gentleman of the Peruvian YMCA, National General Secretary, gives us a bear hug and big welcoming smiles and takes us to the Jose Antonio Hotel downtown Lima. Edgardo is, among other things,  the former National Secretary of YMCA Italy, he is the former General Secretary of the Latin American Confederation of YMCAs, but he is first and foremost the most charming and elegant friend you can find on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Early next morning we meet with Edgardo and his National Staff, for a great Peruvian breakfast and a first exchange around YMCA Peru and about NEW WAY. They inform me about their cutting edge social programmes, YMCA empowering young people and giving them Space, Transformation and Impact.  They tell me about their schools with hundreds of young people getting education of the most modern kind, built on all the values of the YMCA.  I hear about their plans for extension and expansion. They are 8 years ahead of their centennial celebrations and want the Peruvian YMCA to be present in more societies in Peru. I listen to the stories of the informal educational programmes and of the Christian mission of the YMCA and how Peru is a leading force in this field of YMCA work as well.

Our charming and very safe driver and guide, Christian Gonzales, in the middle, to the left David Perez, teacher at the centre in Trujillo and Alan Velasques, also teacher.

I share with them the latest news from the meetings in Nairobi and tell them about the Nairobi Agreement on Youth Empowerment.  Daniel, the Vice President of Peru YMCA sits on the Executive Committee of the World Alliance and he has already informed his friends about Nairobi. They smile and I can see recognition and agreement in their eyes. This is a message they can fully embrace, and the question is quickly formulated – how can Peru help in this great undertaking?

Rocio Solis, our friend and travel companion and responsible for the excellent social programmes in Peru, to the right.

After breakfast Rocia, responsible for the social programmes, takes us to the airport and we catch a flight to the northern end of the country, Trujillo. Christian, the driver at the local YMCA and involved in the youth programmes in Trujillo, meets us at the airport and becomes an integrated member of our travelling adventure in the kingdom of the Moche on the search for the  ancient Lords  of Sipan and the Priests of the Temple of the Moon and the Sun. We have lunch at the seaside resort of Chiclayo and overlooking the Pacific Ocean and enjoying the fresh breeze we eat from the famous menu of the Peruvian cuisine, I have fish cooked in lemon and it is magnificent, even for a Norwegian with some experience with fish!

We pay a first visit to the YMCA vocational training centre, have the first encounter with the two young and excellent German volunteers there, Annika Zillmann and Ina Lutz, and meet the children of the after school programme. This centre had been started around 10 years ago to try to improve the living conditions of the children working at the recycling waste plant nearby, children not attending school and getting plenty of diseases from this dangerous work. Child labour is forbidden by law in Peru up till the age of 14, but it is still a widespread problem. This YMCA programme worked both with the parents, with the children and with the local and regional authorities in a coordinated approach to take the children away from the child labour, to open doors back to school and to give them vocational training and training in advocacy work, whereby they have gained a voice and have had quite a lot of influence in issues related to children and youth in these areas.

Next day we are invited for graduation day at the centre. They have prepared a wonderful cultural programme for us, they read beautiful poems, they play the guitars and they dance Marinera for us, the traditional dance from the north of Peru.

Two of the students present what they have achieved during the year, and they speak eloquently and with self-confidence. With the help of YMCA partners like Y-Care and Germany they have built their own bakery and learnt how to set up a small business concept and now the bakery is being run with a profit!

Earlier the same day we had visited the brand new Museum of the tombs of the Lords of Sipan in Choclayo, an overwhelming museum covering the Moche culture and showing gold and silver from the tombs of the ancient chiefs and priests of that time.

Next day, before we turn our noses back to Lima, we walk through the Temple of the Moon outside Trujillo.

It is a gigantic construction, between the Temple of the Moon and the Temple of the Sun is a city located, and this is now being excavated by an impressive team of archaeologists. The Temple of the Moon was the first to be excavated and has been open just for two years.

It is a fascinating revelation of the ancient religion of the Moche culture. On the wall of the temple we see different layers of symbols and drawings showing how human beings, male warriors, were selected through ritual fighting and then prepared for being sacrificed to the god to satisfy him and make the rain  come and make life safe and good and stable.

The programme is tight, and having landed in Lima we have 45 minutes to get changed for the evening programme. We enter the outside courtyard of the big YMCA centre in Lima and are met by 200 young people singing and dancing and welcoming us in the most energetic way.

I am invited to impress them with my skills in basketball playing, somewhat to my surprise, but as always I do as I am told. After that I have a two hour sessions indoors with the young people and tell them about our plans for Youth Empowerment in Action and the 200 Change Agents we plan to train, starting from this autumn.

I can feel excitement in the hall, and they do not stop asking questions. What does Empowerment mean for me? How did YMCA change my life? How can young people from Lima feel that they have a role to play in a global strategy? The discussion is led by Daniel, the Vice President, and quite a young man himself.

Gone is the tiredness from a long day, I no longer feel the hot dust from the Temple of the Moon, nor do I feel the challenging heat of the burning sun. This is inspiring, this is engaging, this is discussing the change model of the YMCA with 200 young leaders, engaging 200 young people in global strategizing. Wow!  I have not felt so energized for a long time.

We cut the discussion 3 minutes to 9 p.m. This is the time for a formal, but very friendly dinner with the National Board and staff.

Daniel, The Vice President, and member of the WAY Executive Committee, to the right of Ingunn.

Raoul starts it with an impressive devotion. A king has got two eagles as a gift, and he cannot make them fly. A gifted man from the mountains manages to make them fly, and the king asks him how he did it? It is very simple, the man from the mountains answers: I cut the branch where they were sitting, and in a split of a second the eagles discovered that they had wings and used them and they were flying!

Raoul and Pedro on the National Staff.

For the global YMCA to change profoundly and for the sleeping giant to wake up, quite a lot of branches need to be cut and comforting safety nets need to be removed.

Thursday takes us downtown Lima to a centre for children in a challenging part of the city. Again an impressive social programme reaching out to hundreds of children in need.

Ynes, our excellent translator and guide to interesting places in Lima, is hospitality herself, and in the evening we are invited to a very special dinner with Gerardo, the President of the Peruvian YMCA, his wife Monica, Edgardo and his wife Rosario. Gerardo is also an old friend, and he has come back from the NAYDO conference in the USA a few hours earlier.

We meet at a fish restaurant 100 meters from the shore, the waves are breaking underneath us, and we enjoy the maritime cuisine of Peru as we summarize our eventful visit to the country and the YMCA. What a place! What a YMCA!


  1. Dear Johan,

    We are very happy that Ingunn and you have enjoyed your visit to Perú, the land of the incas and much more. For all of us in our national movement, and personally for me, it was an honor and a great pleasure show a few of our programmes and our cultural diversity. We hope that you come back soon, people from the YMCA of Perú will wait for you always when you want to listen some of good blue music.

    Warm and brotherly greetings


    • Dear Gerardo,

      Thank you for these kind words. I enjoyed meeting you here in Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, together with Edgardo and many LACA friends. Peru was unforgettable, and Blue Music I can always listen to!
      Warm regards


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