Posted by: thebluemusicblog | December 19, 2012

NEW ZEALAND 4 – AUCKLAND

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More than one third of the population of New Zealand lives in Auckland, closer to half of the people. They own more than 130 000 boats and yachts and the Television tower is the main landmark of the city. Peter Ferguson is the CEO of the huge YMCA in Auckland, more than 150 years old and the very first customer of the local bank, as I mentioned in a previous blog post. It is very impressive when the local YMCA is almost as old as the city itself, that the YMCA came as the country was being established as a country. Now the Maoris would have a different perspective on when the country became a country. The Maoris came to the islands several hundreds of years before the Europeans came. Peter takes us to the first YMCA centre and we have a walk around in a local branch with a well established programme profile, a YMCA a bit off the main road, but with good community services and outreach.

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The next centre we visit, is Mt Albert Community and Recreation Centre, beautifully located in the middle of a better off community with park like surroundings. Some of the centres operated by Auckland YMCA are in locations owned by the local authorities, secveral centres are also owned by the YMCA itself. The branding of the buildings are very much reflective of ownership or management status. This one is operated by the YMCA in rented locations, therefore the YMCA profile is a bit more modest. The programmes and services and staff are all very clearly YMCA profiled.

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While we are walking through  YMCAs like I often do, we meet the most interesting people from the local communities. Today I walk in to a room where four ladies are enjoying life and one another’s company. They tell me very openly that they belong to a programme called “Never Too Old”. They belonged to different age groups, and normally they were many more people a morning like this. These meetings at the local YMCA gave their lives meaning and joy. They were doing all kinds of physical fitness and exercise, and after the health related activities, they sat together to do more health related activities, like conversation, drinking tea and coffee and  sharing experiences around their useless husbands. This remark causes laughter and smiles and enthusiastic support from the other ladies. They want to know who I am, and being introduced as the Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCA, they ask how that had happened to me? What is my background? And as the rain is dripping outside in a grey Auckland, I tell the Never Too Old Ladies about the fall of the Berlin Wall and work in Eastern Europe in the former Communist block and establishing of twenty new or reestablished National YMCAs and hundreds of local YMCAs over more than twenty years. Even so far south in the world and so many years after the fall of Communism in Europe, these stories have some fascination to them. And as we wave laughingly good bye, the Never Too Old’ies seem reasonably satisfied with the conversation. I feel good about the healthy, smiling, energetic expression of life and happiness in the middle of YMCA. A safe place for a Never Too Old Person, again YMCA as Space, Transformation and Impact. And useless husbands. I do not know about that!

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As you can see, a more modest YMCA branding outside the community centre with shared entrance with the library.

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When Darrell Winning approaches halls like this in the evening with the famous “Raiseup&Represent-programme” for teenagers, it looks a bit less like  a peaceful suburban  community centre and more like a very lively youth centre with up-to-date youth led activities. Darrell tells me about his programme and shows me a video from the disc-jockey training programme and other elements from the youth activities drawing attention from hundreds of teenagers every time. I am more and more impressed with what I hear, and Darrell tells me that there are at least 4 similar full time youth leaders employed at different branches of the Auckland YMCA.

 Like Raiseup Massey on Facebook!  Go to http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Raiseup-Massey/271482482638

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Darrell Winning
YMCA of Auckland Inc.
Youth Team Leader
Massey leisure Centre
See below a fascinating clip from Darrell’s “Raiseup&Represent -Programme”. I talk already about Change Agents and Youth Empowerment and share with Peter Ferguson how we can collaborate around a stronger youth profile of the YMCA globally

https://mail.nzymca.com/OWA/redir.aspx?C=cb1607b0f9df472ca19c96f0d9380a74&URL=http%3a%2f%2fyoutu.be%2fmwIVrzd3b2E

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The above centre is very much owned and branded by the YMCA itself!  See the difference! The centre was renovated and reopened a few weeks ago and looks very modern and fresh. Also here I find a wall with the same kind of posters I saw at Darrell’s office in Massey. Darrell’s colleague was not in when I visited, so I hope to hear more from these activities later on.

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At the headquarter of Auckland YMCA they run a huge hostel and in another building a cheap, but good quality hotel. In the lobby of the hostel they also have the corporate offices of the YMCA and there I meet Arvid, a Norwegian who works as Director of Operations reporting to Peter Ferguson. I enjoy a bit of Norwegian conversation and learn that there are not too many Scandinavians around the coasts of Auckland! The hostel manager is from Sao Paulo, so a truly international atmosphere in Auckland YMCA. After a meeting with Board Chair and Board members it is already time to head for the airport. Peter had composed a very intense and meaningful visit to the Auckland YMCA. Again a local YMCA with demonstrated qualities as a provider of highly relevant services to young and old in local communities in the metropolis Auckland. I discuss with great interest Peter Ferguson’s engagement in branding of the local YMCA. He wants the population of his city to know the YMCA for more than the Village People. Stuff for the Image and Impact Task Force!

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And as we look back at the skyline of Auckland, it is time to sum up almost three weeks impressive visits to the Pacific YMCAs of Australia and New Zealand. I cannot underline strongly enough how important these visits are for my understanding of the realities of the YMCAs in these parts of the world. It is very important for the networking between the different levels and layers  of the YMCAs and for the networking of YMCA leaders, both staff and volunteers. I have had countless meetings and conversations with colleagues and friends to discuss Fundraising, Change Agents, Branding, Youth Empowerment, Spiritual dimensions and Holistic Perspectives. I have discovered programme elements I had not heard about and seen new activities being experimented. And I have seen one good example after the other of excellent governance and management skills. Again I can report that the YMCAs in these parts are in safe hands and that they have a lot to offer to the rest of the YMCA family. And the invitation is going around, slowly and silently and consistently: Please come to Estes Park June 29- July 5 2014 to share and explain and learn and teach and network! The Sleeping Giant is waking up to a new global reality and to a new global YMCA Branding.

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We fly over high mountains and deep valleys and see the sun setting over calm waves in the Pacific Ocean in a summerly New Zealand. It was also great, from a cultural point of view, to follow intensified Christmas preparations in the southern hemisphere. So different and so fresh! Barbecue on the beach, Christmas combined with summer holidays, and still with postcards of snow and rain deer! Beautiful! And Christmas with snow or sandy beaches is the same around the globe – the joyful celebration of the child Jesus coming to a world in need of Him!

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And as the Blue Music Blog closes for Christmas, I want to say thank you to all of you who have visited from time to time and to you who have traveled along the NEW WAY through all twelve months of 2012. My intention is to share my impressions from different parts of the YMCA world for all of us to learn more about this fascinating NGO family and what makes the YMCA tick around the world. As I was speaking to a group of 130 YMCA managers at Victoria YMCA in Melbourne, I received the following tweet while I was giving my speech:

Sec Gen @ymcaint World Alliance @eltvikjohan telling @ymcavictoriahow local mission delivery continuing to drive the Y #smf2012 #local

 This is in fact a very good reflection of what I am trying to say through the metaphor: WAKING THE SLEEPING GIANT! Thank you, Shane!
Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year! On the third of January 2013 I will share my New Years Message with you on the Blue Music Blog.
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