This is the oldest YMCA building in India, the famous headquarter of Madras YMCA in Chennai. It has a beautiful facade and a not so beautiful interior, but there are plans for renovation. This building was set up in 1891.
Chennai was the entrance of Christianity to India, and no other than the apostle Thomas was the one to bring the gospel of the resurrected Jesus Christ to India. From 58 to 78 AD he lived and worked in India, in this specific area of India, and here, in the hills outside the city centre, was he assassinated during a time of prayer. He was stabbed from behind, but was able to run down to the valley below, where he died. The Thomas Church is built over his grave, and it was a special experience to visit both the site of assassination as well as the church where he is buried.
Can you believe that this land is in the middle of the big city? It is surrounded by big multinational companies, especially from the IT-industry, and between those giants of capital and richness lies a huge piece of land belonging to the YMCA in Chennai, the Madras YMCA. Here they have built an orphanage especially catering for children having lost their families in the Tsunami. Here is a school for hundreds of children, a vocational training centre, and a hostel for women, mostly young girls working in the IT-industry. I was amazed both by the good educational programmes, the fact that the children got it for free, included a meal per day, as well as by the fact that the YMCA land here is worth millions, if sold or restructured.
This is from the school on the land surrounded by gigantic multinational companies. Modest, maybe, but look at the richness in happy smiles and shining eyes and youth empowerment happening straight in front of our eyes.
And as so often in India, the distance is not long from deep poverty to rich, colonial luxury, as demonstrated in this hotel lobby where we were taken to a celebratory lunch. the hot and humid climate did no good to my growing cold and loosing voice, so a bit of air-conditioning was warmly or coldly welcome!
Below you can see the memorial at the hilltop where the apostle Thomas was assassinated. We went there with the leadership of the Madras YMCA and enjoyed also the magnificent view of Chennai below the hill.
YMCA College of Physical Education was founded by Mr. Harry Crowe Buck in the year 1920. Mr. Buck was a pioneer in physical education training in India. The college stands as a hallmark for training physical education teachers, coaching the students who can teach physical education, skills and techniques of games, organizing sports competition and undergo research programmes. This college is instrumental in producing trained gym instructors, atheletic trainers, sports nutritionists and individuals specialized in sports injury management, aerobics training and martial arts. YMCA College of Physical Education is an autonomous college affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University. It is a project of National Council of YMCAs of India. The institute is accredited by NAAC as an A grade college. It is recognized by National Council of Teacher Education and Government of Tamil Nadu. (Website)
And here I met two old friends, the Principal of the College, Dr. Sheila Stephen, whom I met at a meeting of the YMCA University Coalition in Kassel, Germany a couple of years ago. She is the third person to my right. To my immediate right is Dr. R. Sweety Premkumar, Correspondent & Secretary of the College. He was the representative of the World Alliance to a commission of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance on HIV-AIDS, and I used the opportunity to thank him warmly for his fine work, which he is continuing to date.
Just on the day we arrived was 3000 students from 14 colleges around India coming together in Chennai for the State level Inter University Sports Competition, and I was given the honor of officially opening the games and saluting all the students as they were marching past the tribune. Quite a warm honor in the tropical sun!