Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 20, 2015


Ernesto had asked me if we would participate in the graduation ceremony for a new class of YMCA Lideres, and of course I found this event to be an ideal place to end an important meeting of the National General Secretaries, and below you can see a happy group of these Lideres, newly graduated and dressed in the red jackets that gives them right to be called Lideres.IMG_7346

But before we came to this evening event in the middle of the Camp Camohmila, we had our final sessions of the NGS meeting. During the session about Social Enterprises we heard about Alternative Tourism, Production of Cook Books, Peace Voyages and then Nam from Korea gave us a presentation of the Korean Peace Coffee from East Timor.


Odetta and Andres

We then went into the final session where we summed up all the issues and items that we had covered during g this short week. We started with Movement Strengthening and all the different components of that. All of us agree that this is the most important challenge for all of us, and that the primary responsibility for Movement Strengthening inside the YMCA lays with the National Movement.


Lourdes from Panama

Secondly the Area Organizations have the responsibility to oversee the needs of their regions and assist the National Movements in need of outside assistance. Thirdly the World YMCA has a responsibility to coordinate and assist the whole system of Movement Strengthening. Integrated in Movement Strengthening is Youth Empowerment, Change Agents, One Million Voices Research and all levels of communications. These activities are uniting us, are giving us a stronger voice and a  better position in the world and more recognition – all of which hopefully will come to the local YMCAs as a benefit and therefore as a Movement Strengthening. And the reason why we want stronger movements, is of course that we want the mission of the YMCA to be delivered to more people and in better ways.


Victor from Macedonia was together with me in Mexico 10 years ago, a good friend from my years in Eastern Europe

We continued into Change Agents and summed up all the feedback and critical elements that had been highlighted. Not everybody agreed in all details, and some did not agree in major elements of the programme, like using the Peace Boat for training purposes, or having more than one global gathering. The integration of Change Agents is also an issue that is not fully clarified for some movements. We agreed that there is full freedom in these questions, and that those  YMCA deciding not to participate for the time being would be fully respected for these decisions.


Many expressed problems with setting up the goal of mobilizing 2 million new leaders for the YMCA, and we agreed that there is a need to mobilize as many new leaders as we possibly can over the next years.


David from Barbados

The need for assistance on professional level to local YMCA in handling their buildings and other assets was expressed very clearly from a majority.


Jared from Kenya

The need to develop Social Enterprises to fund the visions of YMCA was also agreed, even if not everybody agreed in using the Peace Boat for income generating purposes. After this summary we continued with a solid round of evaluation after the meeting, and it was clearly and unanimously said that these annual meetings of National General Secretaries have become an important strategic platform for sharing and consultations and need to be continued.


We assembled to participate in the graduation ceremony and it was heartwarming to see the kids from the social project in Camp Camohmila. These children, 75 in numbers, live in the camp from Monday till Friday, go to school, do their homework and have three good meals per day. In the weekends they go home, and their backgrounds are all from poverty.


The National Secretaries were invited to assist in the ceremony and many hugs and photos were exchanged!


Then I was invited to give a speech, excellently translated by one of the young girls from the programme. I told them three shorts stories. The first one from a prison in Africa where I amongst 2000 young prisoners found a YMCA inside the prison, They assisted illiterate young people to write to the judge to have their cases tried again. In this way the YMCA had freed hundreds of young prisoners, who did not belong in prison! This is Youth Empowerment!


As the campfire was coloring the faces of the audience in warm, golden colors, I continued to the garbage dump in the north of Peru, where children were doing dangerous work in the middle of poisonous garbage. The YMCA of Peru was there to take the children away from the garbage dump and child labour and give them a place in the vocational training school. They got new lives, new futures and new hopes. This is Youth Empowerment!


The third story is from my office in Geneva. A young man came to work with us in the World Headquarters. He spoke excellently English and worked very well, and we all liked him so much that he came back for a second period of three months. One day he and I were driving around the beautiful Lake Geneva, and he told me of his life. He came from Mexico, from poverty, and had lived in Camp Camohmila as part of the 75 kids in the social programme. Then he grew to be a worker in the camp, then an employee in Mexican YMCA in Mexico City, and then he came to Geneva to work for six months with us. His name is Jesus Abraham, and he sits over there! The cheering would not stop . This is Youth Empowerment! Gracias Mexico! Good luck, young Lideres and God bless you!


Jesus Abraham, the first Staff Placement in Geneva ever, and from Camp Camohmila


There were many proud mothers with their kids up for graduation, and these lovely people were sitting at our table. I met only one father


Here seven mothers who wanted to have their photographs taken with me. I was of course just a big smile!

IMG_7348And here together with Ernesto and some of his staff and board members together with Nam from Korea. This was the final part of our NGS meeting and next morning we go to Mexico City. Some to go to the airport and fly home, some to have a meeting about communication plans for One Million Voices Research and the launch of the report in October-November, and some to continue their 30 days travel through other parts of YMCA Mexico and then back to the Caribbean for more field visits in exotic locations. Follow us on the journey and more blog posts will pop up in your mailbox!


  1. !Gracias! Johan, for this series of thoughtful, informative, exciting posts about your visit to Y’s in the Caribbean & Central America! I’ve enjoyed every story, and this final blog is a wonderful ‘adios’ to the trip. yours, Eileen

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