And maybe the best city to die in? That is a weird question, of course, and why do I ask such an unusual question? I do, because Porto Alegre is to my knowledge the only city in the world with a genuine YMCA cemetery. In fact they have two, one in Porto Alegre established more than 30 years ago and a new one in Canela, a branch under Porto Alegre YMCA.
Jesus Mostaceros Neyra, leader of Canela YMCA and CEO of the local cemetery. The cemetery has a great sign from the World Alliance!
Jesus told us that normally it takes 6 years to get authorisation from the authorities to run a private cemetery. He managed it in 3 years. They also invested in a crematorium, and since this is a way for burials not so widespread yet, this crematorium serves the needs of both Canela and Porto Alegre. The hyper modern oven is run on internet from a base in Florida. It is all so amazing!
Training course for the rescue workers in Canela YMCA.
From the cemetery we drove out to the YMCA camp and met with a big group of professional YMCA rescue workers. They had a very realistic training course, and in the group were doctors and nurses and general rescue teams, all employed and run by the YMCA. This is a fabulous programme, and should be a need in many YMCAs. Our friends in Canela are more than open for collaboration and are willing to do training and education both at home and abroad. Get in touch if you are interested!
Ambulance drivers and emergency rescue people from Canela YMCA.
And if that was not enough, the YMCA in Canela is operating a professional ambulance station in connection with the city hospital and the emergency number 192. This is a professional service all over Brazil, and here totally run by YMCA professionals. I was so impressed with those people and the novelty of programmes. Amazing. Again get in touch if you want to learn more about such programmes!
On the way back from Canela to Porto Alegre along the river, or is it a lake? People here cannot agree what it is.
Romulo and Ingunn together with two of the leaders from Porto Alegre YMCA showing us around their YMCA centres.
Next morning we woke up to a sunny day in Porto Alegre and it was time to take a round of YMCA installations in the big city. Jose Caporal is the CEO of this YMCA and I was very, very impressed with his leadership of this big organisation. In the above centre they were running huge social programmes for school kids from early morning till late night. Let kids be kids, was the theme, save their childhood!
This is going to be the birthday gift at the 15th anniversary of this centre, one for each of the guests.
The kids seemed to be happy, peaceful and harmonious, and they were engaged in all kinds of volunteer activities, a lot of it rather effective informal education!
In the below video you can watch some traditional Brazilian marshal art dancing.
It was warm that day, around 35 celsius, and we were sweating just standing still and watching these vibrant dances.
Happy kids all over the place, and the YMCA is running several such centres around the city. Often the city authorities pay for the infrastructure and some of the salaries, and it is all managed ably by the YMCA.
We say farewell to the social programmes in the YMCA and travel to the huge source of income, paying for a lot of the good service programmes offered by the YMCA for free, namely the famous Porto Alegre YMCA Cemetery!
This is the size of Latin America’s very first vertical cemetery – the “YMCA Cemiterio Ecumenico Joao XXIII”, named after the famous “Good Pope”.
There are several of these six floor blocks, and all of the walls contain graves, thousands of them. People buy graves, and they pay annual rental fees for the same, and all together it becomes a huge income stream for the YMCA. At the same time they see this as an important need in the local society, to meet people in their saddest moments and give them high quality service to assist them the best way they can.
Marcio Fernandes Rolim, the only YMCA CEO in the world managing a huge cemetery!
Marcio showed us around the cemetery and he told us how difficult it had been to introduce this idea many years ago. It had met with a lot of resistance, but now it is established and everybody takes it for granted, and it really finances a lot of the other activities in the YMCA. And as mentioned – this was the first cemetery in Latin America to be built in several floors. In fact the best view of the city you have from the top floor of the cemetery.
YMCA crematorium – unique in the world!
From here the coffins go directly to the oven in Canela. The cemetery has 5 chapels, a cafeteria and there are plans for an extension with one floor on top of the six floors plus a 24-7 flower shop.
I am just trying to show the dimensions of this institution! And this is only one floor – see how deep it is!
Board meeting of Porto Alegre YMCA, Jose Caporal to the far left is the General Secretary, number three from the left is Matheus, the first Staff Placement in Geneva and number four is Leopoldo, our WAY Treasurer. Number five is Bernadette, the President of the Board.
The General Secretary and the President. They gave us a very friendly and hospitable reception and then took us for a charming Brazilian dinner with a typical cultural show.
Dressed up for a Brazilian party!
Romulo on the stage during dangerous caballero tricks! Romulo quotation: “You know me, the stage comes to me!” A wonderful match!