It is great to be back in Africa again and being welcomed by these young men from the Masai people. We have come back to see the glory of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and to learn from our colleagues and friends in the African YMCAs.
The first morning in Africa I spent with all National General Secretaries from Africa at their annual meeting. I have always liked and enjoyed these meetings of colleagues. Last time we met in Senegal, this time in
Kenya. This morning we started out talking about the need to move closer towards being a social movement.
The sharing is open and collegial and we soon come down to very
existential issues for our common work in the YMCA. I thank my
colleagues under their leadership of Carlos Sanvee.
Four days later we all hit the road and go by wheels together from
Nairobi to Moshi in Tanzania. The International NGS Meeting is about
to start at the foot of Africa’s highest mountain – Kilimanjaro, 6000 m high.
60 people are registered. The theme is “From Hong Kong to Chiang Mai.”
This symbolizes a travel together from the World Council in Hong Kong
in 2010 over Estes Park in 2014 to the next World Council in Thailand
in 2018. Since 2013 we have had these global NGS meetings every year.
This year we celebrated 5 years anniversary by diving into the African
reality to learn from the deep experiences on the African continent.
I started out with an opening perspective on where we are in our
strategic process, where we are in the process of transformation. I
described the journey together from Hong Kong till today in a few key
1. Waking the Sleeping Giant.
2. The DNA of YMCA is Youth Empowerment (Nairobi Statement 2012).
2. Change Model. SPACE – TRANSFORMATION – IMPACT.
3. Change Agent job description: Be the Change, Share the Vision,
4. Change towards greater unity.
5. The Three Wheels.
The Three Wheels symbolise the need for the global YMCA movement to
reposition itself so that millions more young people are becoming
involved and engaged by the YMCA. YMCA with all the young people
become the second wheel which together will engage the large wheel –
to change the world to a better place.
To be able to reposition ourselves to become more relevant to the
young people of today, we need to consider three main challenges,
formulated in the following slogans:
1. We need to go from Institution to Social Movement.
2. We need to go from Political Silence to Ethical Action – The Trust
of young people is our capital.
3. We need to reach Sustainable Development – Small and Medium Size
YMCAs need to take responsibility for their own financial development
by among other means to develop their own property portfolios in a
professional manner helped by the World YMCA. Youth Empowerment leads
finally to Empowering the YMCA itself!
The famous Kenyan lawyer and Constitutional expert Patrick Lumumba, he
goes under the name of PLO and he is an old friend of the YMCA, came
to give us the key note speech on Social Movements in Africa. He
inspired us all enormously.
After PLO came Boniface Mwangi and told us the story of his life, the life of
a young African activist growing into a famous photo journalist in
Kenya. Again an inspiring testimonial from the African realities. We
are proud to have friends like PLO and Boniface – the new leaders of
Then we turned to the second challenge: From Political Silence to
Ethical Action and we spent a day on a deep going sharing on Safe
Space, on how the YMCA movement can learn to deal with difficult
issues related to discrimination of all kinds. Is it possible to find
a working Safe Space methodology as a process for healing and
The Safe Space report will soon be shared with the movement. Now we
just asked the National Secretaries to be our consultants as we
finalise the report.
In the evaluation of our meeting almost everybody rated the Safe Space
conversation as a high light, so I feel immensely optimistic and
The NGS meeting also gave us the official launching of “One Million
Voices 2” – the new World YMCA Youth Research.
And of course the launching of Change Agent Cohort 3 – 400 new Change
Agents to help us organise the largest ever World Council in 2018.
The African dinner was an experience in itself, and the excursion to
visit a YMCA Centre on the countryside was very impressive.