Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 21, 2017


The board and staff of YMCA Madagascar made us feel really warmly welcome in the Capitol Antananarivo tonight. We had the first orientation of the challenges and priorities of the national YMCA.

Carlos, Ingunn and I are traveling together. We came back from Moshi in Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya yesterday, and after one last night in Nairobi we took off with Kenya Airways to Antananarivo this morning.

Here Antananarivo from the air. You can see that the landscape is green and fertile. The rainy season has started, but they have waited for rain since October last year. Climate change is hitting hard, and Madagascar may face a food shortage come November this year as a result of the draught and failing crop.

Welcome at the airport. Nirina and three of her staff came to pick us up. Nirina iNational General Secretary, and we have just spent time together both at the African as well as the global NGS meetings in Nairobi and Moshi. Nirina is an excellent national leader, and she is also chair of the World Alliance Resourcegroup for Employment. It is therefore very interesting to visit Madagascar to learn from the important work the YMCA here is offering to young unemployed.

Rice fields on the way to downtown. Tomorrow morning we are having a very official breakfast meeting where the Minister for Employment and Vocational Training will come and meet with us. Together with the Minister leading personalities from the national ILO  office and key representative from corporate business will be present to discuss Youth Employment. Media will be there as well. What a great opportunity to put a key youth issue on the agenda!

PR and Communication staff, Finance staff and Nirina welcoming us.

Our excellent driver for the week, So.

The palace of the President is in the neighborhood and most of the government offices are concentrated here, together with a number of embassies. We are at least planning to visit the Norwegian Ambassador here.

Madagascar is a former French Colony and therefore a surplus of French cars are available. Our first car, the car of our youth, was a Renault 4 with umbrella gear and sun roof. For Ingunn and me all the taxi Renault 4s here is an amazing return to a romantic youth. Unfortunately there is a cemetery for Renault 4s as well….

Busy life in front of the railroad station.

Madagascar has a unique fauna and flora and a high number of species only available on this magnificent island – the third largest in the world. We cannot wait to explore more of the YMCA, the society, the culture and the nature. We are happy to be here. According to local knowledge I am also the first Secretary General of the World YMCA to visit, so that makes it also special.

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 20, 2017



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).
3. Change Agent job description: Be the Change, Share the Vision,
Inspire Action.
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
constructive conversation?


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.


Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 12, 2017


“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fear!” This wonderful
message from Nelson Mandela I found on the wall of the YMCA Kenya
Vocational Training Centre in the Shauri Moyo Branch in Nairobi. This
is the lenses I have decided to use as I watch the Kenya YMCA during
my visit here.

The gate leading to the Kingdom of Heaven is narrow. Jared Musima, the National General Secretary, is demonstrating that Bible passage in the photo below. Jared’s choices are built on hopes. He started his career in the YMCA movement in Kenya as a full time volunteer after University. He has had no other job than the YMCA. So high were his hopes and so deep was his motivation that he went on for seven years with full time volunteering. That meant seven years with no pay. Yesterday I came to Thika Branch, Thika is the Industrial city of Kenya with a million inhabitants. I saw the little office Jared used for seven years, and I am still impressed. I am impressed with a man who has a CV full of servant leadership positions. A life built on hopes, not on fear.


Kenya YMCA under Jared’s leadership has shown no fear in choosing to embrace Youth Empowerment fully. Kenya YMCA is vibrant with young energy, with young leadership and with Change Agents. The language of Youth Empowerment is working. Here is Empowerment, Space, Change, Transformation, Voice for Youth, Employment Training, Skills Development, Vocational Training. I love it. In Thika we are being welcomed by the Branch Manager, the local General Secretary, Lillian, in fluent Norwegian. Lillian showed no fear in choosing to go to Norway for a full year as a YMCA volunteer, and showed no fear in returning to a job as local General Secretary. She has a fine leadership style, and communicates with the young members of Thika YMCA as naturally as with family.


The Vocational Training is a great way of empowering young people. In the Kibera Branch I see classes for tailors, in Shauri Moyo Branch I see classes for electricians, plumbers, car mechanics, hairdressers and beauty workers, IT specialists, tailors and hospitality workers. Young people are on waiting lists to enter the courses, and the success is nearly total – all the students are getting into sensible work, either as employees or as self employed business operators. They get lots of entrepreneurial training as well. The vocational Training of Kenya YMCA is a reflection of hope.


No lack of courage for young people climbing to new heights in their career development!


The skills training is focused on the job market out there, and is often geared at very practical levels. The skills are needed and jobs are waiting. It is a real success story. I also see the first contours of a new picture – a picture of the future YMCA where we do not think as donors and givers, thinking that these schools and training centres need our gifts of US 5000 a year. That keeps them on survival level. What is needed is a focus on investment. If we invest US 50 – 100 000 in one of these centres,one time, it will be able to educate the double number of young people and scale up both quality of provision and number of students. Scaled up to a certain break even level, many of these small institutions will become self sustained and even able to help start new centres.


This may be a surprising snapshot of a lunch break at the YMCA. But that is what this is. A lunch break at the Kenya YMCA College of Agriculture and Technology, not far away from Banana Hill. 200 students are learning about farming and Animal Health and Production, Food Processing, Automotive Engineering, Biogas Technology and Pig Rearing, Dairy & Poultry Rearing just to mention some of the many courses taught at this YMCA College.


It is the most well maintained and well managed farm I have ever visited, and beautifully located in the so called White Highlands of Kenya they produce vegetables of high quality and have a large tea production with good profit. Bananas and other fruits and even a fish pond and  a facility for biogas production from fertiliser are located on the property.


If you enlarge the list above, you will see a full record of the certified courses the YMCA College is offering to the 200 students.


Talking to the Headmaster of the College, here to the right of Jared Musima, his main problem at the college is lack of funds to expand the volume of the farm, both in farmland, in animal production and in numbers of students. Again there is a long waiting list for the students, and when employers come to him to ask for students for employment, he has to turn them away – all his students are already catered for – jobs are waiting for them!


The young lady to the left here is the manager of the farm, and is doing a terrific job! Again I see the new picture – not of mild donors and givers from the YMCA, but a sensible system of social investors who will see the potential and future impact of  a scaled up College. As it is now, the College breaks even and pays all its own cost. The land was given to the YMCA by some of the colonialists who left Kenya at independence and saw the YMCA as a solid organisation to give their land to. That investment in the future created a self sustained institution that is changing the lives of young people in the thousands. It reminds me of the Tanzania YMCA, when I visited their YMCA farm school. The land was given to the YMCA by the first President of their country, the first President after independence. In Tanzania also this farmland has made a self sustained YMCA in the country. There is a large lesson to be learnt here.


I saw lots of hope being reflected in the sports activities in Thika, South C  YMCA Branch, Kibera, Shauri Moyo and in the Central Branch in Nairobi. Youth Empowerment par excellence!


And as I visited the slum districts in Nairobi, again the liberating oasis of a YMCA centre in the middle of it. Like I have seen in so many other cities of the world, Freetown in Sierra Leone, New Delhi in India, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Valparaiso in Chile, Sao Paolo in Brazil. The school at the Kibera Branch reflects no fear of the challenges from the slum, but reflects hopes, tons of hopes. See these wonderful kids below, kids in excellent education in the middle of huge poverty.


When we left the class room, the students ran out the back door and prepared a concert for us in the school yard. I shook hands with all of them and thanked them for making my day. Youth Empowerment, Change in action, Space – Transformation – Impact.


There are so many more aspects of Kenya YMCA I could have highlighted. The way Kenya is a partner for World YMCA in the development of the Property Project – I shall write more about that soon. Or the way Kenya organises Career Events where young people are meeting with opportunities from corporate business and government employers.


Let me just say goodbye to my friends in Kenya YMCA with a photo of high voltage Youth Empowerment energy from Thika Branch of the YMCA. I leave Kenya with Inspiration and Learning and lots of food for thought.

May my choices reflect my hopes, not my fears!



« Newer Posts - Older Posts »