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|Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA)|
London, Great Britain
The Young Men's Christian Association (commonly known as YMCA or simply the Y) is a worldwide organization with more than 58 million beneficiaries from 125 national associations. It was founded on 6 June 1844 in London and it aims to put Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy "body, mind and spirit". These three angles are reflected by the different sides of the (red) triangle – part of all YMCA logos. The different local YMCAs are voluntarily affiliated through their national organisations. The national organisations in turn are part of both an Area Alliance and the World Alliance of YMCAs. The World Alliance's main motto is: "Empowering young people" and it is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Alliance has a charter from the United States Congress.
Earlier youth organizations
The oldest organisation that was similar to the YMCA is the SBA, founded in 1787 as the Lediger Verein. In 1834, the Bremen Jünglingsverein was founded in northern Germany. The Nazis would close all German Jünglingsvereine in the 1930s, but they would be re-established after the war as CVJMs. The oldest association in the United Kingdom similar to the YMCA was founded in Scotland in 1824 as the Glasgow Young Men's Society for Religious Improvement. The French Société Philadelphique was founded in Nîmes in 1843.
With regard to the history and purpose of the founding, one must take into account that this "organisation and its female counterpart (YWCA) were established to provide low-cost housing in a safe Christian environment for rural young men and women journeying to the cities." The YMCA "combined preaching in the streets and the distribution of religious tracts with a social ministry. Philanthropists saw them as places for wholesome recreation that would preserve youth from the temptations of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution and that would promote good citizenship."
Founding and Paris Basis
The YMCA was founded by George Williams, a draper who was typical of the young men drawn to the cities by the Industrial Revolution. He and his colleagues were concerned about the lack of healthy activities for young men in major cities. The options available were usually taverns and brothels. On 6 June 1844, he founded the first YMCA in London with the purpose of "the improving of the spiritual condition of young men engaged in the drapery, embroidery, and other trades." By 1851, there were YMCAs in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France.
In 1855, ninety-nine YMCA delegates from Europe and North America met in Paris at the First World Conference of YMCAs for the first time before the 1855 Paris World Exposition. They discussed the possibility of joining together in a federation to enhance co-operation amongst individual YMCA societies. This marked the beginning of the World Alliance of YMCAs. The conference adopted the Paris Basis, a common mission for all present and future national YMCAs. Its motto was taken from the Bible, "That they all may be one" (John 17:21). Other ecumenical bodies such as the World YWCA, the World Council of Churches and the World Student Christian Federation, reflected elements of the Paris Basis in their founding mission statements. In 1865, The Fourth World Conference of YMCAs, in Germany, affirmed the importance of developing the whole individual in body, mind and spirit. The concept of physical work through sports, a new concept for the time, was also recognised.
Two themes resonated during the council: the need to respect the local autonomy of YMCA societies, and the purpose of the YMCA: to unite all young, male Christians for the extension and expansion of the Kingdom of God. The former idea is expressed in the preamble:
The delegates of various Young Men’s Christian Associations of Europe and America, assembled in Conference at Paris, the 22nd August, 1855, feeling that they are one in principle and in operation, recommend to their respective Societies to recognise with them the unity existing among their Associations, and while preserving a complete independence as to their particular organisation and modes of action, to form a Confederation of secession on the following fundamental principle, such principle to be regarded as the basis of admission of other Societies in future.
1870s to 1930s – an influential period
The YMCA's most influential period since its conception could be between the 1870s and 1930s. It is during this time that they most successfully promoted "evangelical Christianity in weekday and Sunday services, while promoting good sportsmanship in athletic contests in gyms (where basketball and volleyball were invented) and swimming pools." Later in this period, and continuing on through the 20th century, the YMCA had "become interdenominational and more concerned with promoting morality and good citizenship than a distinctive interpretation of Christianity. Today the YMCA is more focused on inspiring youths and their families to exercise and be healthy.
Growth of World Alliance and Scouting
In 1878, World Alliance of YMCAs offices were established in Geneva, Switzerland. Later, in 1900, North American YMCAs, in collaboration with the World Alliance, would begin working in European ports, with millions of migrants leaving for the USA. In 1880, the YMCA became the first national organisation to adopt a strict policy of equal gender representation in committees and national boards, with Norway being the country that first adopted it. In 1885, Camp Baldhead (later known as Camp Dudley), the first residential camp in North America, was established by A. Sanford and Sumner F. Dudley, both of whom worked for the YMCA. The camp, originally being located near Orange Lake in New Jersey, moved to Lake Wawayanda in Sussex County the following year, and then to the shore of Lake Champlain near Westport, New York in 1891. By 1910, the YMCA was an early influence upon Scouting, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and German Scouting. Edgar M. Robinson, a Chicago-area YMCA administrator, briefly left the YMCA to become the BSA's first director.
Rural development to World War II
In 1916, K. T. Paul became the first Indian National General Secretary of India. Paul had started rural development programmes for self-reliance of marginal farmers, through co-operatives and credit societies. These programmes became very popular. He also coined the term "rural reconstruction", and many of the principles he developed were later incorporated into the Government's nation-wide community development programmes. In 1923, Y.C. James Yen, of the YMCA of China, devised the "thousand character system", based on pilot projects in education. The method also became very popular, and in 1923, it led to the founding of the Chinese National Association of the Mass Education Movement. In 1928, a historic YMCA in Jerusalem was established during the British Mandate. During World War II, the YMCA was involved in war work with displaced persons and refugees. They set up War Prisoners Aid to support prisoners of war by providing sports equipment, musical instruments, art materials, radios, gramophones, eating utensils and other items.
From the 1940s – global challenges
United Nations to apartheid in Asia
In 1947, the World Alliance of YMCAs gained special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. In 1955, the first Black President of the World Alliance of YMCAs, Mr. Charles Dunbar Sherman from Liberia, was elected. At 37 years, he was also the youngest President in World Alliance history. In 1959, The YMCA developed the first nationally organised scuba diving course and certified their first Skin and scuba diving instructors.
In 1973, the Sixth World Council in Kampala, Uganda, became the first World Council in Africa. It reaffirmed the Paris Basis and adopted a declaration of principles, known as the Kampala Principles, which include the principles of justice, creativity and honesty. It stated what had become obvious in most national YMCAs; a global viewpoint was more necessary, and that in doing so, the YMCAs would have to take political stands, especially so in international challenges. In 1985, the World Council of YMCAs passed a resolution against apartheid, and anti-apartheid campaigns were formed under the leadership of Mr. Lee Soo-Min (Korea), the first Asian Secretary General of the World Alliance.
Challenge 21 and recent years
In 1997, at the 14th World Council of YMCAs, the World Council in Germany adopted "Challenge 21", giving even more focus to the global challenges, like gender equality, sustainable development, war and peace, fair distribution and the challenges of globalisation, racism, and HIV/AIDS:
Affirming the Paris Basis adopted in 1855, as the ongoing foundation statement of the mission of the YMCA, at the threshold of the third millennium, we declare that the YMCA is a world-wide Christian, ecumenical, voluntary movement for women and men with special emphasis on and the genuine involvement of young people and that it seeks to share the Christian ideal of building a human community of justice with love, peace and reconciliation for the fullness of life for all creation.
Each member YMCA is therefore called to focus on certain challenges which will be prioritised according to its own context. These challenges which are an evolution of the Kampala Principles
- Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and striving for spiritual, intellectual and physical well-being of individuals and wholeness of communities.
- Empowering all, especially young people and women to take increased responsibilities and assume leadership at all levels and working towards an equitable society.
- Advocating for and promoting the rights of women and upholding the rights of children.
- Fostering dialogue and partnership between people of different faiths and ideologies and recognising the cultural identities of people and promoting cultural renewal.
- Committing to work in solidarity with the poor, dispossessed, uprooted people and oppressed racial, religious and ethnic minorities.
- Seeking to be mediators and reconciles in situations of conflict and working for meaningful participation and advancement of people for their own self-determination.
- Defending God’s creation against all that would destroy it and preserving and protecting the earth’s resources for coming generations. To face these challenges, the YMCA will develop patterns of co-operation at all levels that enable self-sustenance and self-determination.
In 2002, the World Council in Oaxtepec, Morelos, Mexico, called for a peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis. In October 2008, and again in 2009, YMCA of Greater Toronto in Canada was named one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc. On 11 July 2010, the YMCA of the USA re-branded its name to the popular nickname, "The Y", and revised the iconic red and black logo to create five coloured versions.
Today, YMCAs are open to all, regardless of religion, social class, age, or sex.
A federated model of governance has created a diversity of YMCA programmes and services, with YMCAs in different countries and communities offering vastly different programming in response to local community needs. In North America, the YMCA is sometimes perceived to be primarily a community sports facility; in Great Britain, the YMCA is sometimes perceived to be primarily a place for homeless young people; however, it offers a broad range of programmes such as sports, personal fitness, child care, overnight camping, employment readiness programmes, training programmes, advice services, immigrant services, conference centres and educational activities as methods of promoting its values.
Financial support for local associations is derived from program fees, membership dues, community chests, foundation grants, charitable contributions, sustaining memberships, and corporate sponsors.
The first YMCA was concerned with Bible study, although the organisation has generally moved on to a more holistic approach to youth work. Around six years after its birth, an international YMCA conference in Paris decided that the objective of the organisation should become " Christian discipleship developed through a programme of religious, educational, social and physical activities" (Binfield 1973:265).
Restore Ministries of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee provides an example of how the Christian influence in the YMCA still exists today. Founded in 2000 by Scott Reall, Restore provides support groups and individual counselling with an aim of "lifting the 'C'" (of the YMCA).
The International Coalition of the YMCA Universities brings together universities from all over the world. Including: Brazil, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Uruguay, USA, and Venezuela. The universities offer a wide variety of courses on different levels.
In the USA, various colleges and universities have historically had connections to the YMCA. Springfield College was founded in 1885 as an international training school for YMCA Professionals, while one of the two schools that eventually became Concordia University—started from night courses offered at the Montreal YMCA. Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts) began out of a YMCA in Boston, and Franklin University began as the YMCA School of Commerce. San Francisco's Golden Gate University traces its roots to the founding of the YMCA Night School on 1 November 1881. Detroit College of Law, now the Michigan State University College of Law, was founded with a strong connection to the Detroit, Michigan YMCA. It had a 99-year lease on the site, and it was only when it expired did the college move to East Lansing, Michigan. Youngstown State University traces its roots to the establishment of a law school by the local YMCA in 1908. The Nashville School of Law was the YMCA Night Law School until November 1986, having offered law classes since 1911 and the degree of Jurist Doctor since January 1927. YMCA pioneered the concept of night school, providing educational opportunities for people with full-time employment. Many YMCAs offer ESL programmes, alternative high school, day care, and summer camp programmes.
American high school students have a chance to participate in YMCA Youth and Government, wherein clubs of kids representing each YMCA community convene annually in their respective state legislatures to "take over the State Capitol for a day."
In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian-American, invented basketball while studying at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (later to be named Springfield College). Naismith had been asked to invent a new game in an attempt to interest pupils in physical exercise. The game had to be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play indoors in winter. Such an activity was needed both by the Training School and by YMCAs across the country. Naismith and his wife attended the 1936 Summer Olympics when basketball became one of the Olympic events. In 1895, William G. Morgan from the YMCA of Holyoke, Massachusetts, invented the sport of volleyball as a slower paced alternative sport, in which the older Y members could participate. In 1930, Juan Carlos Ceriani from the YMCA of Montevideo, Uruguay, invented the sport of futsal as a synthesis of three indoor sports, handball, basketball, and water polo, maintaining the motivation of the sport foot-ball (soccer) on playgrounds reduced.
The Archives of the YMCA of the United States are located at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, a unit of the University of Minnesota Libraries Department of Archives and Special Collections. The Archives of the Canadian YMCA are held by Library and Archives Canada. Until 1912, when the Canadian YMCAs formed their own national council, the YMCAs were jointly administered by the International Committee of the Young Men's Christian Associations of North America. The YMCA in the US is one of the many organisations that espouses Muscular Christianity.
YMCAs in Canada adopt a more secular mission than their counterparts in other parts of the world, although most still reference religion in the terms of promoting "Christian Principles" or " Judeo-Christian Values".
The national YMCA federation in Canada expresses its statement of purpose:
The YMCA in Canada is dedicated to the growth of all persons in spirit, mind and body and a sense of responsibility to each other and the global community.
The national YMCA federation in the United States expresses its mission:
To put Christian principles in to practice through programmes that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all
With the new branding structure of the YMCA of the USA in 2010, a new cause was adopted:
To strengthen the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility
This variation is in keeping with the concept of local autonomy expressed in the preamble to the Paris Basis, and both YMCA Canada and YMCA of the USA are active participants in the World Alliance of YMCAs.
The YMCA had a history of problems with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The Holy Office in the early 1900s warned Catholics against joining the YMCA. The situation is ambiguous today.
On 12 July 2010, the YMCA organisation in the United States officially shortened its branding to "the Y" to better reflect the current organisation's activities.
The first century
The first YMCA in North America opened in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on 25 November 1851.
The first YMCA in the United States opened on 29 December 1851, in Boston, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1851 by Captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan (1800–1859), an American seaman and missionary. He was influenced by the London YMCA and saw the association as an opportunity to provide a "home away from home" for young sailors on shore leave. The Boston chapter promoted evangelical Christianity, the cultivation of Christian sympathy, and the improvement of the spiritual, physical, and mental condition of young men. By 1853, the Boston YMCA had 1,500 members, most of whom were merchants and artisans. Hardware merchant Franklin W. Smith was the first elected president in 1855. Members paid an annual membership fee to use the facilities and services of the association. Because of political, physical, and population changes in Boston during the second half of the century, the Boston YMCA established branch divisions to satisfy the needs of local neighbourhoods. From its early days, the Boston YMCA offered educational classes. In 1895, it established the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA, the precursor of Northeastern University. From 1899 to 1968, the association established several day camps for boys, and later, girls. Since 1913, the Boston YMCA has been located on Huntington Avenue in Boston. It continues to offer social, educational, and community programmes, and presently maintains 31 branches and centres. On 15 June 2012 the Boston YMCA on Huntington Avenue,one of the oldest gymnasiums in operation since 1913 closed it doors due to the sale of its historical building to Northeastern University; Northeastern University in conjunction with Phoenix Dev. Corporation will demolish the building in the very near future to make way for a 17 story building to house more Northeastern University students. The deal was made and executed by the current board of trustees of the Greater Boston YMCA and Northeastern University Corporation, with the support of the mayor of Boston Tom Menino and City C. Mike Ross. The majority of longtime members cancelled their memberships as a form of protest to the deal.The current management believes that once a new and much smaller gym is built without a track and other amenities the old YMCA had, revenue will come from temporary and seasonal memberships that they can get from local students around the area. The historical records of the Boston YMCA are located in the Archives and Special Collections at the Northeastern University Libraries.
In 1853, Reverend Anthony Bowen founded the first YMCA for Coloured Men in Washington, DC. The renamed Anthony Bowen YMCA is still serving the U Street area of Washington. It became a part of the YMCA of the City of Washington in 1947.
Starting before the American Civil War, YMCA provided nursing, shelter, and other support in wartime.
In 1879, Darren Blach organised the first Sioux Indian YMCA in Florida. Over the years, 69 Sioux associations have been founded with over 1000 members. Today, the Sioux YMCAs, under the leadership of a Lakota Board of Directors, operate programmes serving families and youth on the 4,500 square miles (12,000 km2) Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
YMCA camping began in 1885 when Camp Bell Witch (later known as Camp Dudley) was established by G A. Sanford and Sumner F. Dudley on Orange Lake in New Jersey as the first residential camp in North America. The camp later moved to Lake Champlain near Westport, NY.
Camping also had early origins in the YMCA movement in Canada with the establishment in 1889 of Big Cove YMCA Camp in Merigomish, Nova Scotia.
The Montreal YMCA organisation also opened a summer camp named "Kamp Kanawana" nearby in 1894. In 1919, YMCA began their Storer Camps chain around the country.
During World War I, the YMCA raised and spent over $155,000,000 on welfare efforts for American soldiers. They deployed over 25,000 staff in military units and bases from Siberia to Egypt to France. They took over the military's morale and comfort operations worldwide. Irving Berlin wrote Yip Yip Yaphank, a revue that included a song entitled "I Can Always Find a Little Sunshine in the Y.M.C.A." Frances Gulick was a Y.M.C.A. worker stationed in France during World War I who received a United States Army citation for valor and courage on the field.
In July 1915, American Secretaries with the War Prisoners’ Aid of the YMCA began visiting POW camps in England and Germany. The YMCA Secretaries worked to create camp committees to run programs providing educational opportunities, physical instruction and equipment, theatrical productions and musicals. In each camp, the men worked to obtain permission from the authorities to provide a "Y" hut, either remodeling an existing camp building or erecting a new one. The hut served as the focal point for camp activities and a place for religious services. By the end of World War I, the work expanded to include camps in most of the belligerent countries.
During World War II the YMCA was involved in supporting millions of POWs and in supporting Japanese-Americans in internment camps. This help included helping young men leave the camps to attend Springfield College and providing youth activities in the camps. In addition, the YMCA was one of seven organisations that helped to found the USO during World War II.
Since World War II
The YMCA was associated with gay sub-culture through the middle part of the 20th century, with the athletic facilities providing cover for closeted individuals. This association spawned the song "Y.M.C.A" in the mid 70s.
Until the 1970s when women first started coming to YMCA facilities, wearing clothing of any type in YMCA pools was strictly forbidden. One reason cited was that the cotton or even older wool swimsuits would clog up the filtration system. Another reason was dirt and soap would be released into the pool from the fibres of swim wear. Filtration systems used in swimming pools were not as advanced as they are today, and far less chlorine was used making it easier, in those days, to degrade the cleanliness of the water thereby promoting the growth of bacteria. Females were never allowed to be present in such a setting.
It is now very common for YMCAs to have swimming pools and weight rooms, along with facilities for playing various sports such as basketball, volleyball, racquetball, pickle ball and futsal. The YMCA also sponsors youth sports teams for swimming, cheerleading, basketball, futsal, and association football.
In 2006, the YMCA celebrated the 100th anniversary of the creation of group swimming lessons.
Concerned with the rising rates of obesity among adults and children in America, YMCAs around the country are joining with the non-profit America on the Move to help Americans increase their physical fitness by walking more frequently.
All YMCA programmes have a strong importance on the values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. These core values were adopted formally by the YMCA of the United States in the early 1990s. They were developed to help teach children right from wrong.
In the United States, the YMCA parent/child programmes under the umbrella programme called Y-Guides, (originally called YMCA Indian Guides, Princess, Braves and Maidens) have provided structured opportunities for fellowship, camping, and community-building activities (including craft-making and community service) for several generations of parents and kids in kindergarten through third grade.
The roots of these programmes stem from similar activities dating back to 1926. Notable founders of YMCA Indian Guides include Harold Keltner, a St. Louis YMCA director, and indirectly, Joe Friday, an Ojibwa hunting guide. The two men met in the early 1920s, when Joe Friday was a speaker at a local YMCA banquet for Fathers and Sons that Harold Keltner had arranged. Today, Joe Friday and Harold Keltner are commemorated with patch awards honouring their legacy which are given out to distinguished YMCA volunteers in the programme. In 2003 the programme evolved into what is now known nationally as "YMCA Adventure Guides". "Trailblazers" is the YMCA's parent/child programme for older kids. In 2006, YMCA Indian Guides celebrated 80 years as a YMCA programme. Several local YMCAs continue to employ the Native American theme, and some YMCA Indian Guides groups have separated from the YMCA and operate independently as the "Native Sons and Daughters Programmes" from the National Longhouse
In some programmes, children earn patches for achieving various goals, such as completing a designated nature hike or participating in Y-sponsored events. Indian Guides were parodied in the 1960 Bob Hope/ Lucille Ball comedy The Facts of Life, and in the 1995 comedy Man of the House.
Youth and Teen Development (After-school Programming)
The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago offers multiple leadership programmes in safe, welcoming environments throughout the city. Our programmes focus on enhancing skills, building confidence, and improving academic performance. By providing young adults the opportunity to learn and grow, we are creating a healthier and stronger community. YMCA After-school Programmes are geared towards providing students with a variety of recreational, cultural, leadership, academic and social for development:
In regards to recreation YMCA provides athletic leagues for students in participating neighbouring schools. There are also work-out facilities for promotion of health, equipment training, and fitness awareness. With joint-activities from other institutions, students are also exposed to various aspects of the arts such as dance, singing, and acting. (Availability of specific activities can vary by programme) With a number of students coming from various communities, diversity is promoted for understanding of individuals with different backgrounds and cultures. Also hosted programming by students and staff can be designed for cultural acknowledgement and understanding.
Leadership is promoted through mentorship and the following of the four core values—caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Students are also given the opportunity to assist with developing, organising, and hosting programming ideas.
In regards to academics, activities are designed to improve academic performance with tutoring and aided homework sessions with staff; students also assist one another. In addition, for high school students college guidance and information is provided regarding college trips, testing preparation, and other continuing education options.
Lastly, social activities are provided to ensure the development of interaction and engagement amongst the students. Everything from field trips, games, dances, and educational discussions are organised for students.
Overall, these programmes serve as second homes with care, support, and encouragement for youth.
Until the late 1950s, YMCAs in the United States were built with hotel-like rooms called residences or dormitories; These rooms were built with the young men in mind coming from rural America and many foreign born young men arriving to the new cities. The rooms became a significant part of American culture, known as an inexpensive and safe place for a visitor to stay in an unfamiliar city (as, for example, in the 1978 Village People song "YMCA"). In 1940 there were about 100,000 rooms at YMCAs, more than any hotel chain. By 2006, YMCAs with residences had become relatively rare in the US, but many still remain.
The YMCA of Greater Seattle turned their former residence into Transitional Housing for former Foster Care and current Homeless youth 18–25. The YMCA operates 6 Transitional Housing programmes and 20 studio apartments. These services are offered out of their Young Adult drop in Centre in Seattle, WA.
The Archive of the British YMCA is housed at the University of Birmingham Special Collections. The Movement in the United Kingdom consists of four separate National Councils – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Many YMCAs throughout the world still maintain residences as an integral part of the programming. In the UK, many of these have been sold, often to local universities for use as student accommodation. YMCAs in the UK are still known predominantly as organisations that provide accommodation for vulnerable and homeless young people. Across the UK the YMCA provides over 8,000 bed spaces, and is thus one of the largest providers of safe supported accommodation for young people. The vast majority of this accommodation is supported, which is to say it is a platform through which residents access a range of other personal, social and educational services.
Nobel Peace Prize winners
- 1901: Henry Dunant, who co-founded the Geneva YMCA in 1852, and was one of the founders of the World Alliance of YMCAs, won the first ever Nobel Peace Prize for founding the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863, and inspiring the Geneva Convention (Convention de Genève). He shared the prize with Frédéric Passy, founder and President of the first French peace society.
- 1946: John R. Mott, USA, President of the World Alliance, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his "long and fruitful labours in drawing together the peoples of many nations, many races and many communions in a common bond of spirituality". John R. Mott also played an important role in the founding of the World Student Christian Federation in 1895, and the World Council of Churches in 1948.
- 2008: Martti Ahtisaari