The World Alliance of Young Men’s Christian Associations was established in 1855 at the first International Conference of the movement, held in Paris, France. As such, it is the oldest voluntary international organisation in the world. Its mission then was to provide opportunities for all people to grow in body, mind and spirit – and this remains true today.
Situated in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Alliance is a confederation of the National Councils of YMCAs around the world. The National Councils are composed of local associations within their respective countries.
YMCAs have been established throughout the world, including in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. The work undertaken by each YMCA is different, depending on the needs identified in the local area, although the YMCA mission and values unite them all.
For instance, the YMCAs in the USA concentrate very much on healthy eating and how the gym can benefit you as an individual; but in Ecuador the YMCA concentrates on much more basic things like helping out under privileged people in poverty stricken areas. In Hong Kong they focus on giving young people the chance to participate in things like camping and sports as they have very little or no opportunity of doing this from the background they come from.
On a worldwide level, the YMCA promotes pressing issues like awareness of HIV and AIDS, climate change and issues relating to economic development. It also provides emergency relief, such as in times of famine, and gives support and education to those who are in poverty and are unable to provide for themselves.
The World Alliance of YMCAs in turn belongs to a group bringing together the biggest youth organisations in the world, known informally as the “BIG 6”. Collectively, this network reaches over 100 million young people in over 200 countries and territories.
And in 2014 Peter Posner OBE, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the YMCA Derbyshire became the elected President of the World Council of YMCA’s.