Y’s Men International was formed to serve the YMCA. That was our purpose, and it continues to be the principal objective of all affiliated clubs.
The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) is one of the oldest and largest movements for youth in the world and works to bring social justice and peace to young people and their communities, regardless of religion, race, gender or culture.
Founded on June 6, 1844 in London, England by George Williams, the goal of the organisation was putting Christian principles into practice, achieved by developing “a healthy spirit, mind, and body.”
The World Alliance of YMCAs, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a confederation of National Councils of YMCAs around the world. It now supports and facilitates some 120 national YMCAs and four regional Alliances across the globe, to provide young people with safe spaces and opportunities to take an active role in transforming their communities. Collectively, the YMCA Movement reaches some 65 million people a year.
How It All Began
The era of the “Roaring Twenties” post-World War I, known as a time of excess and unprecedented progress, was also conversely an incubator for increased civic awareness and accountability. With the awakening of the social conscious came the rise of the modern service organisation.
Within the Toledo YMCA, a young programme director, noticing an increase in both time and monetary donations to the YMCA, identified 15 young businessmen working within the YMCA as volunteers and two staff members to start a service club to support actively, extraneously and in new ways the work of the YMCA. In 1920, the Tolymca luncheon club was formed under the direction of young lawyer, Paul William Alexander. By November 1922, word of the initiative had spread to other YMCAs in the USA and 17 clubs existed. The International Association of Y’s Men’s Clubs was officially founded, in Alexander’s words, “of and for the YMCA”.
Separate Yet Together
The association (familiarly known as Y’s Men International) and its clubs, officially separate from the YMCA with its own constitution and officers, gradually began to engage in independent projects. Their activities, while still mindful and respectful of the YMCA’s mission, were no longer directly connected or controlled by any specific branch or national movement. Clubs without any direct connection to the YMCA started to be formed. But the intention always remained that the activity of these clubs was to be representative and supportive of the YMCA’s goals and agenda. Ideally, Y’s Men clubs chartered without an associated YMCA would strive to bring a YMCA branch to their community, and clubs founded where there were YMCAs would have a YMCA “secretary” as a member or an appointed YMCA liaison to build cooperation. In various places, YMCA Secretary remains an active position on the roster of club officers.
The Liaisons WAL and YL
The position of an international YMI liaison to the World YMCA (YL) was recognised in the 1970s and details of the appointment refined by International Council in 1978 in an attempt to rekindle the connection between the two organisations.
In 1975, a formal Memorandum of Understanding between World Alliance of YMCAs and Y’s Men International was drafted and renewed annually per Council approval until 1995 when Y’s Men moved out of the World YMCA building into its own offices.
In 1981, the first Principles of Partnership (POP) was signed at the international level, and YMI extended an official invitation for a YMCA representative (WAL) to attend its annual legislative meeting. In 1998 the World YMCA amended its constitution to recognise the Y’s Men’s Liaison as an official member of the World Alliance Executive Committee without vote.
It has become practice for each new International Secretary General to renew the partnership agreement. In August 2020, World Alliance SG Carlos Sanvee and Y’s Men International ISG Jose Varghese honoured this tradition by resigning the POP, once again continuing the allegiance.
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Guideline 304 of our International Constitution states:
In order to maintain an active relationship with the World Alliance of YMCAs and its national components, there shall be a direct liaison between (1) the International Association of Y’s Men’s Clubs office and the office of the World Alliance of YMCAs and (2) the Regions of Y’s Men International located within a particular country and the national YMCA movement, or its sub-sections, of that country.
ARE YOU A SINGLE COUNTRY REGION?
DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTED YMCA LIAISON?
Key Areas of Collaboration
Despite its independent status, YMI has consistently safeguarded its founding promise to support the YMCA.
Alexander Scholarship Fund
In 1954, the Paul William Alexander Scholarship Fund was created to subsidise the training of YMCA present and prospective staff. (The name was shortened to the Alexander Scholarship Fund in 1982.) The majority of support is decided and implemented by the Regions and Areas in order to have relevant and direct impact locally. As of 2020/21, 30% of ASF contributions are sent to IHQ for use in more comprehensive initiatives.
In recent years, international funds have been used to subsidise the formation of YMCA Change Agents, young YMCA staff or volunteers following a specific leadership development programme to become empowered as change makers in their own communities.
YMCA 175 Support
In 2019, we sponsored two key-note speakers at the YMCA 175 event in London.
COVID-19 Solidarity Fund
In 2020, we donated CHF 10 000 to the YMCA’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund created to provide institutional grants to National Movements struggling and at risk of permanent closure due to the pandemic, helping to pay administrative and staff costs.
Time of Fast
The Time of Fast programme of YMI was initially created as a way to support YMCA projects aligning with the priorities of YMI’s Human Crisis Committee, which existed at that time to address, poverty, racial discrimination, denial of basic human rights, etc. The first fasting event took place in December 1970 and the almost USD 4 000 raised was donated to the World YMCA for its refugee camps.
Today YMI clubs, YMCA and official YMCA affiliates may apply for TOF funding. An optimal project is one in which there is clear and active cooperation between the two organisations in the implementation of the activities. Every applicant is encouraged to establish a contract of collaboration or memorandum of understanding.
Celebrating 100 Years of Partnership
We encourage you to read the summary of the YMI/YMCA relationship that IHQ has developed to honour the partnership of our two organisations in order to refresh your memory, perhaps learn new facts but most importantly to gain an understanding of where we are today and where we are headed.