Saturday, 24 December 2016

As the Shepherds Watched.......

Another name on the Beit Sahour branch of East Jerusalem YMCA is the Shepherds field YMCA. The name was established because the property is also the site of a shepherds' grotto that was possibly used at the time of Jesus' birth. On Christmas Eve, YMCA invites members and others to meet for a service. It is also used for devotion at other occasions. At this place, away from the crowds at Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, it is easier to capture the scene of that night when shepherds saw the star that was to lead them to the Child.

"8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13 Suddenly a
great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Peace Work Institute, Litomysl

Less than a month ago, Ken posted from a little town in the Czech Republic; Litomysl. I am here now, preparing to deliver sessions on what is next for the YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation Peace Work Institute. a small, quiet peaceful town where we are planning the next sessions and programmes fro the next phase of the Peace Work Institute. The ideal setting for such discussions. Yesterday the planning team met to discuss this weekends session and those two to come in the future. Weary travellers arrived last night and now refreshed for the days ahead and with anticipation and excitement meeting old friends and new to discuss and present what is next for this project. Having been involved with the Peace Work Institute since 2012, this has been a long and educational journey for me where I have made good friends, new projects have stemmed from those friendships and now to see what happens over the next 2 years with the next phase. As the participants make their way to the library in the YMCA Europe training centre in Litomysl for the sessions to begin, the planning team make the final preparations and then we begin - the next phase.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

European Youth Forum - Bulgaria and beyond

The final chapter of my trip to Varna, Bulgaria representing YMCA Europe as the official delegate to the European Youth Forum (YFJ). 

DISCLAIMER: this is more of a photo album than a blog.

Day 2 

It was a big day -  not for me - but for brave candidates that had put themselves forward to govern the YFJ. ELECTION DAY. Before casting our votes, we had an opportunity to attend thematic squares (workshops) and I chose to attend 'Migration and Health', subjects I'm very interested in and priorities that align with theme of the new YMCA Europe strategy. The workshop surpassed any expectations I had. We discussed the challenges in Europe around increasing migration and the health challenges faced by young refugees especially their mental health. We had a conference call with a World Health Organisation practitioner who gave us great insight into the issues and also how we can contribute to the solutions. 

Voting time!
YMCA and the Award 

The rest of the day as consumed by the elections. Congratulations to the newly elected board which includes our good friend from WOSM - Ville Majamaa and also a big congratulations to our Big 6 friend the Duke of Edinburgh International Award for becoming an observer member of the YFJ. 


The day passed quickly and in evening one thing became clear, we needed to prepare ourselves for hearing one word 150 times....AMENDMENTS. The following day we would have to stand up in front of a lot of people and defend our amendments to the Resolution on EU Youth strategy and Work Plan 2017-19. I was not sure whether or not we were ready but the support we had was unmatched and spurred us on. 

Support group - Value Based Members 

Day 3 

We prepared and we were ready. We had 15 amendments in total aiming to ensure the language around increasing migration was not negative, YFJ worked closely with youth organisations and the papers had strong positions that would prompt action from the EU. I'm glad to report a good amount of our amendments were passed by the assembly and we achieved our goals. With the amendments behind us, both documents were adopted and the meeting was closed by some great closing speeches from the exiting board members. Things got pretty emotional, they were tears, standing ovations and laughter. It was great to see that people had really made a family out of the YFJ and we visibly saddened by the thought of having to leave the family.

Meeting closed, it was time to socialize and make the most of the evening. We shared an amazing evening with people that I can now call friends and I hope I will see them all again. 

Closing thought

During my time at the forum, I was exposed to many young organisations, national youth councils and political parties doing great work to advocate for young people across Europe. This made me reflect on our own organisation and one thing was clear. We are a huge organisation. We impact on the lives of a huge amount of young people. We speak up for millions of young voices. It is something I knew but took for granted. It has really inspired me to continue to work hard in my YMCA work and also empowered me to know that we are doing some really great work especially locally and should build on that. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

YMCA Youth Ambassador posts from Bulgaria

I'm in Varna, Bulgaria as the official delegate for YMCA Europe to the European Youth Forum along with Ana Sofia Abreu from YMCA Portugal. We are tasked with representing the position of YMCA as a full member of the YFJ with voting rights. We will engage in the amendment of the YFJ strategy and work plan, vote on new members and a new board for 2017-19. We will also have opportunities to gain more insight around the work of YFJ and other member organisation through workshops on migration, youth rights, youth advocacy and much more.

This was the view from my morning jog after a very long first day at the European Youth Forum (YFJ) General Assembly in Varna, Bulgaria. This is the only glimpse of the outside world I will most likely see so I'll savour it.

Our journey here was slightly tricky but we made the most of it, even allowing Ana to have the quickest tour London at midnight on our way from Heathrow to Luton. I was unsure about the scale of the Forum but once we arrived it became clear the importance and responsibility that we had be trusted with. After settling in the hotel, we were taken to a large venue in Varna where we received a keynote speech from an executive in the UNFPA on our part in delivering the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Very inspirational is an understatement.

Already overwhelmed, we were then lead to a “room” where 2000 people were waiting for us and received an almost Olympics style welcome. We were honorary  guests to the selection of the next Youth Capital, a prestigious award for a city working to empower young people. What then transpired was incredible (see images!). Performance after performance, with each one surpassing the last.

The next day marked the beginning of official  proceedings. Ana and I, being the newbies, were apprehensive to say the least but we have had amazing support from the many other youth organisations like the Scouts and Girl guides and of course Ilenia, Heidi and Tinna from YMCA Europe.We got our head around the online system, voted, listen, fought for our amendments and made some new friends. We watched a debate from all the candidates for the Presidency, Vice presidency and Board members. There is strong political machine at work and I hope we come out of it unscathed. We are make YMCA proud and represent them well and have already managed to get some amendments accepted after some gruelling debates and look forward to more. The day ended at 11pm and a cold Bulgaria beer in true YMCA fashion. We are thoroughly enjoying the experience and grateful for the opportunity to represent YMCAs across Europe to empower young people.

Bring on Day 2!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Planning for the New YMCA Global Strategy

Preparing for the YMCA Global Strategic Plan
Between the 31st October and 4th November 2016 some forty people from across the YMCA Global Family gathered in the YMCA Europe Training Centre In a little place called Litomysl in Eastern Bohemia, Czech Republic to begin to formulate the drafting a new strategic plan.
This new plan will build on the two previous plans and will cover the period from 2018 to 2022.
There were six participants from England. Jason Stacey, Richard Hughes and Ken Montgomery from YMCA England, Dave Ball from Thames Gateway in his role as Chair of the World Urban Network Terry Radcliffe from Blackburn YMCA in his role as Chair of the John R Mott Fund in Geneva and Gerald Chifamba, formerly of Coventry & Warwickshire YMCA. Gerald, who is a YMCA Youth Ambassador, is the joint lead globally on the YMCA Resource Group on Health.
The participants divided into groups to cover various areas of the draft plan.
These area included, The overall strategy, the element which covered, engagement, the development of buildings on major Cities across the world, the second phase of ‘One Million Voices’ Research, Communication and Fundraising.
I will not go into detail at this time but some of the highlights will include.
Key Focus of the future plan to be on ‘Youth Empowerment’.
Internally we will concentrate on ‘Movement Unity & Sustainability’.
Externally we will concentrate on ‘Collective Global Impact’.
There is some really exciting elements in the details such as the next period of the research concentrating on qualitative research, the possibility of the Harlem Globe Trotters getting involved the next World Challenge and recruiting the next cohort of the Global Change Agents.

The plan time scale is to go out to consultation across global movements during the next few months with the final strategy going to the World Council in 2018 in Chiang Mai Thailand. 

Friday, 4 November 2016

Putting youth empowerment at the heart of our research

It's 11.30pm and I'm currently sat on a train home from airport after having spent the last four days in Litomysl at the World YMCA Strategic Delivery Summit. So what better time to reflect on my experience.

What I believe makes us unique (and excites me most about being part of the movement) is the sheer scale of young people we work with, from all backgrounds and from across the four corners of the earth.

It was this simple recognition at a local level in England and Wales that gave us a reason for starting to undertake research just three years about. Since coming to this seemingly obvious but truly mindset changing realisation at YMCA England we've built our research offer and programme built on the voices of these young people.

For this reason the potential of One Million Voices 2 excites me (as I write that, I am fully aware that sounds very sad, only someone that works in research would get excited by hundreds of managed group discussions!!!). OMV2 will put young people's voices at the heart of the global movement's research for the first time.

But it was listening to Peter Burns (YMCA Victoria) and Johan Vilhelm Eltvik (World YMCA) that challenged me to think how we can go deeper and further with our research, both nationally and globally.

Peter spoke brilliantly about the importance of letting go of control in succeeding. A scary thought, but a necessary action to innovate and grow While Johan spoke at length challenging us how we make youth empowerment more than just a statement and actually about everything we done.

It was with these two thoughts buzzing around my brain (along with some wine and inspiring conversations with Ken), I got to to thinking about how we can do this in my day-to-day work. What does letting go and embracing the concept of youth empowerment practically look like?

I came to the conclusion it was going beyond just gathering young people's voices as we are doing now. Letting go and empowering young people is about them setting the issues we research, designing how this research takes place, presenting not just issues but also their ideas for solutions, and finally getting the research to those that matter (decision makers, influences and other young people) to affect change.

I shared this when talking about where we wanted to be as a global movement in 2044. But coming home today enthused (if a bit tired) made me think why should we wait that long. Why can't this be part of OMV2 and why can't this be part of our research programme for next year?

The answer is there is no reason!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

YMCA Discovery Visit Australia

Time with Victoria Y - from the first day staff and volunteers at YMCA made every meeting and site visit, exciting and informative, I am taking so many ideas home with me to improve and make positive change. I am absolutely blown away by the sheer size of Y Vic with 116 sites and 6000 staff and impressively 50% being under 30 years old.

The evident passion to keep young people active and healthy through the wellness programmes is inspirational and close to my heart, especially interested in the recreation and leisure programmes offered by the Y, who keep thousands of children and young people active and engaged in numerous activities.

Kings swim and YMCA swimming lessons Is such an inspirational swim and water safe initiative, 55,000 participants access swimming lessons each week , wow . We learned 372,000 people in the world die every year through drowning with 95% being in Asia. Drowning is a preventive death and  Y Vic have really taken on the role of making access to swimming  lessons available in areas of Asia, determined to save lives. 

The time spent with the youth development team informed us of the many programmes delivered to young people and I was particularly interested to hear how they had Set up a building maintenance social enterprise, giving training and employment opportunities to young people leaving prison. A very successful enterprise with fantastic results in participants not re offending.

The time spent with Y Vic finished with us attending the annual general meetings and annual staff awards. A glamorous and enjoyable evening learning of the dedication and passion of the staff going that extra mile for what they believed believe in, helping others to succeed and be the best they can.

Saying goodbye to Victoria we moved on to YMCA Brisbane, the sun was out and we embarked on the second phase of the visit. lan Bray CEO and his team explained their approach to sustaining their operations to be unbreakable. We are Staying at the the George Williams hotel which is just one of the initiatives to income generate. I have to say the standards and professionalism at the hotel are very high and deserve a good trip advisor entry.
I applaud the "Head for business and heart of charity " as a strong approach to the new generation of the non for profit sector. To survive we have to change .
Today has been an unbelievable experience of learning , firstly at a YMCA school in North Lakes, accommodating 65 students needing an alternative to state education. Andrew and Stephanie at the school demonstrated the difference being made to young people who have experienced dramatic trauma in their lives who needed the additional support as well as education. Truly inspirational.
The afternoon took us to something unexpected and magical, Old Peitre Town , I can only describe as a Oz museum and fantastic venue for functions and weddings.
We were embraced by Terry, who explained the indigenous peoples  ways and got us involved tribal dance, music and art. To top it off a lesson in flying a boomerang. Some members of the team threw a good boomerang which actually returned, not me.

Posted on behalf of Anthea Clements - Barry YMCA