Young people often have energy to expend, and without the right kind of guidance, things can go awry pretty quickly. George Williams knew this, which is why he founded the Young Men’s Christian Association, also known as YMCA in short or the Y. He did so in London 173 years ago, and today, this worldwide organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland, boasting over 57 million beneficiaries with 125 national associations. The whole idea behind the YMCA is to entrench Christian principles into practice through the development of a healthy "body, mind, and spirit." All of these three angles are seen in the red triangle that makes up the YMCA logo. I clearly remember reading an anecdote about the YMCA when I was a wee lad, touting how the game of basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in 1891 while he was working at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Since the YMCA was incorporated on 6 June, 1844, it experienced a rapid expansion, ending up as a worldwide that continue to stress on the principles of Muscular Christianity. Many local YMCAs have also seen a degree of localization implemented, as different cultures need to be approached differently. A vast number of YMCAs do get involved in a range of charitable activities, from offering athletic facilities to hosting classes throughout the week. These classes can be language classes to pick up a new language, or perhaps a living skill that would come in handy. Depending on the country in which the YMCA is based in, it can be a mission base to proselytize Christianity, but of course such activities tend to be strictly forbidden in Muslim-majority countries for security reasons, limiting the scope of the YMCA to just humanitarian work. A whole lot of it depends on the leadership, since national or local organizations have varying levels of emphasis when it comes to its religious mission.
The various local YMCAs tend to be voluntarily affiliated via their national organizations, while the national organizations would make up an Area Alliance and the World Alliance of YMCAs. The World Alliance's main motto happens to be "empowering young people", and depending on your worldview, there are many different ways of doing so.
Do check with your local YMCA to see whether there are any celebrations in place that is happening today to commemorate the 173rd anniversary of the organization. We do know that YMCAs across England and Wales did come together for the YMCA World Challenge that was held last Saturday on 3 June, 2017, as part of the run up to the global organization’s 173rd anniversary. You can be sure that basketball would be a huge feature worldwide for many local chapters of the YMCA, as the sport celebrates its 126th anniversary this year.
How has your experience been with the local YMCA chapter so far? Have you had fond memories of the YMCA, or has the YMCA’s activities over the years help to shape the way you lived your life? Do share with us in the comments, as it is always a joy to read about how the lives of others are touched by a simple act of kindness that often goes unnoticed.
Many YMCAs today have also been redeveloped, being far more than just a community center where people come together to enjoy life, live, and learn together. In fact, YMCAs are also often strategically located in city centers and with some converting part of their buildings to hostels, it is also a popular place for tourists to find cheap, clean and safe accommodation for the night.