The jet lag has passed, inbox cleared, and I’ve began putting together our Christmas campaign in the middle of this heatwave. It’s easy to return to our day jobs, but I needed to take five minutes to ask myself a question.
In what other organisation, could I, as a 27 year old fundraiser, have an opportunity to sit side-by-side with CEOs, trustees and other young people, and discuss issues that matter?
The answer is none.
The World Council was a forum that allowed me to discuss (and to be listened to), to learn, and at times even challenge. I’m lucky to have experienced it, but how can you and I continue to make the most of these opportunities, after it’s all over?
I have got a bag full of business cards, and I bet you do too. Now is the time to use them.
For me, meeting colleagues from across the country was invaluable. I was able to find out what they do for young people in their YMCA, what projects they run, and learn about why they are passionate about this movement. I’ve started to plan visits to YMCAs I’ve never been to, and now I know which of my colleagues I can contact, I’ve already got two meetings in the calendar!
Make the most of having made international contacts
You can experience YMCA anywhere in the world – seize the opportunity!
In Chiang Mai, I met the Chair of the National Board of Korean YMCAs who invited me to meet him during my holiday. Days after the closing ceremony, I was sitting in Seoul, with Anh and Kim of the Korean National Council.
We enjoyed a delicious meal together whilst discussing the campaigns going on in England and Wales, and Kim told me how his father fled the North aged seven, and that the ban of crossing the border had prevented him from meeting his paternal family for his entire life.
Our Korean colleagues explained their hopes to bring a YMCA into the North of Korea. The government forbids South Koreans to cross the border to the North, and vice versa, so there had been meetings in China with North Korean Church leaders. They were passionate about giving the youth of the North the same opportunities as those in the South, who were already able to access the YMCA youth clubs. Their excitement was touching.
They also proudly told me that the current South Korean president, Moon Jae-In, previously worked for YMCA!
With YMCA175 being hosted in England next year, we will all be able to have an international experience at home.
Continue to feel inspired.
Remember what gave you that ‘wow’ moment.
I met a man from a Pacific Island whose main source of income for his YMCA was selling chickens. I met a seventeen year old girl from Hong Kong who came from family living in poverty, who was being supported in her education by YMCA. I met a gentleman from Palestine who talked about the impact of conflict on the young people in his country and how his YMCA was there to support them.
These people are facing different challenges to us, but meeting them made me realise that we’re the same. And we’re all linked by one movement. That was my ‘wow’ moment.
Realise our impact
People would explain that in their country they are facing issues such as dealing with an HIV epidemic, child marriage or living in a war zone. I’m ashamed to say I had started to think that people would not be interested to hear about issues being tackled in my country.
But then, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda's keynote speech changed my mind. She spoke about injustices facing young people including poverty, sexual violence and exploitation. She then went on to discuss that she feels frustrated that tackling mental health difficulties is not prioritised in her country. This stopped me in my tracks - it hadn’t occurred to me that this was a worldwide issue.
We are fortunate to have the resources to do something to help in this country; something that can be shared with the rest of the world. I started to notice people from all continents posing for photos with a circle drawn on their hand, and felt moved.
YMCA’s work in this country is amazing. It took going halfway across the world for me to realise that. And I’m so grateful that I did.