„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


20th July 2016

An opportunity to learn

Between June 14 and June 16 YMCA Europe, Ilenia Ventroni from our Brussels Office had the opportunity to visit YMCA England and a number of English YMCAs, thanks to the commitment and organization of YMCA England and Ken Montgomery in particular. The visit started at the headquarters of YMCA England where the staff explained the bulk of their advocacy work methodologies, and Ilenia Ventroni was able to fill them in on the work done by YMCA Europe as well in Brussels, in a very productive exchange of information. The YMCA England staff was able to provide very useful insights and suggestion which will definitely be a great support, in particular regarding advocacy work, where YMCA England has sound experience.

The visit went on to touch other four important English YMCAs: Derbyshire, North Staffordshire, Coventry and Birmingham. All these YMCAs are deeply involved with providing services to homeless youth, providing training for young people and support in the job placement, family services like crèches, social enterprises, youth work, mental health and many other activities. They all have a long history of service in their communities, and all had a lot to contribute to a better understanding of YMCA work in England.

YMCA Derbyshire is a very well established YMCA with a very international outlook: Gillian Sewell, the CEO, explained their main activities, and the way in which European opportunities could be used to boost their already impressive work. YMCA Derbyshire is also where the Brussels office had the opportunity to meet Peter Posner, the President of the World Alliance, another great opportunity to learn more about the work of YMCA. The visit went on to Stoke-on-Trent, to YMCA North Staffordshire where we met Sharon Richards, where she showed us the great work they implement for their community: their commitment to providing services for young people was inspiring, particularly considering the commitment of all the staff and volunteers. The next stop was YMCA Coventry and Warwickshire, another inspiring community, marked by a hard past. YMCA works very hard in this community, providing all the support young people need to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Here Andy Winter, the CEO, showed all the extent of the work and the challenges encountered every day.

The visit to England ended visiting YMCA Birmingham, another strong YMCA deeply rooted in its community, under the guide of Alan Fraser. Its most recent achievement has been the opening of Eden Bar, a social enterprise providing not only job and training opportunity for young people, but also a nice place for the community to hang out, a bar that can easily compete with other cafes in town. This establishes new ground which can be an inspiration for to other YMCAs around Europe.

The visit was overall a great success, and a great opportunity to learn about the great variety of YMCAs in Europe, and the achievements of its oldest representatives in England. This was also an opportunity to learn how to cooperate with such strong communities and activities, hoping to bring all that Europe can offer to their work. This is even more relevant in these uncertain times concerning the Britain's relationship with the EU: YMCA Europe remains a place of unity and strong cooperation, which goes beyond any political situation.

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