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


12th August 2020

August 12th marks the celebration of the International Youth Day. We encourage all national and local YMCAs across Europe to highlight a day in which we recognize all young people involved in our movement at all levels and fields.

In fact each days is “Youth Day” for the YMCA. We were founded by a group of young people led by George Williams more than 176 years ago. Our profile and programmatic priorities have always focused on empowering youth, creating spaces for growth, integration and networking.

This are not only words. There is evidence of the deep involvement of young people within our movement and we have always promoted their participation not only as beneficiaries but as members of our governance bodies. For the YMCA, young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow but relevant characters of today´s social environment. Our role has been to facilitate this involvement through actions, programmes and spaces in which their voice, needs and initiatives are listened and implemented.

YMCAs in Europe are an example of this approach. Young people serve in crucial leadership roles working side by side with other volunteers, senior leaders and executive staff. Many YMCAs and even national movements were founded by committed young people that connected with the mission and guiding principles of this movement transporting to contemporary times that same spirit and vision that our founders shaped.

I often refer to my first steps in the YMCA when I was 20 years old and how blessed I was when mentors and supervisors provided me the tools, training and space to lead the creation of the first local YMCA in Salamanca, Spain. Through that experience I gained deep trust in this movement and also in young people´s capacity to design and put in practice institutional, social and transformational initiatives.

We have always felt that these experiences and other youth led project are highly beneficial for our movement and guarantee that our priorities and policy are always close to young people´s needs. We consider that youth remains as one of the most vulnerable sectors in society across our continent. YMCA Europe is clear and supportive of the global movement´s “youth empowerment” perspective within its governance and programmes.

This year´s theme proposed by the UN is “Youth engagement for global action”. Europe and each of our societies face unprecedented times where the involvement of young people becomes crucial. The COVID-19 pandemic starts to show that most of the weight and responsibilities of the recovery will be on the shoulders of the new generation across Europe. Therefore their involvement in all sectors and fields is needed. From education to political life, from socially relevant actions to institutional development and from digital transformation to a new way of international cooperation.

Our role as a regional movement in Europe is therefore more important than ever. Realizing that our spaces and programmes must face this reality is a must. We shall call it the “next step in youth empowerment” as there is an urgent and very concrete reason for “youth empowerment” today. It starts with engaging young people with issues that affect today´s Europe and connecting them among themselves.

Our ongoing “Youth Matters” campaign continues stressing the importance of young people´ role and the positive impact that investment in their needs has. We have increased our approach to public and private institutions with a coherent message that seeks to put young people in the center of further decisions taken by governments and the private sector when planning the recovery of this health, social and economic crisis. We are thankful for the support that our YMCA Europe´s campaigns and programmes are having in this actual context.   

As we design our joint direction of travel that shall lead to the next Strategy, this aspect shall be in core of our reflections, discussions and agreements. As a civil society organization, we have a key role to play when guaranteeing young people´s access to rights and opportunities.  Let´s do this together today - International Youth Day - and each day. It is our responsibility.

Juan Simoes Iglesias
Secretary General – YMCA Europe 

donate now