World YMCA Strategy Guide and New Year Message


Deep into the Swedish forests in a remote location I have a tiny little farm with three houses and enough forest to go looking for my own Christmas tree and fields enough to grow potatoes and harvest apples from 10 apple trees close to 100 years of age.

Before Christmas I have a few days to find peace. One of my methods to find peace of mind is to bake my own bread. In my Swedish farm there is no modern kitchen utilities, so I have to add flour and butter and milk and yeast and salt with my own fingers and work the dough with my own muscles.

Wood from the forest is used to heat the oven from 1926, a genuine Husqvarna, and the flames are surrounding the space for the breads and creating the heat needed to make the three breads baked into delicious, brown and shining delicacies for the Christmas table.

While I am waiting for the yeast to do its work with the dough, I sit in front of the open fireplace and hear the wind moving through the huge birch trees outside and leaving a magnificent sound of powerful, but stable nature. Making me feel like a very small, but secluded and safe part of the same nature.

The open fireplace is warming me and in my thoughts I am back in Paris a few weeks ago, where 200 young people organized by the World YMCA, or rather, hosted by the World YMCA, fought for the survival and balance of the nature, of our planet Earth. It fills me with pride and joy.

The next moment takes me to the sun deck of “Ocean Dream”, the Peace Boat, where I stand together with 150 Change Agents from all parts of the same globe, preparing ourselves to reach out to millions of young people struggling and fighting for survival out there.

And while the huge Swedish birch trees are swaying in the wind, in my thoughts I am back in the British Parliament where we presented for the first time the report from the largest ever Youth Research, the One Million Voices. Voices of young people from 55 countries on 5 continents were reaching the ears of those in power. Again the memories fill me with joy and hope.

I return to my breads and start working the dough with my bare hands and think how similar this is to my job. Two parts Advocacy for Environment in Paris, add 150 Change Agents. Let it rest for a few minutes while you heat half a litre Youth Research till it is finger warm and add a spoon full of Property Development.  Warm the Executive Committee till it reaches 220 degrees Celsius and it is ready to deal with the raw material. Let the love and care of the volunteers surround the dough and you will soon have some excellent products ready for serving. All a result of servant leadership, natural, clean raw material and good, solid Christian values to add the warmth and heat necessary for healthy and nourishing food.

I believe this is how we worked on OUR WAY during 2015 and we can all of us be proud of the solid results we can see today. If you please open the attachment below these New Years greetings and read the Playbook for 2016, you will find how we plan to further implement OUR WAY through 2016.

Clean raw material, solid handwork and craftsmanship and love and care of servant leadership, unity in vision and we will make collective progress flying the flag of the YMCA.

While I am writing these words, I put some more wood to the fire and listen to the huge wind in the forest outside my windows. I am sitting in the middle of the beautiful nature created by God Almighty, and the wind sounds like His voice calling the world wide YMCA for more wholehearted fighting for the survival of this planet.

A Happy New Year to all of you!

Rev Johan Vilhelm Eltvik
Secretary General

PLAYBOOK 2016  click here to download

A star is shining

Last year we witnessed the kidnapping of 250 young girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a terrorist network. We cried knowing what was happening to those young children. They are still missing. They are still in the jungle, somewhere in the wilderness.

Is there a star shining over these 250 young girls in the jungle of Nigeria?

At Easter time this year we witnessed how 148 young students in Garissa University College, Kenya, were shot in their dormitories. Surviving friends were crying in desperation and grief. The parents were crushed under the shock and cruelty of the meaningless tragedy.

Is there a star shining over the parents and families and survivors?

Josef and Mary was a young couple waiting for their first child to be born. They had nowhere to go when the birth was overdue, Josef was desperate, he could loose his wife and his newborn child during  a cold night in the dirty barn.

Was there a star shining over the terrified young couple, soon to be refugees in Egypt, escaping from the terror of the jealous king?

This may be a different Christmas message. My thoughts started in the darkness of the Nigerian jungle, went to the darkness of the dormitories in Kenya and from there to the darkness of the barn in Bethlehem.

The star of Bethlehem is shining over the 250 young girls in the Nigerian jungle; the star of Bethlehem is shining over the grieving victims in Garissa.

The star of Christmas is the star shining into the desperation and pain and suffering of the poor and oppressed and the victimized. The star of Bethlehem is shining over the untold story of Injustices towards Young People.

If we do not identify with that untold story in solidarity with the victims, we have to do without the shining star of Christmas.

For us then is only the Jingle Bells…..

YMCA One Million Voices Research goes global

The YMCA movement has received overwhelmingly positive response to our first global research program: “YMCA One Million Voices”. 

Launches have happened around the world to share the news of the Report’s findings. So far there have been launches in England (at the House of Commons no less!), Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and Cameroon – with more to come!  

One of our National country leaders tweeted:  “What a fantastic read! Such a great report”.  Our English leader, Denise Hatton, had an excellent media story in the Huffington Post:  click here

“Dare I say, even more important than great feedback from our Executive Committee and National Leaders is the feedback from young people themselves” said World YMCA Secretary General, Johan Vilhelm Eltvik. “The hashtag #giveavoiceYMCA has been alive all over the world. Our social media statistics show we have been reaching hundreds of thousands of people with this great story of what young people today need”.

“Rarely have I seen young people embrace the results and want to speak out about a research program, but this has happened with One Million Voices. Our YMCA Change Agents*, as well as many other young people outside the YMCA, are speaking out about the report and wanting it to be powerfully used and read”,  Johan said.

Some of the voices of young people commenting on the research:
“Very cool”
“Thank you World YMCA”
“This truly represents our voice, dreams and aspirations”
 “YES! We have a voice”
“The YMCA believes in the need to deliver the message of the youth! That’s what OMV is for”
 “World leaders: it is a big day for you. Today you have the opportunity to hear the voices of young people”. 

To find out more about YMCA One Million Voices – including purchasing the Report – click here.

To read more about Johan’s thoughts read his blog post click here:  
*YMCA Change Agents are young volunteers and/ or staff  from YMCAs across the world who strengthen the YMCA so the YMCA can serve more young people. They participate in leadership training and gain skills to transform their YMCA and their wider community. This is a locally based programme with global networking.

 (left) Noel, one of our YMCA Change Agents, speaking in the House of Commons … a memorable day for him, and (right) with World YMCA President, Peter Posner and fellow YMCA Change Agent Katrina.

(left) Africa and (right) Australia actively listening to the global results.

Young people speaking for young people. (left) Stewart in Edinburgh and (right) Stac in Auckland.