Sierra Leone – National Council of YMCAs
Date of foundation of the YMCA: 1912Membership Status: Full Member
Full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs since: 1981
Brief YMCA History
The Sierra Leone YMCA was founded by the Late Dr. I.C. Pratt in 1912. It started with few devoted Christians who met regularly for Bible Studies and Prayer Meetings. Their meetings took a rotational form ie from house to house of every member.
No one can clearly recount how they got the idea of a YMCA but one would envisage that a few of them must have heard, read or seen YMCA somewhere . The house meetings which started in 1912 eventually changed to a public one.
Meetings were conducted at the Freetown Community Centre, opposite Rokel Commercial Bank at Siaka Stevens Street where we now have the Reliance Insurance Trust Corporation.
The Group extended its programmes and activities and in 1915 the first Boxing Day Sports was organised at the then recreational grounds now National Stadium at Brookfields.
Before the 2nd World War, a building situated at the corner of Trelawney Street and Oxford Street in Freetown now Lamina Sankoh and Lightfoot Boston Streets respectively and opposite the Wesley Church housed the YMCA.
Regular meetings were conducted in that building and the Association also ran a canteen which became very famous for war stricken Sea Men, Members of the Navy and Armed Forces whilst in transit. Unfortunately as the years went by things took a different turn as the Association was no longer viable.
However, a young YMCA Professional by the name of Dr. Henshaw from the United Kingdom visited Sierra Leone to help with the Association’s work. He even developed a Boys Section.
Much was not heard about the YMCA until 1976 when a member of the YMCA in the United States of America, Mr. Waldo Keck visited Sierra Leone and was concerned with the deplorable state of the Association.
During those days, he met people like the Late Mr. M.E.A. Davies who was one time National Chairman and contributed in the formation of three Branches namely: Freetown, Kissy and Cline Town. A building was eventually rented at N0. 4 Pultney Street in Freetown which housed the office of the Association.
A Commercial School was established with foreign aid and regular outings were organised as the years went by.
In 1978, the then National Chairman, the Late Mr. M.E.A. Davies made contacts with the German YMCA to help in putting the Sierra Leone YMCA on a sound pedestal. A Partnership was then created and this resulted in the advent of a Fraternal Secretary Mr. Erich Kotnik in January 1979 and the employment of a full time National General Secretary Mr. Eben Whenzle in March 1979.
To bring together Young People whether by age or by attitude or different traditions, race or colour into the World Wide Fellowship of the Young Men’s Christian Association, through which they may grow as Christians participating in the life, worship and growth of the Church expressing their Christian Faith by word and deed.
The Young Men’s Christian Association Sierra Leone had since 2002 being making contribution to the Peace Building and Education Process by embarking on Peace Education and Advocacy in three Regions of the country (Western, Eastern and Southern). The Relief and Rehabilitation Department with support from Horyzon – Switzerland conducted several workshops and training of trainers and peace motivators..
Agricultural inputs in the form of seed rice were given to Returnee Farmers in the Kori and Tikonko Chiefdom in the Southern Region.
We are also implementing Skills Training for Ex-combatants and Youths in Kenema, Eastern Region.
The following areas of study are being offered in the Skills Training Programme:
– Tailoring and dress making
Vocational Training in Freetown and Bo forms part of our Educational Programmes. Non-food items were given to Returnees after the war in the form of pots and pans. This programme was implemented in Taiama and Tikonko Chiefdoms in the Southern Region.
Evangelism and spiritual upliftment is our major task being a Christian Organisation and as such we do organise Bible Studies, Outreaches, revival etc.
Every year on the 26th December (Boxing Day) the Association do organize what is known in Sierra Leone as the YMCA Boxing Day Sports. This activity was first organised in 1915 and since then it has become a traditional event, which caters for National and International Athletics. We have also embarked on a Kindergarten school at Kissy, which caters for orphans in the Kissy environs. Our Youths have formed a national drama and gospel group, that helps in the dissemination of the peace message. Sponsored walk, outings, picnics, concerts are some of our fund raising programmes.
Address – National Office
NGS, Christian Kamara
YMCA Sierra Leone
P O Box 243
No YMCA accomodation available in Sierra Leone
From the Field: Young people: stakeholders in the GOP in Sierra Leone
The Global Operating Plan (GOP) for movement strengthening is a new phenomenon, which has left its mark in post-conflict Sierra Leone.
Young people are not only considered as beneficiaries of the movement strengthening process but as stakeholders in its implementation as they represent an essential and dynamic part of YMCA human resources. Initially the young people thought that the GOP was merely a devolution of powers. It was during the Country Focus Group meetings that young people learnt that this is a holistic approach for institutional dynamism. Many workshops were held to sensitise members about the GOP and the challenges ahead. A new Youth Council has been instrumental in involving young people in these workshops and in the movement strengthening process in general.
As a result of the Institutional Diagnosis, policy changes have been made so that youth now make up 30% of any decision-making bodies or on any developmental matters. This means that their democratic participation has been enhanced. Even before the GOP the National Secretariat had designed many educational programmes for young people – especially those who had been seriously affected by the war – for example, carpentry, tailoring, brick construction, basic principles in entrepreneurship and computer studies. This initiative has enabled hundreds of youths who initially lost hope altogether to graduate in various disciplines and to become self-reliant.
Sierra Leone YMCA is currently implementing two HIV/AIDS projects under the GOP initiative with the significant involvement of young people. The impacts of these projects are remarkable; thousands of young people now have access to information about this dreadful disease, and to date, 600 young people have been trained as peer educators in five communities where the projects are implemented.
However, huge challenges remain. Volunteerism in Sierra Leone is not easily undertaken. Many of the youth volunteers are students, living in deplorable conditions and lacking basic social facilities. Currently, we are planning to organise our biggest youth forum in the eastern province of the country which brings together youth leaders to develop a three year action plan. Our dream is to have a youth centre which can provide recreational facilities for young people which ensure their fullest participation.
Sahr Augustine Musa, Young Leader
YMCA of Sierra Leone
Blog Post from the Secretary General on a Visit to Sierra Leone YMCA
6 May 2012
After a short week at home Carlos and I met at the Geneva airport and boarded a plane for Paris and onwards to West Africa, Sierra Leone and Freetown. The YMCA in Sierra Leone was celebrating 100 years anniversary and we wanted to share this moment with them. A big group of international YMCA partners had already arrived in Freetown, among them a big delegation from Westbund regional YMCA in Germany, and friends from Canada, USA, England and neighbouring Liberia. [more…]