Visit to a Different World

From 9 th to 13 th December 2011, I was allowed to fly to Doha in Qatar for the 4 th UN Alliance of Civilisations Forum. This was not only a totally new experience in terms of the country and the Arabic culture but also in terms of the character of the Forum. I have not been to such a big political meeting before but I was excited about the “new world” that I was allowed to explore.

About 2.000 delegates from all over the world – from governments, youth organisations, political parties, companies etc. – were present in the Doha Convention Centre, the biggest conference centre I have ever soon so far. A youth delegate Forum was set before the UN Forum to inform the youth about the Alliance of Civilisations, its work and the priorities of this conference.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, took some time to join the youth forum and to answer some questions that participants had prepared before. During the youth forum, we worked on issues such as interfaith dialogue, intercultural tolerance and understanding and global issues for youth (unemployment, environment,…).

During the UN Forum itself, several working groups were offered to the participants. I joined the following: ‘The Role of Education in Sustainable Development’; ‘Youth for Development: Partners and Agents of Change’; Educating youth for dialogue, reconciliation and peace; ‘Conflict transformation: dealing with the past to build a better future – the role of teaching history’; ‘Young professional exchanges: the need to scale up Effort and to Mainstream Technology to increase impact and reach’; and ‘Towards a Good Governance of International Migration’.

The workshops/working groups gave a good impression on the existing structures within the UN as well as certain examples of countries (e.g. delegates of governments leading the workshop discussions). In addition, some discussion platforms on which government delegates as well as youth organisations, journalists and UN delegates shared their opinions on some of the mentioned issues.

In my opinion, it is important for the YMCA to stay informed on the issues related to youth that the UN Alliance of Civilisations is working on. However, forums such as the one in Qatar are more a time of sharing and making contacts than concrete work on specific themes. It is possible to join certain working groups/departments that exist within the UN Alliance of Civilisations if the YMCA is interested to influence the work that is done on specific issues. However, the forums are not the platform to do so. It is more a political event than an actual meeting of progress and opportunity of engagement.

By Sarah Simmank (Germany)
YMCA Global Youth Empowerment Task Force Member

State of the NEW WAY

Dear friends,

Ken Colloton and I would like to wish all of you a very happy New Year! Through the NEW WAY 2011 was a marvellous year and we both thank you sincerely for all  support and energy you have invested in serving the YMCA worldwide!

Last year I shared with you my first day message from Geneva – hopes, dreams, visions on the first day on the job. I introduced to you the vision of a NEW WAY.

Today I want to send you a message again. This is a message about progress that we have jointly made in 2011 as a world movement, a kind of “State of the YMCA” update. It is also a message about future visions and priorities, a new change model for youth empowerment.


YMCA Empowers Young People! This is the exciting focus in our NEW WAY Strategy. We want to take the position as the leading youth movement in the world. Romulo’s speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations, speaking on behalf of the youth organisations of the world, underlined this ambition with a great success in New York in July. Later on we have been invited two times to participate in high level evaluations of the UN Youth Programmes. The task force for Youth Empowerment is working, extensive research into youth issues  is being undertaken, the World Challenge October 13, 2012 is being developed. We will mobilize big numbers of young people.

Ken and I, the Officers and the rest of the staff have travelled the world to introduce NEW WAY. You have embraced it and supported it – thank you!


The NEW WAY fundraising campaign to raise money for capacity building in the Areas and National Movements for better income generation on all levels of the YMCA is already a resounding success! Through 2011 NEW WAY raised US $ 1’002’200. We invested US $ 188’200 in Area projects and they raised US 1’027’604. This gives us a Return on Investment (ROI) of 5,46!


We have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the World Urban Network and with Y’sMen International and the same is being created with the North America YMCA Development Organization, (NAYDO). They are all helping us to set up a scheme for coaching, training and evaluation of the Area projects for fundraising. We are setting up Think Tanks for Youth Empowerment, Resource Mobilization, Social Enterprise Projects, Global Citizenship, Environment and for the YMCA Student programme. This is just the beginning of the HUB-model, of having experienced resource people from around the global YMCA movement coming to assist NEW WAY for shorter and longer periods of times. “Professionals in Residence” is another programme we are initiating. The Global Staff Team is our closest partner and we thank all of you warmly for your partnership!


We conducted high quality research to further our efforts to define the YMCA youth empowerment change model, understand the impact of the work on the local, regional, national, and global level, and identify the challenges facing young people today.  The research has gathered specific information on the critical areas of jobs/employment, health, and civic engagement and includes survey data from National Movements and targeted interviews with leaders in each of these fields of our work.  The research also includes issue papers focused on the contemporary challenges facing young people today written by leaders from each region. We are expanding the scope of research in the months to come and a comprehensive report will be presented to the Executive Committee in Kenya in April.


A “Road Map” for the task force on Image and Impact is developed, a report on the Partners in Progress research, called “Our WAY Forward”, is produced, two issues of the “YMCA World” delivered, Annual Report, Peace day poster and Weak of Prayer leaflet developed, the website totally modernized and updated, use of Social Media increased both on Face Book, Twitter and Blog. Together with APAY we published a resource book on Global Citizenship. Papers have been issued on GOP III for Movement Strengthening, on Movement Dialogue on Global Citizenship as well as a WAY Capability Statement.


Under the leadership of our President, Ken Colloton, we see a continued renewal of our governance models and practices, very much building upon the good results reached by our previous volunteer leadership. Our Christian mission and Youth issues are both integrated in all that we are doing as an Executive Committee and leading to increased mission awareness and real youth influence. We have a new policy on Conduct and Ethics, and we have clear procedures for evaluation of both the Executive Committee and the Secretary General. We are in full process of preparing for the next World Council.


These are just the highlights of what we have achieved together under the umbrella of NEW WAY in 2011. It was a good year for NEW WAY, because so many of you embraced the new strategic directions.

For the world it was of course a difficult year, and many of you and your YMCA constituents faced struggles. For young people it was especially challenging, young people are on top of all the bad statistics, everything from health and violence to unemployment and poverty. NEW WAY wants to position YMCA as the main youth movement in the world – that means the main servant to young people in the world. We want to empower young people! We interviewed 70 key YMCA leaders from around the world and asked them for a definition of Youth Empowerment. Almost all of them gave us clear, good directions for Youth Empowerment. When we asked them for a definition of the YMCA change model, the answers became very unclear and divided. Do we have a change model in the YMCA, many asked. This is the crucial need for the world movement of YMCA – to develop a clear, easy to understand, change model for us to change and modernize our YMCA to become a better servant for young people in this difficult world.

This is what we want to focus on in the months and years to come, a change model for youth empowerment, a way to mobilize millions of young people through the YMCA, mobilize them for change and a better life, mobilize them for hope and a new future. Here it comes:


The YMCA is an empowering, creative and self determined space for young people to experience life, discover their potential and develop their talents.


The YMCA empowers young people by offering tools for self-development, training for life skills, education for increased knowledge and self-esteem, which leads to:


Young people have impact on their own life situation, their local society as well as the global world, individually as well as collectively.


The Stakeholders’ Meeting in Kenya in March this year will be the most important meeting for a very long time in the worldwide YMCA. It will bring movement leaders from all Areas and Regions together with our Executive Committee. We want to introduce the YMCA Change Model for Youth Empowerment in the Stakeholders’ Meeting. We want to suggest that the increased visibility and positioning of the YMCA worldwide will be fuelled by this change model.

We hope that you will recognise this simple model in most of what you do in the YMCA. We see it in programmes like Subjects2Citizen in Africa, Global Citizenship Education in Asia and Pacific, Ten Sing in Europe, Lideres in LACA, Peace Network in Canada, Youth in Government in the USA and vocational training programmes in the Middle East.

Through the NEW WAY we seek to offer facilitation and coordination so that this change model becomes a turning point for our movement. We see the YMCA becoming  better positioned to not only serve young people inside the movement, but to mobilize big numbers of young people outside the YMCA.

In this way the YMCA will lead, coordinate and inspire change for the better around the world, through the voices and examples of empowered young leaders.

The YMCA is a Christian Youth Movement and this change model is built on our Christian values and principles. The change model and the youth empowerment is open for young people of all backgrounds, faith and cultures. The YMCA wants to serve all young people.

You will hear a lot about this in the coming months. We shall develop training material and concept papers and you will see examples of this Change Model for Youth Empowerment in Action.

At the Stakeholders’ Meeting we will continue to develop this vision and we invite all of you to come on board with all your programmes and experience to enrich this process towards a coordinated space for youth empowerment for change in this world, a place called YMCA.

Warm regards and God bless you all,

Rev. Johan Vilhelm Eltvik, Secretary General, World Alliance of YMCAs


Story of Empowerment – “Dude, you got to check this out” – Sebastian Vogt and Ten Sing

I got in touch with YMCA through friends from my neighbourhood, when I was 15 years old. I had celebrated my confirmation in the local church some weeks ago and I was feeling kind of desperate because I hadn’t done “anything Christian” since then. But after confirmation I was feeling kind of bound to do something – something a Christian would do – with other people – in a community. Luckily my friends knew exactly the right thing to do. Ten Sing! They told me: “Dude, you got to check this out. Ten Sing rules and there are a lot of girls.” That’s what you are interested in when you’re 15. I got to my first Ten Sing rehearsal at the parish hall in the neighbouring town. I was kind of nervous, but it was exactly as they had promised.

Cool people that you could look up to, nice girls and there was something more: Music. Actually a choir and a band.

Music didn’t play a big role in my life before Ten Sing. I had successfully avoided all the options my mom had offered me throughout the last 15 years to get in touch with music and instruments. My tricks: I started crying in the flute-lessons when I was small, didn’t rehearse or I simply didn’t go to the organ lessons when I was older. I was very lazy. But this totally changed through Ten Sing.

I started singing in the choir. And I liked it very much. After one year I sang my first solo on the annual Ten Sing concert. It was an amazing experience. Half a year later our conductor asked me if I want to start conducting. I didn’t know much about music theory – I still don’t – but this urge to get in touch with this new love called music, was so strong. I doubled my effort, prepared the voices and arrangements and worked my way around these “musical disabilities”. I became the main conductor of my Ten Sing group. Then I started playing the guitar and I still do with passion and joy. I was asked to go to regional seminars and teach other Ten Singers how to conduct. It was a great time. The strong, trustworthy and enduring friendships that developed ten years ago still accompany me today.

Ten Sing and the YMCA empower young people to try something new, perhaps something they have never done before. An amazing process for me, that didn’t end at that point. A lot of projects with hundreds of young people followed and I realized that it is much more fulfilling to show these kids what they are capable of when they just try and walk the distance. I became a leader in my Ten Sing region. 2006 something happened, that changed my life: I went to Århus (Denmark), where the European Ten Sing Festival took place. I was amazed. So many people from all over the Europe gathered to live out the slogan of the festival: „Living out…loud!“ Two years and a lot of Y-experience later, Ten Sing Germany decided that the next European Ten Sing Festival should be in Germany. They were looking for a festival area and Ten Sing groups from all over Germany could apply. With two friends from my Ten Sing group in Ziegenhain, a town with 4500 inhabitants, we applied as the venue of European Ten Sing Festival 2011. And we won! Long story short, in these four years between the application and the festival taking place I had the opportunity to meet so many talented and affectionate people, work on projects and ideas that challenged me and the people around me. In the team we found solutions and accomplished something that was a life changing spiritual experience for many young people. Also for me, because with every step I take I feel nearer to god. When these 2000 people from 19 different nations all over the Europe and further away came to my hometown, I was proud and happy and thankful and I still am. Today, I find myself representing Ten Sing Germany in the European Ten Sing Group, working on a common Ten Sing Idea. I found friends all around the world and I think I am finally “doing something Christian”. That’s how the YMCA empowered me.