Stories of Empowerment by Mutale Chanda – Zambia

I was introduced to the YMCA nine years ago, at a turbulent time in my life. My cousin who’d been a member for a number of years encouraged me to join, and I took her advice.  As part of my healing process from a painful and traumatic event in my life, I joined Kabwe YMCA in Zambia. The death of a very close friend had driven me to a life of unhappiness and my self esteem was nothing worth talking about. Struggling with the challenges of unemployment at the time did not make my life any easier as I could not afford to independently acquire even the most simplest of items I desired. However, the emotional and psychological support from my family coupled with YMCA activities, provided a support system I will forever be grateful for.

Because of the fellowship through Bible study, camps, picnics, youth leadership training seminars and workshops and other social events organized by the YMCA, I was able to find myself again. The events and programmes I attended had the kind of impact on me such that I was able to and at the some point was willing to look within myself and decide to change my situation at the time. Gradually, I also realized that my “total” transformation was also going to be possible if issues or the world around me was also “captured” in this change. With this realization, I decided to be part of the leadership process in my Y as I discovered most decisions affecting young people in the movement were made in the committees and Boards. I stood for a position on my Local Association Youth Committee as a start, and was later over time elected to and held various positions in my local Y and also National Movement, seeing me to now serving on the continental Executive Committee.

The empowerment process of a young person in my opinion, especially in the context that I’m familiar with, the African context, cannot be complete if that young person is not able to express him or herself effectively or freely, be it on governance issues, the economic sphere, issues relating to climate justice, etc. In short, young people must be given the possibility to dream, and be supported to achieve that vision! They should be allowed to find their own personal niche whilst being given space as equal partners.

I am very glad that as a Movement we have the from “Subject to Citizen” Programme which with vigorous implementation will be a catalyzing agent in ensuring the holistic empowerment of young people that will lead the process of change as responsible global citizens.

My experience in the YMCA is still one of my most cherished accomplishments. From a shy not so sure young woman I am now able to represent my business, other young people and the YMCA in fora I never ever imagined would be possible for me. Indeed, I now believe I came to the Y at the right time because God’s time is always the right time.

Press Release – Geneva/New York – 2011 High-level UN Meeting on Youth

YMCA speaker, Romulo Dantas, invites the UN General Assembly to join efforts with Youth organizations and invest more in young people

The High-Level meeting to highlight the Year of Youth opened today. Heads of States, Ministers, and official delegates from the UN members states heard statements from Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, Alek Wek from UK/South Sudan, and Romulo Dantas, YMCA.

Romulo Dantas took the audience to the streets of his youth and spoke of the precarious state of young people in today’s world. A striking example of this is the massacre of young people in Norway on Friday.

As YMCA we bow our heads in solidarity with and respect for the AUF, the Young Social Democrats of Norway, and together with them we mourn every single one of the young people they and we have lost.

At the UN, Romulo spoke of the hostile world young people face.

“I come from Sao Paulo, Brazil, from one of the most violent and poor areas of Sao Paulo city in the 90’s. Even with a wonderful family, it would have been very easy for me to go along with some friends and, as some of them, become a gang member, a drug addict, or end up in jail or even dead; but, it did not happen. He described his own personal journey from a vulnerable youth in Sao Paulo, Brazil to an empowered young person able to lead, share, give, and inspire.

“It was because of a youth organization – the YMCA. The YMCA helped me to find something that I did not have as a teenager: self-esteem, self-confidence and real friends to prove that I was capable of doing incredible things. With the YMCA I learned how to be a leader, I decided the profession I wanted to have, I learned that I could dream of everything because I am allowed to. I learned to serve, and to serve makes us happy! I had the opportunity to be healthy by practicing sports and to feel good by helping other people as a volunteer, to sing, to dance, to understand…that I am not a subject, I am a citizen! – I can participate, I can make a change!

In the YMCA – one personal story multiplied by hundreds of stories in thousands of communities impacts millions of young peoples’ lives. Romulo challenged the delegates to seize the opportunity as they celebrate the Year of Youth to commit critical resources to young people and to work in partnership with youth organizations.

“It is time for us to build a strong commitment to improve the situation of young people around the world and especially for marginalized young men and women that are suffering in many corners of this world and oppressed in their thoughts and feelings and opportunity to act.”

He urged the audience to work together towards the full implementation of the World Programme of Action on Youth. He invited the General Assembly to partner with youth organizations and recommended promoting and expanding the ambitious programme to be reflected in the laws and youth programmes of all member countries.

He took the delegates by surprise by singing …please, don’t take away my joy, please don’t take away my hope. I am a youth with a dream, so I will rise up, stand up and fight for my rights, Take me as a part of you, Don’t see me a subject but a citizen, and together we will rise….

Bombing in Oslo – Condolences

Dear Friends in YWCA-YMCA Norway

This is indeed a terrible, terrible day. First we learnt about the bomb in the centre of Oslo, downtown, where people walk and work and live, and we saw wounded people lying on the sides of the roads, bleeding.

Then we learnt about the horrors on Utøya, where children were shot at with no mercy. Young people, organised the same way as we in the YMCA, meeting for peaceful camp activities and political discussions, and then experiencing horrors not possible to imagine.

We feel for you, we pray for you and for all the victims and their relatives and friends.

In the days to come, when the shadow of this day is still falling dark, we will continue to be with you in our thoughts and prayers, and we in the worldwide YMCA bow our heads and stand in deep solidarity and sorrow with the AUF, the Organisation of Young Social Democrats of Norway, and together with them we will remember the innocent young people they lost today.

On behalf of our President, Ken Colloton and the Executive Committee of the World Alliance of YMCAs.

Rev. Johan Vilhelm Eltvik
Secretary General
World Alliance of YMCAs