Betsabé Véliz Merino, 29, is the youngest elected President of a national YMCA. She is a true example of what youth leadership looks like: hard work, true dedication and high spirit.
Betsabé Véliz Merino is originally from Lima, the capital of Peru. She has been involved with YMCA for 21 years. She says: “I took part in YMCA programmes which contributed to every part of my growth as a person. Like so many young people who have the opportunity to shape their citizenship at the YMCA, I graduated from the Leadership School in 2008. Four years later, I served at the YMCA in Berlin. I certified as a German language teacher”.
Betsabé is a legal project manager, and passionate about social justice: “My conviction to work for justice and exercise leadership made me want to ensure that my legal knowledge has an impact in our country. I led a participatory research project on prisons, to offer the Peruvian State a proposal for restructuring the penitentiary system. This research was presented to our Congress”.
Her work is dedicated to young people. Currently, Betsabé is the General Director of the Constitutional Perspective Association, made up of students, graduates and professors from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru: “I advise on draft laws in different spheres of government by evaluating their viability within the constitutional framework and human rights. I am also a strategic partner of The Peruvian Social Incubator, a social purpose corporation”, she adds.
Making YMCA Peru a relevant actor in the country
Betsabé’s nomination is the result of many years of active commitment and passion: “My governance experience at the YMCA has allowed me to be a member of the Board (2016-2017) and a member of the Associate Review Board (2018-2019). I have played roles in the Economic-Financial Committee and in the Youth Empowerment Committee. As a volunteer, I lead the “Sumaq Muru” solutions team, which was awarded a USD 7,500 seed funding grant after the YMCA Youth Led Solutions Summit for Climate Action. I am also the co-creator of the “Get it: Youth & Employability project”, which was awarded a USD 12,000 grant from the Global Youth Mobilization, channelled through World YMCA. At the moment I am also the co-creator of another national solutions team in the “Move up, social entrepreneurs” project, which was awarded a USD 5,000 seed funding grant after the YMCA Youth Led Solutions Summit on the Future of Work.
So what is her role as the President of YMCA Peru? “I have the responsibility to continue taking this mission to the community. With my team, we are committed to continue working so that our movement does not stop empowering young people and families through comprehensive training in body, mind and spirit, with a diverse and inclusive perspective, promoting equity between men and women”.
The YMCA Board members’ objectives are clearly defined: empowering leaders as change agents, implementing innovative programmes, creating an inclusive culture, and ensuring the full relevance of YMCA Peru’s activities and presence. To achieve all this, Betsabé explains, “Our plan has four main elements: focusing on emergency planning, establishing timely communication channels, consolidating our 2035 master plan, and strengthening governance capacity”.
Betsabé is convinced that YMCA Peru has a key role to play at a national level: “I believe it is really important to invest in innovation processes, impact measurement, and to empower a competent team of volunteers and workers with a unique and strong purpose – all of them clear about the mission and always working with the same vision. As a voluntary Christian movement called to action, we can’t stop … we can’t cease to shine, to be light and inspiration for others. My commitment to youth empowerment drives me to make decisions for the good and future of YMCA Peru, the movement I love so much”.