Closing ceremony wraps up 20th World Council with a few surprises

Go forth and ignite!

And with those words, World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee brought our time together to an end at the Closing Ceremony on Friday 8 July. Those words were a directive to the global YMCA movement to take all that we have learned this week and bring Vision 2030 to life. 

Friday’s ceremony was a rollercoaster of emotions, as people were thanked, a surprise award was presented, there was dance and song, and we found out our 2026 World Council will be held in … Toronto, Canada! 

As the highlight video that opened the programme revealed, we have accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. But as our Danish hosts Peter and Malene put it, the real work begins when we leave, as we continue the conversations we have started here in Aarhus, Denmark, and roll up our sleeves and get to work. “We need to bring that spark home and start to ignite”, Malene said. 

A look at the evening’s highlights:

First President’s Award

Carlos Sanvee called outgoing president Patricia Pelton to the stage, much to her surprise. She was to present the first-ever President’s Award; “This is a first, but let it be established at every World Council”, he said. 

Receiving the award was the National General Secretary of YMCA Romania, Alina Pop. 

The award will go to someone who has gone beyond the call of duty, in serving the YMCA and the young people and communities that the YMCA serves. This year YMCA Romania has been under enormous pressure: the pressure of war and its devastating consequences, not least for those who have to flee their homes and who need help. The response of one YMCA country is supported by the entire YMCA Movement. 

2026 World Council

The location of the next World Council in four years will be in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, beginning on 18 July 2026. While it seems a long way off, it will surely be here before we know it!

YMCA Canada CEO Peter Dinsdale and Canada executives expressed their honour at being selected to host and provided a glimpse of what to expect. 

Said Lesley Davidson, Chief Operating Officer of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, “Our Danish hosts have provided a calm and open environment that made it easy to give voice to Vision 2030. They have set some really high standards for us and inspired us. Our planning has already begun. See you in Toronto”!

Watching from across the world

As he did in the Opening Ceremony, newly re-elected Executive Committee member Ronald Senghore from The Gambia joined online to report how Word Council was from a virtual perspective.

“The Daily Show was so fun and amazing, it was definitely one of the highlights for me”, he said. “And we have had some amazing comments in the Co-Labs. I chose Meaningful Work because attracting young people to stay and serve the Y is so important. We need to attract and train them”.

Gratitude

Carlos said ‘Tak’ – the only Danish word he said he’d learned since he’d arrived in Aarhus – to a great many people and organizations. Among them: 

  • The 2,300 people who attended World Council in person and online, setting a record
  • Our Danish hosts. The 700-800 volunteers were given a “round of applause they would never forget”. 
  • The implementation, operations and technical teams and World YMCA staff.
  • The Co-Lab and Devotions teams; the latter gave us “high-quality and precious moments in the middle of our day.”
  • The Global staff team

“I am forever grateful to everyone, and if I have forgotten to mention you tonight, I have not forgotten you in my heart”, he said. 

What now?

As we prepare to leave World Council, Carlos Sanvee offered three directives:

  • Do not return as you came. “Our Vision 2030 is an enormous opportunity.  Let us each leave here fully committed to embracing this opportunity”.
  • Amplify your impact through the network. “By aligning our efforts, our impact will be exponentially greater than anything we can achieve in one country or one region alone”.
  • Remember you are part of a new story in the making. “We are writing a new story that is going to change the lives of 1.8 billion young people in the world”.

“Together”, Carlos Sanvee concluded, “let us go forth and ignite change, change of the kind the world has never seen”.

World Council closing speech Carlos Sanvee