“Why do YMCAs need to be stronger in the post-Covid world?” asked World YMCA President Patricia Pelton at the YMCA Australia National Youth Retreat on 25 November. “To serve young people who need us more than ever; to serve young people whom we need more than ever as agents of change; and to bring the YMCA into the 21st Century as the global youth empowerment organization.”
The virtual retreat, from 23 November to 4 December, is designed to connect, celebrate and empower young staff and volunteers aged 18-30.
Among its workshops was a “Global chat with World YMCA” at which Patricia Pelton and World YMCA Secretary-General Carlos Sanvee spoke about how the YMCA Movement faced the Coronavirus pandemic, and what are its main strategy lines for the near future.
Carlos Sanvee spoke about how Covid-19 hit young people hard, especially in the areas of employment, education and mental health. He then shared that the “journey ahead is very long”, highlighting the three main pillars of the YMCA Covid response strategy: “Resilience, Recovery, Reimagination”.
Patricia Pelton urged the Movement to stick to its mandate: “Our common mission is youth empowerment and youth leadership. Our ‘Padare’ debates in July and August reinforced the importance of ‘the ‘Why’ of the Y’, as we stay true to who we are as a Movement, ‘doubling down’ on our mission and purpose.”
“We are capable of anything”
World YMCA Change Agent Tanya Mischler, who was moderating the session along with YMCA Australia CEO Melinda Crole, said: “2020 has been an immobile emotional rollercoaster.(…) Our roles as Change Agents have been different this year from what was initially planned, as YMCA events were either postponed or significantly changed. So our impact as young people shifted … and grew. (…) It has been amazing to see the adaptability of the staff and the programme, and how it has grown and changed to have more reach than we ever thought possible.”
Other young leaders shared their fears, hopes and experiences. Despite having to deal with “stress management”, “loneliness” or “depression”, many young women and men took the pandemic as a new opportunity to see things from a different perspective.
Daniel from YMCA Penang, Malaysia, shared his five ‘lockdown lessons’. “We need to learn to adapt and have an open mind; it is important that we continue to upskill ourselves; what we thought was essential might not be; what we think we might want might not in fact be a need; and we need to remember that we are capable of anything.”
Watch the video below to listen to all the testimonies.