The YMCA man of 27 years, who now leads the Y’s Men

Jose Varghese, 48, is the International Secretary General of Y’s Men International, the International Service Club associated to the World YMCA which is about to turn 100. It’s a milestone for this organisation, as well as for Jose, who reflects with us on his 30 years in different roles in the YMCA Movement. He has worked for us in India, in the Asia-Pacific region, and worldwide. 

Jose Varghese was born in Kerala, India. He studied Mathematics, and started his journey with YMCA at the university. He says: “At the age of 21, I got my first employment as Secretary of the YMCA Campsite at Aluva in Kerala. It was an open door for a young man with no experience to learn new things, interacting with different people, working with young people, acquiring new skills and facing the challenges of managing complex situations.  For me, it was truly an empowering space for discovering myself and being mentored by professional colleagues and senior volunteer leaders.”

Jose then joined the YMCA Training Institute in Bangalore, and studied for a post- graduate diploma in ecumenical youth work: “It changed my perspectives about life, faith, mission and action and enabled me to reread religious doctrines through the eyes of the poor, the young people, the women, the neglected and the weak. I could then relate all this to the contemporary mission of the YMCA”.

Working for a visible and active movement

One of the projects of Y’s Men: a charity shop in Kosovo

Jose Varghese then became Regional Development Secretary responsible for the extension and development of the YMCA in the state of Kerala. At the age of 28, he was appointed Regional Secretary/CEO of the YMCA South West India, managing over 300 local YMCAs. He remembers: “This gave me great leadership opportunities to build a team of staff and volunteer leaders. We were reimagining the future of the YMCA movement and working towards a mission oriented, self-reliant, visible and active movement. We achieved several new projects for sustainable resource mobilization through massive fundraising initiatives – these included the YMCA International Centre, the Development Study Centre, and the Ecumenical Centre”.

Over the period of 7 years, more than 200 new local YMCAs and YMCA facilities were established across the region, and all were serving local communities.

In 2007, Jose Varghese was nominated Executive Secretary for programmes at the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY) based in Hong Kong. “I was responsible for leading programmes related to Global Citizenship, Global Alternative Tourism, Peace building and Contemporary Mission”, he shares. Four years later, he joined the World YMCA to lead its Global Citizenship, Leadership Development and Resource Mobilization work. “I continued in this position until I was appointed as International Secretary General of the Y’s Men International from October 2018.”

YMCA  – Y’s Men: Partners in Mission – 100 years old in 2022

Y’s Men International Convention in Korea in 2018 when Jose was introduced as the new Secretary General

The International Association of Y’s Men’s Clubs (Y’s Men International) was founded as a Service Club for the YMCA, at the YMCA of Toledo, Ohio, in 1922. It is a worldwide fellowship of persons of all faiths working together in mutual respect and affection, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and with a common loyalty to the Young Men’s Christian Association, striving through active service to develop, encourage and provide leadership to build a better world for all humankind. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, and it has a satellite office at Chiangmai YMCA in Thailand.

“Today there are 1600 affiliated clubs in 73 countries, working together with a common vision of serving the community and supporting the mission of the YMCA. Since the pandemic struck, 93 new clubs have been created”, explains Jose. “Y’s Men is a great place for Alumni of the YMCAs, young members, past and present Board members and staff, and active supporters of the YMCA. It’s a platform for giving back to the YMCA and the community, while keeping up  global connections and a network of friends, and experiencing International Service Club life. The Y’s Men’s clubs support YMCA’s mission through their volunteer time and resources, and they connect up members and clubs worldwide. The members and leaders of the Club are both women and men working together in fellowship. Their motto is ‘to acknowledge the duty that accompanies every right’.

In 2022, Y’s Men International is celebrating 100 years of service. Jose Varghese says: “Our centennial vision is first to extend our organisation to at least 50,000 members based in 100 countries, and second to strengthen Y’s Men International at the global level by offering relevant services to the YMCA and community and increasing our international visibility. We hope and pray to have a major centennial celebration on 15-17 November 2022 in Taiwan”.

After all these years at the YMCA, Jose Varghese is still full of enthusiasm as he looks into the future: “We believe that the YMCA Vision 2030 is close to ours. They both reflect the role of the YMCA today. We embrace the strong internal solidarity of the Vision 2030, as well as the collective power of the YMCA Movement to influence, change and build a just, sustainable, equitable and inclusive world. As a partner in Mission, Y’s Men International is looking forward to collaborate with this vision, and journeying together for a better future for all”.

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