“Just being together has been invaluable” – global planning meeting tackles Ukraine, Vision 2030 and funding

Date: 31 March 2022

Geneva – 32 days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine and 97 days before the opening of the 20th YMCA World Council, YMCA Area Alliance leaders for Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America/Caribbean, as well as YMCA Canada and USA, met Directors of YMCA international programmes from across Europe.

“We have reconnected; we have planned Movement-wide alignment under our collective ‘YMCA Vision 2030’; we have begun to map out the next steps of our collective action and impact in Ukraine”, said World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee. “Next stop: Aarhus and World Council in July.”


Juan Simoes, Secretary-General of YMCA Europe, presented Movement-wide work in Ukraine, with up to 750,000 euro already raised from a target of 2 million, and initial support given to some 15,000 people in Ukraine (where 17 YMCAs out of 25 in Ukraine are still functional and serving their communities) and to an estimated 40,000 new Ukrainian refugees arriving in Romania, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Belgium and Spain.


He pointed to an intended second round of support in three broad areas.


First, offering free psychological First Aid for traumatised young Ukrainians. The ‘Heal the Smile’ project is already launched, and is creating a register of professional counsellors in Ukraine and surrounding countries. The register will ultimately be matched to a register of those who need counselling.


Second, continued programmes of sports and games, arts and crafts for young people who remain in Ukraine and for young people who have fled to neighbouring countries.  These activities will take place within existing structures and new ones: for instance in Bratislava (Slovakia), Warsaw (Poland), and Baia Mare (Romania, which is already in discussion with neighbouring Cavnic in Romania and YMCAs Carpathy and Uzhhorrod just over the border in Ukraine). The activities for young people will also be accompanied by help in registering as refugees, and in learning local languages.


Third, continued training for young people in dealing with conflict, and learning conflict resolution skills, as a continuation of YMCA Europe’s Roots for Peace Programme.  ‘Roots’ has already run for 15 years, running 53 projects in 12 countries, involving well over 2000 young people for a total of 40 countries. Further rounds of the programme will ensure continued Ukrainian participation, as well as for Russians within the Russian Federation and in countries like Armenia and Georgia.


Among larger Movements to pledge their support for this second phase of the programme were Y USA, Y Care International and Y Global (YMCA Norway).


Vision 2030 and funding

The group also discussed YMCA Vision 2030, which had been approved on Saturday 26 March by the World YMCA Executive Committee to be presented for adoption at World Council. “This is our North Star,” said Sanvee. “Wherever you are in the world, you see it.”

Discussions explored key questions such as: are YMCA National Movements, as hoped, aligning their national strategies with Vision 2030? How far is the document designed for sharing with actual and would-be partners? Is there freedom to pick and choose an approach between the four pillars of Community Wellbeing, Meaningful Work, Sustainable Planet and Just World?

“I think we can envisage alignment over time”, said Tom Valentine, Vice President – International at Y USA. “This is a unique moment: we have never before had this one overarching strategic framework for the entire YMCA Movement. In philosophy and spirit, we are all committed to doing this together.”


The group discussed post-World Council implementation of Vision 2030, with dedicated teams for each of the four pillars (Community Wellbeing, Meaningful Work, Sustainable Planet, Just World), and existing Communities of Impact strengthened.

“But we need to remember who is serving whom”, said Peter Dinsdale, President and Chief Executive Officer of YMCA Canada. “Each of us serves our local associations.”


Led by World YMCA Director of Global Partnerships Kathleen Elsig, the group then discussed resourcing the delivery of Vision 2030, with the imperative of showing impact for impact investment. Central to that discussion was the value proposition of the YMCA as a global Movement uniquely serving young people and communities in diverse ways.


“This meeting is, as much as anything, about process and relationship”, said Niclas Sannerheim, International Secretary at YMCA-YWCA Sweden. “Just being together has been invaluable.”


The following attended the meeting

Global Staff Team

Tom Valentine, VP, International Group, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, YMCA of the USA

Nirina Rakotomalala, General Secretary, Africa Alliance of YMCAs

Juan Simoes, Secretary-General, YMCA Europe

Antonio Merino, General Secretary, Latin America & Caribbean Alliance of YMCAs

Peter Dinsdale, President, and CEO, YMCA Canada


International Secretaries:

Gerhard Wiebe, Director, International Department, YMCA Germany,

Fredrick Glad-Gjernes, Y Global Norway,

Graeme Hodge, Chief Executive, Y Care International

Helene Rohde-Juhl, International Secretary, YMCA & YWCA in Denmark,

Milla Makinen, Program Manager, YMCA Finland,

Niclas Sannerheim, International Secretary, YMCA-YWCA of Sweden


As well as:

Jessica Nkongolo, Manager, Youth & Global Initiatives, YMCA Canada

Adriana Stanovici, Manager, Global Advancement, YMCA USA


… and Carlos Sanvee, Kathleen Elsig and John Phillips, World YMCA