Ken Colloton has always loved the YMCA. Now, the boy who loved volunteering has risen to become President of the World Alliance of YMCAs and even visited Buckingham Palace in March where he met Prince Edward.
Ken is Senior Vice President in the Government Banking Division of Citizens Bank where he has 25 years of experience in helping government and not-for-profit entities with their cash flow and economic development. It’s a role that stood him in good stead as he stood for election as President as Ken sees a direct parallel with his volunteering and his day job. He says: ‘For me, it’s about the opportunities and risks of working in a global world that’s changing so quickly.’
And that global world is very much in evidence at the YMCA. It’s one of the largest health and human services organisations in the world, serving more than 45 million people in 130 countries. The YMCA runs educational and vocational training programmes, wellness centres, housing projects, child care and youth education as well as theatre and arts programmes, disaster relief, migration homes and micro-loan programmes in areas ranging from the townships of Johannesburg to the hill tribe villages of Uttar Pradesh and almost everywhere in between. Ken’s role is to lead the YMCA movement and guide its strategic focus and direction.
Ken became the first American YMCA President in 30 years when he was elected in July 2010. But when he first put himself for election he was the underdog. ‘I spent my vacations and many weekends over the last two years travelling through five continents volunteering to help wherever I could,’ he says. ‘I needed to get a majority of 200 country votes internationally so it was important I took time to meet people on the local level to understand their needs.’
And now that he is President, what are his plans for the future? ‘I visited Buckingham Palace for the inaugural CEO/CVO meeting of the worldwide alliance of youth organisations where I was very impressed by Prince Edward,’ he says. ‘I am honoured to serve in this role and will work with YMCA leadership, especially our youth leaders to ensure that the global movement remains strong and innovative so that we can continue to address the critical challenges facing communities worldwide.’