María Fernanda: YMCA was where I found myself

How did you come to the YMCA?

When my cousin was about 12 years old, he attended an YMCA English Immersion Camp my aunt found on the internet. She told me she had found a youth organization that I might like; she didn’t know what that organization would be to me.

To be honest, my cousin did not have the best experience; although the YMCA did an extraordinary job, he was struggling due to personal issues. Afterwards, about three months later, I was looking for an internship in a non-profit organization as part of my undergraduate studies in Business Administration and to my own surprise the YMCA was an option. I called my cousin’s Camp Counselor to explore possibilities and I was amazed to know that he remembered my cousin very well. He mentioned that the YMCA was looking for people to work on a project with the Colombian Ministry of Education, and in the blink of an eye I had a position in the administrative area; frankly speaking it was not my favorite thing to do, but I connected quickly with the people at the office; they were different: honest, transparent, funny and welcoming.

During my experience as an intern I was asked to be a Camp Counselor in one of the 34 YMCA English Immersion Camps run along with the Colombian Ministry of Education; I did not know this was the reason I fell in love with the YMCA. I witnessed how these teens pulled out their true-self in a safe space, strengthening their values and becoming their best version of themselves. I understood that God put us in places where we are needed, and I needed to be there to serve others and myself.

Unexpectedly the YMCA became part of a healing process where I found myself after years of insecurities. I realized what I was made of, that it is possible to dream of having a better world and taking actions to make it happen.

 

What are you doing now?

After 6 years of being involved at the YMCA Colombia where I realized that marketing can be used for doing good, I took a leap of faith and now I am working at the Latin American and Caribbean YMCA doing what I love. I just have words of gratitude because this whole process has taught me how to be more humble to support others to shine.

What has been your involvement with the World Council, and what are your hopes for it?

It was back at the beginning of 2020, right before the Covid shutdown. At that moment, I was working at the YMCA Colombia co-creating the marketing department; however, I was looking for an opportunity to contribute on a larger scale to the YMCA movement.

I was asked by the YMCA Colombia CEO if I was aware of the “Design Thinking” methodology and the World Council, and with excitement I became part of the World Council Design Team. Somes perks of this position were first to interview people that participated in the previous World Council where I found an incredible sense of happiness, enthusiasm and passion for the YMCA, and second, working with an amazing team in the concept for the World Council where we dreamed about an event that was not only a one-time experience but an opportunity to live the mission and vision of our movement by actively participating in meaningful conversations. That is what I hope the World Council will be.

 

We are discussing Vision 2030 – what’s your Vision 2030 for YMCA?

My vision is that more young people are empowered to create innovative solutions for their communities. Yes! They are the leading role! They are the ones raising their voice and taking action towards an equitable, just and sustainable world. I have always wanted the YMCA to be more positioned; however, I believe that if the world recognizes the power of youth then the YMCA will be!