Maurine Kouba from EJ YMCA: ‘The Y: An extraordinary feeling I don’t get anywhere else’

On 3 October, the East Jerusalem YMCA in Palestine celebrated its 74th year since its founding and serving the West Bank and Jerusalem. The celebration drew about 200 people: Staff, board members and volunteers to the association’s headquarters in Beit Sahour. The event included games, a meal and entertainment.

Longtime EJ YMCA Jerusalem volunteer and also World Executive Committee member Maurine Kouba said the event was a celebration of the YMCA and its strong presence in the community. Maurine, who was a YMCA Change Agent in the Second Cohort (2015-2016) was in Geneva, Switzerland, on 28-30 October 2022 for the World YMCA Executive Committee meeting, and shared what the YMCA has meant to her.

Tell us a little bit about your background at the East Jerusalem YMCA

I’ve been volunteering at the EJ YMCA for over 10 years. Since I was a little kid, I was always at the Y. Since I’ve been volunteering, I’ve been a youth leader in different youth groups. I have co-founded two youth groups, so now in Palestine, we have three youth groups.

 

What activities or programmes happen in the youth groups?

We organize and plan community events and youth events like open days, sports days, and similar events for young people and children. For example, we once organized an open day with treasure hunts, games for young people, and family events. They were also a good recruitment tool for us to invite more young people to join our community. We’ve organized and implemented our first EJ YMCA Model United Nations Conference and we’ve led one of the YMCA Youth-Led Solutions environmental and climate-action projects. We’re planning to get involved in many other Y programmes to expose young people to all different programmes.

 

What has been your favourite YMCA moment?

It’s hard to choose because you get the spirit of the Y and the belonging of the Y, which is an extraordinary feeling I don’t get anywhere else.

But a moment that stands out to me is when we realized the success of the youth groups and the motivation it brings to the young people to join the Movement. Whenever I hear a young person wants to come to the Y and have a safe space to belong, it’s amazing to hear that – and to realize that what we did as a collective group was fruitful and meant something.

 

Can you share your experience during these World YMCA Executive Committee meetings?

With my volunteering at my local Y, I know about the context of my Y and the projects we do. But here in the Executive Committee, I get to see it from the perspective of an international movement. In a way, I can bring in my experience from my local Y and what works and what doesn’t. I can also see what does/doesn’t work in different Ys on a global scale. It’s been wonderful getting to know the role of the World YMCA and the YMCA National Movements, as well as the impact they have in the different communities and as a whole. Being a member of the Executive Committee is a lens into the mission and strategies set in place to achieve the vision of the Movement, especially in light of Vision 2030.

 

How do you see the implementation of Vision 2030 in the EJ YMCA?

In the EJ YMCA programmes and projects, they explore topics with the four pillars – Community Wellbeing, Meaningful Work, a Sustainable Planet and a Just World. Our programs tap into them, but with Vision 2030 we can enhance it and we can highlight the pillars in different ways, and also promote the work being done in EJ YMCA.