Belgium – National Council of YMCAs
Date of foundation of the YMCA: 1853
Membership Status: Associate Member
Associate Member of the World Alliance of YMCAs since: 1982
Brief YMCA History
YMCA groups existed in Belgium as early as 1845; by 1853 the first local association was formed in Brussels. In 1859 the National Alliance of YMCA’s of Belgium was established by six associations operating in various towns. In 1855, Belgium was one of the founding movements of the World Alliance of YMCA’s.
The Belgium YMCA has a history of work with the armed forces which was intensified in both World Wars. During World War II, with its period of occupation, the YMCA served soldiers, repatriated prisoners of war and displaced persons working in Belgium. YMCA activities have been available for boys, girls, young men and women and families.
The YMCA today
After the National Council in Belgium was dissolved in 1970 a few local YMCA groups remained active, such as Antwerp and a few in the Walloon part.
Concerning the Walloon groups, we were able to contact one of these groups situated in Soignies. During a introductory meeting in Antwerp we both agreed to look into the possibility of a closer cooperation and also to try to find other still existing groups. The group in Soignies has approximately 50 members and is basically a Scouts group, at the moment they have problems finding suitable local accommodation.
YMCA CHAB in Brussels, a remnant of YMCA Brussels, only provides sleeping accommodation and meals at very reasonable prices.
Our basic Mission is to provide, based on our Faith, help and guidance to all in need, be it spiritually, socially or materially.
For spiritual guidance we endeavour to be a beacon to those who are distressed and searching for a basis upon which they can build or rebuild their lives, this by putting their Faith in our Lord.
In many cases youth and even older people, lost in the materially and fast moving world of today, are reaching out to find a reason for their existence. We believe it to be our duty to help them find this reason by providing an example.
Also many still drop through the net of our socially structured society and for which little or no help is available or they are not aware or informed on how help can be obtained. Our mission in this field is to provide information and where required direct help by the means we have available.
Based on our belief that all are equal in the eyes of our Lord, our mission is to respect and accept the diversity in people, however, not losing sight of our own Faith.
On the worldwide scene we believe our mission is to support YMCA in its activities in creating a better world for all.
The already partly finished renovation of our facilities in Antwerp and Barvaux have allowed us to host more activities resulting in an substantial increase in members, we now have a base of around 200 active paying members and 200 non-active supporting members.
Saturday afternoons our Scouts group have their weekly meeting. The group is divided into two main sections according to age, using a certain required flexibility.
A. from 6 to 9 years Witveertjes (white feathers)
from 9 to 12 years Indians
B. from 12 to 14 years Future juniors
from 14 to 16 years Juniors
from 16 to 18 years Rangers
from 16 to 18 years Assistant Leaders
from 18 to .. years Leaders
The activities programs are also made according to the age groups. The main activities are those which are inherent to Scouts groups, sports in the main hall or outdoors, swimming, craft workshops, camping skills, games, initiation in first-aid and theme discussions, outings to events in the city, museums, historical sites, etc.
Training and guidance is basically given by the leaders of the group, when required Board members or outside assistance is called in.
A yearly Scouts summer camp is organized during two weeks in July, those from the age of 10 upwards have their camp under tents, the younger ones are lodged in our chalets in Barvaux.
Last year 50 children participated of which there were more than 15 from needy families, for these children we covered all or part of the cost. During the year we also have two or three shorter camps of two to four days mainly for the older Scouts.