Lebanon – National Council of YMCAs
Date of foundation of the YMCA: 1919
Membership Status: Full Member
Full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs since: 1961
Brief YMCA History
The YMCA in Lebanon have very early roots. A Christian association was formed in Beirut in 1890. In 1919 work started in Tripoli. Early work included services among students at the American University of Beirut and other colleges, services to Armed Forces in World War II, recreational and medical programmes, ‘Home for the homeless’, and vocational training.
YMCA work has been carried out in YMCA centres in Beirut and Tripoli, and at programme centres under the direction of a National Refugee Committee, in Tyre and Sidon. The YMCA Camp Fares at Ras El Matn is the only resident camp in Lebanon. Activities have included boys clubs, commercial courses, language classes, social and cultural programmes, physical education and sports, travel programmes and camping. In 1969 the Lebanon YMCA reported 1,200 members, 75 volunteer leaders, and 4 professional secretaries. The Lebanese YMCA has been co-operating closely with the World Alliance in special emergency programmes for Palestinian refugees; this co-operation was intensified after the war in June 1967.
THE YMCA TODAY
When the YMCA of Lebanon was first established, it was concerned solely with the promotion of Christian values amongst its Christian membership. Many of these values still motivate our current work. In the 1950s, the YMCA of Lebanon began to function much like other YMCAs around the world. It became increasingly concerned with the experiences of youth in the country. To this end, the YMCA of Lebanon had developed youth programs that are traditionally associated with the YMCA – such as summer camping, leadership training, health clubs, water safety, aquatics, and gymnastics – and also worked amongst Palestinian refugee youth.
However, it was the outbreak of civil war in 1975 that demanded the most rapid and drastic changes in the YMCA of Lebanon’s history. With the increasing chaos, danger, and suffering of war, it became both impossible, and indeed undesirable, to continue to organize recreational and educational activities for the youth. The need for emergency relief was growing exponentially.
Thus, the YMCA of Lebanon was faced with an important choice: whether to suspend all of its activities for the duration of the war, which nobody knew how long it will take, or to fundamentally reorient the organization’s mission towards working with the war-affected, the displaced, and the needy. The YMCA chose to work where the need was greatest, and where its experience and expertise could be of most use to the country. It was at this juncture, therefore, that the YMCA of Lebanon repositioned itself as a leading national NGO, and began serving all of the regions and the people of Lebanon.
During the war (1975-1990), the YMCA’s committed team of staff and volunteers became actively engaged in carrying out a number of high priority and strategically needed programs in both relief and rehabilitation. An emergency relief program oversaw the distribution of food, clothing, and medicine to the destitute and war affected. Rehabilitation efforts focused on the training of young men and women in vocations to offer them an alternative to joining the fighting militias or the illegal income generating activities. Furthermore, assistance was offered to social service institutions to help them repair their physical infrastructure damage caused by the war, and to train their volunteers and staff in more efficient management methods to better meet the overwhelming needs of the population.
The YMCA of Lebanon is a national indigenous Christian development organization. Its mission is to develop the body, mind and spirit of all people irrespective of their religions, political affiliation, colour or creed.. The YMCA/Lebanon motto is simply ‘we do not ask you what is your religion? But, what are you suffering from’?
YMCA/Lebanon programmes focus on health, environment, education, civics and democracy, public works, agricultural infrastructure and income-generation. These activities are found in all regions of the country. The YMCA/Lebanon owns and manages a management training and consultancy division to address the urgent need for capacity building in Lebanon and the Middle East amongst NGOs working in the country. The YMCA played a major role in founding the Lebanese NGO Forum (LNF) a coalition group of 11 of the country’s largest and most diverse NGOs. The LNF works to design, analyse and coordinate policy amongst its member organizations and to lobby for issues that are of common concern to NGOs working in the country.
The organization’s main programmes are:
Integrated Rural Development Program
(financed by USAID and implemented by YMCA/L with the support of the US-YMCA – International Division)
The overall goal of this project is to promote stability and sustainable socio-economic development in those targeted clusters of remote rural villages in Lebanon.
This program is divided into four major components: 1) agricultural income generation for women,; 2) community environmental management; 3) civic participation and community education; and 4) rural infrastructure development and rehabilitation.
Medical Assistance Program
This program was initiated in 1988 to address the overwhelming needs of war -affected internally displaced and underprivileged groups suffering from chronic diseases.. The purpose of the medical assistance program is to provide these patients with the necessary treatments and medications needed to sustain their livelihoods and well-being and thus to allow them to continue to be functioning members of their families and society.
Education on Democracy
Its main objectives are the following:
1) to offer education on democracy to the young as a lifestyle.
2) To design and conduct counsellors’ training in camping programs and in extra school activities.
3) To provide organized camp opportunities in group living for Lebanon’s poorest orphans and war-affected children from all different religious sects and geographical areas..
4) To help participating children overcome personality problems: physical, psychological and social and gain a better understanding of other children from different social cultural background.
Vocational Training Program
This program was initiated in 1978 to respond to the overwhelming need of young people for employable skills and income-generation to support themselves and their families.
The program proposes to train men and women in vocations where market opportunities exist.
The objectives and impacts of this program are both individual and collective. On the one hand, the need for employable skills of individual youth is met. But as a consequence of expanding opportunities for viable livelihoods, the vocational training contributes to social stability, as well as the reconstruction and development of the country.
International Management & Training Institute (IMTI)
The IMTI is concerned with capacity building for sustainable development. The institute’s team of highly experienced professionals aims to maximize the scope, impact and efficiency of organizations and to emphasize the importance of the human dimension to all activities. Above all, capacity building means human capacity building Clients, government, and NGOs receive training in civic and democratic practices, and the skills to train their own beneficiaries in turn.
NGS, Issam Bishara