My Journey with the Change Agents

Date: 29 January 2014

Two Change Agents hold a Palestinian flag during our meeting in Prague!

It would have been impossible to imagine this moment three years ago.

Excitement has been constant companion for each of the World YMCA staff and volunteers involved in an amazing journey towards youth empowerment.

We started the Change Agents initiative in 2011. Today, less than two years later, we have involved 220 young leaders from all continents in a project to bring about change to the World YMCA movement.

What does this change look like?

We are uniting our “global movement” with a common focus around youth empowerment in order for us to serve more of the 1.8 billion young people living in the world today. There is a “scandal” going on in this very moment that I believe makes our unity even more urgent. Injustices of different kinds are affecting the lives and hopes of majority of the largest group of young people the world have ever seen and yet their suffering goes mostly unnoticed! There is a story out there to be told!

This reality informs everything we do.  For the Change Agents it means more and better preparation to face the challenges of the world they have inherited. The World YMCA has now conducted regional trainings for change agents in all areas of the world. We’ve brought Change Agents together in Prague for a global training to build upon all of the online activities they are participating in. We have also organized a mentorship program between Change Agents and experienced leaders in our movement to provide support and counseling for this generation of life-long leaders for the YMCA movement.

This is not an easy journey. It takes a lot of time and understanding of the different realities; it costs a lot of money to face all the obstacles that are a natural part of such an ambitious international project.

For example, some of the young people we work with live in areas where electricity is available for only 6 hours a day, making the access to internet and other communication tools very challenging. Others are working for the YMCA in rural areas, a long way from any modern infrastructure that will ease their work. And most change agents are dealing with life as any of us would! They are planning their weddings, supporting family members, and much more while finding time to write essays about their leadership gaps, or to take part in webinars to learn about global issues.

But that’s the key: It is their work that moves me to action every day. These Change Agent stories of struggle, commitment and success, side-by-side with their mentors, have been a daily inspiration to my colleagues and me at the World YMCA

The end of this Change Agent training phase is around the corner but it is just the beginning of a long-term commitment to serve young people around. The current generation of Change Agents will continue to work fully integrated in their home YMCAs at the same time we start already to prepare for the next Change Agent group. Together they will use the YMCA as a powerful vehicle to deliver lasting change.

In June 2014, all the Change Agents will come together in Colorado, USA, to play an important role at our World Council (General Assembly). They will lead key parts of the program and will help the YMCA tell its story of change with a grand finale: a 1,000-person artistic performance.

Impressive? Well, something tells me that best is yet to come!