New Year Message

Date: 03 January 2013

New Year Message : Spanish ¦ French ¦ German The wind is strong, clouds are hiding the moon, which a few seconds ago was shining down on the waves in the bay of Sydney. A poor, distressed young soul dressed in a hood and jeans is making her way through the park, her steps are taking her closer to the cliffs over there, behind the trees, the cliffs where so many distressed people have ended their lives over the years. A human voice is suddenly addressing her. Confused she looks around. An elderly man is sitting there on a bench and asks her if she would like a cup of tea? Tea? Now? The sheer surprise of this sudden interference is putting her world upside down and before she knows it, she is sitting on the bench at the side of the elderly man and in her shivering hands a warm cup of tea!

Philip Hare of Sydney YMCA shared this story with me during my recent visit to Australia. This elderly man has passed away now, but through many years he saved hundreds of lives offering people with no hopes a warm cup of tea.

This is also the YMCA!

SPACE can be a bench in the park.

TRANSFORMATION can come through a cup of tea.

IMPACT means a saved life, a changed life, a new hope.

Dear friends all around the globe – Happy New Year 2013! Welcome to CHANGE!

We start the New Year in the light of the Gospel of Christmas.  The light shines out of an old cave in the Shepherd’s Field and fills the world with the glowing love from Christ who was born as a vulnerable child. It is the same love that came from the elderly man on the bench in Sydney.

So many YMCAs are vulnerable, but still every one of them are shining reflections of the Incarnation – they are all expressing Christian values and the love of God to all mankind – the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, which makes the YMCA inclusive of all people of all ages and of all backgrounds and realities. We are a Christian, Ecumenical Movement, and therefore we welcome people of all faiths and of none, we welcome all.

First of all I want to thank you sincerely for all the great things you are doing in and for and through the YMCA.

In the World Alliance of YMCAs we have dreamt big dreams – thank you for sharing them, thank you for listening and for all your feedback!

In the World Alliance of YMCA we are flying the flag of youth empowerment. Thank you for sailing with us, thank you for the sailing wind you give us!

Nothing of what we wanted to do could be done without you, and therefore, where we are today, is because of you.

Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Czech Republic,  USA, Spain, Norway, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Brazil, the Netherlands, Russia, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand – these are the 18 countries that hosted me in 2012, and I met so many local YMCAs in these countries. You remember that I told you: -The problem is not you, not the local YMCA. The problem is the lack of a collective YMCA face and voice in the world; we need to wake up this Sleeping Giant, to unlock the great potential of this huge movement that is so relevant to the needs of the world today.

And when I asked: – What is the DNA of YMCA, what is it that we do at the YMCA, wherever we are? The answer is coming back to me in the shape of a change model:  through Space, Transformation andImpact, we are Empowering Young People!

The highlight for me in 2012 was the Stakeholders meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2012, where 80 YMCA leaders unanimously lifted up this text, which I call the Nairobi Statement:

•        The YMCA wants to achieve its              full potential
•        We therefore must be a
                        stronger Movement
•        We therefore must attract
                     greater resources
•        We therefore must have                       more visibility
•        We therefore must demonstrate          greater impact
•        We therefore must have a                    shared focus

The focus must be

     Relevant to the world
     Grounded in our mission
     Worthy of our aspiration
     Connected to our current work

We therefore choose to collectively stand for    Youth Empowerment

We are doing thousands of different programmes at the YMCA, and we shall continue to do them! Diversity is our strength and blessing. But we also need a flag to sail under, a unifying message to present us by.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to sail under the flag of Youth Empowerment!

Together with all of you we mobilised 80 countries and thousands of staff and volunteers in the World Challenge, our website grew from 1500 to 20000 fans in a few days.

Together with you we are recruiting 200 Change Agents and 200 Mentors and together with you we are fundraising with local YMCAs to fund this great new resource of young global leaders for the YMCA.

Together with you we are researching our programmes on Youth and Jobs, Health, Civic Engagement and Sustainable Future.

Together with you we are in the process of starting up “1 MILLION VOICES” a great new research project where we are reaching out to 1 million young people aged 15-24 to listen to their voices. The report from this research will reach you all at the World Council meeting in Estes Park June 29 – July 5, 2014.

We continue to dream big dreams and we continue to invite you to dream with us and walk with us on the NEW WAY. This invitation comes to you in the shape of a little booklet called PLAYBOOK and we launch it today. It is our work plan for 2013 and it has 8 chapters with detailed descriptions on how you can connect to one or more of these chapters. When you are ready to read more and accept our invitation, please go to:

PLAYBOOK : English
PLAYBOOK : Français
PLAYBOOK : Español

Then I want to say thank you to Ken Colloton and the Executive Committee for great collaboration and friendship! Also thank you to the Global Staff Team for great friendship and progress. Last, but not least: A warm thank you to my colleagues and friends here at the head office in Geneva!

Rev. Johan Vilhelm Eltvik
Secretary General
World Alliance of YMCAs

12, Clos-Belmont
1208 Geneva
Phone: +4122 849 51 00 
Fax:      + 4122 849 51 10