Secretary General Message to the Movement

Carlos Sanvee
Dear YMCA friends and colleagues,

Happy New Year! The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection and a celebration of our blessings. This tradition takes on a greater meaning for me as I step into the role of Secretary General of World Alliance of YMCAs (World YMCA).

I am at home in the historic building of the World YMCA headquarters at 12 Clos Belmont in Geneva as I have worked here in different roles since 1999. This morning, however, was different.

When I opened the front door and entered the building, I felt something I had never felt before. I climbed the stairs to the Secretary General‘s office but paused before I sat at the desk. I have been in this office countless times over the years while working with former World YMCA Secretary Generals including Nick Nightingale, Bart Shaha and Johan Vilhelm Eltvik.

I felt a strong connection to my predecessors and the values they embody. Memories of our many conversations came flooding back. The realisation that I now occupy the Secretary-General’s office was overwhelming.

At that moment, the only thing I could do was to bow my head in prayer, affirming my trust in God, reinforcing the fact that I believed He called and prepared me for this next challenge in my life I prayed for the office, my colleagues and the YMCA movement – a sturdy vessel navigating through the winds of change in young people’s lives and in our world.

When I opened my eyes, as if on cue, I saw the bust of John R. Mott who led the YMCA with such courage and conviction that he earned a Nobel Peace Prize. I nodded to him and whispered that I am ready to set sail on our next big adventure.

Since my appointment as Secretary General, I’ve reached out and listened to YMCA staff and volunteers worldwide. I’ve been learning about your hopes and challenges, as well as your aspirations for our YMCA. I continue to be inspired by you – your service and leadership – and how you are responding to the call to critical social issues. I am greatly encouraged by the signs of your commitment to young people and their empowerment.

You spoke to me about your determination to:

  • empower all youth to remain focused in the midst of rapidly changing global circumstances;
  • establish meaningful relationships and radical collaborations;
  • rise up and be strong and just leaders;
  • shrink the social divides that fragment our communities;
  • build bridges between individuals and communities with diverse ideologies and perspectives; and,
  • be a catalyst for positive change for young people, and a unifying force within our communities and nations for dignity, equity and compassion

At the World Council of YMCAs in Chiang Mai, Thailand last July I invited you into a covenant with me – a covenant to journey together to transform the YMCA, locally and globally, into the epicentre for the youth empowerment ecosystem.

I am resolved to realise our vision of the YMCA as the ‘go-to’ place for young people. Under the guidance of the World Alliance of YMCAs Executive Committee led by Madam Patricia Pelton, we will reach new heights. I am privileged to have benefited from and now proudly standing on the shoulders of my esteemed predecessors who have laid a strong foundation that is enabling me to take the reigns as I lead from the emerging future.

Friends, we will celebrate a historic milestone together in 2019. Our YMCA will turn 175. This anniversary is our opportunity to reflect on the impact we hope to have on the next generation as well as our past achievements.

As a movement, we have reached mountain tops and known valleys. We are accustomed to rain and sunshine. The lives of millions of people have been transformed through our persistent efforts. They are the ones who testify to our collective impact and the timeless value of our programs.

The future is calling, however, at the start of this175th anniversary year. It is calling us to be a reliable platform for young people to develop self-sustaining livelihoods, contribute to the wellbeing of others, and reach their full potential. And if we live up to our full potential as a movement in response to this call, no one will be relegated to the “class of the useless” described by Yuval Noah Harari in Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

From the Strategy adopted at the World Council, we have developed an Operational Framework as our tool to build our strength and improve our effectiveness in this mission. We will use it to expand our reach and deepen our impact in three areas:

  1. Collaborations. Working together to prepare young people to resist oppression and to use their voices for social change.
  2. Movement Relevance. Adapting to the technological and other changes that will shape the global society and economy of the future.
  3. Financial Sustainability. Building our operational capacity for efficiency, productivity and effective delivery of YMCA programs and services.

Each one of us is called to play an important role. There will be many opportunities to participate, collaborate and become full partners in this great global movement. I pray that you’ll accept our invitations and join me and your colleagues around the world in creating a 21st century YMCA – one that honours our inheritance and is worthy of our lifetime commitment.

God bless you. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and meaningful New Year.

Carlos Madjri Sanvee
Secretary General
World YMCA