Staff-Placements in Geneva

Date: 06 February 2014

When asked about his time in Geneva, Matheus answers passionately, not once dropping the wide smile that he is famous for throughout the YMCA. “Dude… It was inspirational!“, he answers, ”It was amazing to see the impact we have on the communities we work with and how we spread our mission in different places.”

Matheus Medeiros (Brazil) spreads his warmth at the YMCA Europe Festival in Prague (Summer 2013.)

It was nearly a year ago in 2013 when the World YMCA started the “Staff-in-Residence” programme. Since then, YMCAs in Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Germany and Russia have sent five highly qualified professionals to Geneva/ Matheus Medeiros is only one of those who have walked through World YMCA doors and left a mark on the global work of the YMCA for years to come.

The staff-in-residence project was created with two major goals in mind. On one hand, staff-placements (what the professionals are called) are expected to support the work of the World YMCA by supporting signature projects like the “One Million Voices” and the World Challenge. At the same time they are also given a rare opportunity to learn more about the YMCA’s global work, while they expand networks and contacts that will be useful for their YMCA work back home.

In the picture, Sven (Norway),  Sebastian (Germany) and Misha (Russia)

At the moment, there are three staff-placements working with the World YMCA: Sven (Norway), Misha (Russia) and Sebastian (Germany). They live together in the newly purchased apartment in the southeast side of Geneva, where at the end of the day life quickly turns from hard work to lively fun. “It is great to come to the flat after a full day of work and feel at home. We’re friends, share ideas and cook our favorite meals for each other”, Misha explains. Before arriving in Geneva, these three had never met before.

Office life at the World YMCA is what you might expect: meetings, conference calls, research, creative sessions and communications briefings. “Busy days, “ says Sven”, but the team atmosphere is great. We’re getting things done and you’ll often hear people laughing at the office.”  It is perhaps for this reason that lunchtime remains a favourite for many on the team. It gives each team member an opportunity to share traditions, eating habits, and cultural insights from each of their respective homes.

Friendships and global opportunities far outlast the time spent in Geneva. Matheus, for example, was an active participant in July 2013 with the YMCA’s global environmental group at the climate change negotiations in Prague and Abraham Martinez (the first staff-placement in the programme) has become one of national coordinators for the “One Millions Voices” that will launch later this year.  

Abraham (far left) with Joseph Peacock (The Gambia) and Anaclara Rodriguez (Uruguay) at the “One Million Voices” coordinator’s training that took place in Geneva in January 2014.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway of the programme is the opportunity that these individuals have of familiarizing themselves with the World YMCA’s work and to help bridge the gap between the local level of the YMCA and the global. “Getting in touch with the methodology of the World YMCA by working on the documents and flagship-programs, shaping and translating them, one understands and internalizes them better”, emphasizes Sebastian. “You gain the ability to articulate these ideas and adjust them to your local and national reality.”
In 2014, the World YMCA is thrilled to have a list of confirmed future participants from Chile, Italy, England, Brazil and Australia. These individuals will have the chance to see another dimension of YMCA work that is at times hard to experience.

Matheus concludes best—still smiling: “One thing is to know that the YMCA is a world wide movement and another thing to see it with your own eyes”, says Matheus, “Living it, however, was incredible.”

For more information on applying to the Staff in Residence programs, please contact: