Welcoming the world to Aarhus as a Danish volunteer

By Kristoffer Damgaard Vindum, one of many YMCA/YWCA Denmark volunteers at the 20th YMCA World Council in Aarhus, Denmark, 4-8 July 2022

For more than 2 years, we, in the Danish YMCA & YWCA, have been looking forward to welcoming YMCAs from all over the world in Aarhus, Denmark.

And we have loved having the world here in Aarhus for YMCA World Council.

Opening the doors, feeling the Danish Summer, smelling the blooming flowers and the newly fallen rain. From the first moment that the international delegates entered the Music House, we have enjoyed the atmosphere and inspirational talks over cups of coffee or pork with rice at dinner.

Singing at the opening show

For me, it’s been a great privilege to work with talented people from all over the world. And for the opening ceremony, I got the opportunity to sing with the house band for the ‘In Memoriam’ section. Singing the song “For Good” from The Wicked musical once again reminded me of what the YMCA does to people, and what it has done to me. In the YMCA, I’ve met people that change lives, and people who have changed my life. The first verse of the song really encapsulates one of the reasons why I am a volunteer and love volunteering in the YMCA & YMCA Denmark:

“I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return”

My whole upbringing, I have experienced people volunteering to create activities for me and my circle of friends. Now, it’s a pleasure to bring this to the YMCA World Council in Aarhus by doing our best to be the best hosts in the world.

Being the best hosts in the world

Our goal was to be “Verdens bedste værter” – “The best hosts in the world”. In the Danish YMCA & YWCA, we are glad that we were able to deliver this World Council. Countries from all over the world have contributed to making our YMCA Movement as it is today. As the Chairperson of the Danish Host Team, Gritt Rihnstrøm Kristensen, said in her speech at the Danish Evening on Wednesday 6 July:

”It’s a very basic thing for us to be part of a world movement. Hosting the World Council in Denmark comes out of a wish to give something back to you – the global YMCA movement.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve enjoyed eating lunch and dinner together with people from the global YMCA movement. I’ve enjoying working with them in the online studio, where I even managed to interview the National General Secretaries of YMCAs Ukraine and Belarus. And I’ve enjoyed having inspiring conversations about both former and future YMCA work.

Working in equal conditions

Being a part of YMCA & YWCA in Denmark, I am used to getting big responsibilities when hosting events and activities – from controlling big budgets for festival communication, to planning shows on stage.

At this World Council, I’ve been coordinating alongside people from different countries and with different titles. It is a pleasure to experience that we are equal across titles as General Secretary, Director and Volunteer. Equality is one of the things of pride that Gritt Rihnstrøm Kristensen mentioned in her speech. And it is important that this is also present in the YMCA.

For me, the equality and great conversations are what makes it so fun to stay at the YMCA.