Retirees discuss YMCA work in Latin America and Caribbean

Date: 18 October 2023

On October 18, 2023, the World Fellowship of YMCA Retirees (WFYR) held its second virtual gathering, exploring YMCA activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Approximately 50 attendees from around the globe met to learn about the region’s initiatives and catch up with friends, delve into recent meetings and projects, and hear from YMCA leaders. President Kohei Yamada, World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee, and the CEO of the Latin America and Caribbean Alliance of YMCAs, Antonio Rodrigo Merino, were among the featured speakers.

WFYR’s Franco Savoia and other leaders took a moment to reflect on the challenging situations in Palestine and Israel; Ukraine; and Afghanistan, which recently endured a devastating earthquake resulting in the loss of more than 2,000 lives. Said Franco, “I cannot help but think of the real pain and suffering they are experiencing, and our prayers are with them.”

Empowering communities: YMCA LAC

Antonio Rodrigo Merino provided an overview of the history of the YMCA in the region. Its first YMCA was established in Barbados in 1880, marking the beginning of remarkable growth. Over the years, the YMCA Movement expanded rapidly, and today, the Alliance supports 25 Movements in 400 communities, impacting the lives of 1.5 million people. These programmes predominantly focus on children, adolescents, and young people, many of whom reside in areas of poverty.



Said Antonio, "We believe young people are the key to transforming their communities across the region," underlining the importance of connecting, facilitating, and inspiring these organizations to empower young individuals and communities. Collaboration with local, regional and international organisations has led to a diverse array of programmes and services, including sports, food security, peace initiatives, childcare, and more.

In most cases, the programmes are led by young volunteers who want to share their talent, time and passion for the work, Antonio said.

In recent years, YMCA Latin America and the Caribbean have prioritised mental health, recognizing the profound impact of such services. Antonio shared the story of a woman who was contemplating suicide; thanks to the mental health programme through the YMCA, she learned to seek help. Without it, he said, she might not be here today.

Vision 2030: Path to greater impact

Antonio expressed the Alliance’s commitment to aligning its strategy with YMCA Vision 2030, emphasising how this alignment would amplify its impact. Carlos Sanvee added that since the adoption of YMCA Vision 2030 just over a year ago, YMCAs worldwide are actively integrating it into their strategies.

“The question isn’t, should we do it? It’s, how do we do it?” he said, “We need to be there to support the YMCAs, and I am thankful for the support of this group, which is helping us to make it happen”.

Coming up: The next WFYR meeting will be held on 22 May 2024.