YMCA History

On 6 June 1844, Sir George Williams founded the first YMCA in London, England. The first meeting was held above a drapery shop in St Paul’s Churchyard, and brought together 12 young men. By the time of the first World Conference in Paris in 1855, the YMCA Movement was already established in 9 countries.

YMCA Ceremony

180 years of the YMCA, 1844-2024

The Movement looks back and looks forward

The story so far

Celebrating 180 years of the YMCA

On 6 June 1844, the YMCA was born in London. Join us to look back and look forward

Our Mission

The World Alliance of YMCAs was founded in 1855 at its first World Conference...

Sir George Williams – Founder of the YMCA

George Williams was born in Somerset, England, on 11 October 1821...

Paris Basis – 1855

The continuing basis of the work and witness of the Young Men's Christian Association...

Kampala Principles – 1973

The 6th World Council meeting in Kampala, Uganda, in July 1973, adopted at the same...

Challenge 21 – 1998

Challenge 21, adopted at the 14th World Council of YMCAs, Frechen, Germany, 1998 states...

YMCA historical figures

On 6th June 1844, George Williams, together with ten Christian young men, established the YMCA.

YMCA Logo – History

The official emblem of the World YMCA was first adopted in 1881, at the 9th International YMCA World Conference, and is still in use today.

The YMCA’s contribution to sports and physical education

The YMCA’s mission challenges YMCAs the world over to “strive for spiritual, intellectual...

Basketball : a YMCA invention

James Naismith was a Canadian farm boy from Almonte, Ontario, a small town just a few kilometres from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa.

Our beginnings

YMCA 1855 Paris

First World YMCA Conference in Paris

"Our objective was the improvement of the spiritual condition of the young men engaged in houses of business, by the formation of Bible classes, family and social prayer meetings, mutual improvement societies, or any other spiritual agency.”

Sir George Williams wasted no time in organising YMCA branches throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. Over the next 10 years, YMCA movements also began to develop across Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

The idea of creating a truly global movement with an international headquarters was pioneered by Henry Dunant, Secretary of YMCA Geneva, who would later go on to found the International Committee of the Red Cross and win the first Nobel Peace Prize. Henry Dunant successfully convinced YMCA Paris to organise the first YMCA World Conference. The Conference took place in August 1855, bringing together 99 young delegates from nine countries.

The Conference adopted the Paris Basis affirming YMCA’s mission and purpose, and created the Central International Committee. The committee operated without a headquarters until 1878, when a permanent headquarters and formal structure was created in Geneva, Switzerland. This was a turning point for the Central International Committee that would eventually become known as the World YMCA.

Presidents & Secretaries General of the World’s Committee/World Alliance YMCAs