YMCA 180: Celebrating a milestone anniversary across the global Movement

Date: 12 June 2024

Happy birthday to the YMCA!

On 6 June 2024, the YMCA celebrated its 180th birthday with a range of activities and events worldwide, recognising our collective enduring legacy.

Founded on that June day in 1844 by George Williams in London, the YMCA was established to create a safe space for young men seeking refuge from the perils of urban life during the Industrial Revolution. Over the decades, the YMCA has evolved into a global Movement aiming to empower young people and communities to build a just, equitable, and sustainable world for all.

The Chittagong YMCA in Bangladesh celebrated with a “Make it Clean, Save the Green”, initiative. Pictured in the photo above is YMCA Naivasha, Kenya.

This year’s birthday was marked by events held globally. YMCAs at all levels celebrated with various activities that brought communities together.

Events included parties with balloons, cake, and music, while others marked the day with prayer and worship. Our shared YMCA 180 logo was widely featured on social media, posters, banners, and selfie frames, uniting us in a visual celebration. Additionally, tree planting events in several regions reflected the YMCA’s commitment to building a Sustainable Planet for current and future generations.

Earlier this year, we asked National YMCA Movements to send us historical images, and received a fantastic response. YMCAs worldwide submitted hundreds of photographs, which are now showcased on our YMCA 180 web page. These images serve as a testament to the YMCA’s enduring legacy and our continuous efforts to adapt in an ever-changing world.

Although the official birthday was on 6 June, YMCAs such as the YMCA of Singapore and YMCA Black Country Group are holding celebrations throughout the month. Our celebrations will continue throughout the year and will be highlighted at the YMCA Mombasa Accelerator Summit in October 2024.

Here’s a look at how some YMCAs across the Movement marked the occasion.

180 reasons to celebrate

As part of the YMCA 180 birthday celebrations, YMCAs got creative with that number. For instance, the young people of  YMCA St Paul’s Group Youth (London, UK) put their basketball skills to the test to see how many hoops they could shoot in 180 seconds. And in keeping with the sports theme, Belfast YMCA and YMCA Thames Gateway Group held darts challenges.

YMCA Colombia shared 180 reasons to celebrate, and YMCA Barranquilla in Colombia shared 180 inspiring actions. The Kenya YMCA Nakuru Branch planted 180 trees, and the  YMCA Central Branch in Kenya has been collecting stories to share in its “180 voices” campaign.

And in an event coming up later this month, on 24 June, YMCA Ghana will take 180 minutes to celebrate 180 years of the YMCA through a virtual engagement session.

 Central YMCA UK took another fun approach: 18 YMCA facts for 18 decades.

YMCA 180 merchandise

Many YMCAs got creative in sharing our birthday celebration, putting the YMCA logo and the YMCA birthday logo on signs, banners, posters, and more. Some of the creative approaches: YMCA Cayman Islands showed off their shirts for the occasion; YMCA Scotland shared that Members of the Scottish Parliament wore its logo pin in their party’s colour in the Chamber to celebrate YMCA 180, and YMCA Central Branch (Kenya) introduced a new photo frame


A spiritual occasion

Some YMCAs marked the celebration of YMCA 180 with prayer and spiritual celebrations. Among them: YMCA Lahore in Pakistan celebrated the YMCA’s 180th anniversary with a special event featuring awards, community initiatives, dignitaries, and prayer. YMCA International Student House (ISH) London commemorated YMCA Founder’s Day at the YMCA Chapel with a special thanksgiving prayer, cake-cutting ceremony and song. And the YMCA of the Philippines organised a celebratory mass and building blessings, followed by a festive lunch, together with the YMCA of Manila staff.

As we marked 180 years of the YMCA, we honoured our past, celebrated our present, and shaped the future through YMCA Vision 2030.

It was inspiring to see YMCAs capture all phases of our journey in one powerful image. Those include YMCA Argentina, YMCA Netherlands, YMCA Ethiopia and the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, capturing all phases of our journey in one powerful image.

These are just some of the hundreds of images and videos shared by YMCAs across the globe. Make sure to check out our social media (click the links at the top of page) and also search #YMCA180, and visit our YMCA 180 page, which includes a message from World YMCA President Soheila Hayek, a two-minute video overview of our YMCA history, and a peek at some of the historical images we received from the YMCA Movement to honour our past.