“YMCA remains close to our hearts”

Date: 03 August 2023

Michal Szymanczak , Andrew McKenzie, Carlos Sanvee,Johan Vilhelm Eltvik

Former World YMCA Secretary-General Johan Vilhelm Eltvik of Norway (2010-2018) was joined by his old colleagues Andrew McKenzie of Australia, former head of communications, and Michal Szymanczak of Poland, former head of Movement strengthening, on a return visit to the headquarters building in Geneva on 3 August 2023.

They were briefed on World YMCA priorities – above all the Movement-wide implementation of YMCA Vision 2030 and specific attempts to capture Movement-wide data – and also shared their own feelings and memories.

“It’s wonderful to be back, and this time to see you in fine new offices,” said Johan. “I can see that the World Alliance is meeting its first task to serve its members. Congratulations – I’m excited both for you and with you, and pleased too to see how some of our work of a decade ago is coming to fruition”.

“I realise that all of us have our time with this remarkable organisation, the YMCA”, reflected Andrew. “Others have cared for it and taken it forward before us over nearly 200 years; now you are doing so; and in years to come new people will carry the torch.”

Each reflected on ‘the best of times’, and some of the hardest challenges, during their period in office.

For Johan, the great moment was the way the YMCA Movement – historically so diverse in what it does – came together for the first time in Colorado in 2014 and declared that its first commitment was to youth empowerment.

For Andrew – like Johan – the best of times was seeing the Movement consciously come together and focus on the priority of youth empowerment.

For Michal, the best moment came ‘in the field’ visiting YMCA Nepal as it rebuilt villages and communities – and specifically its first-ever toilets – in the wake of the 2015 earthquake.

“YMCA remains very close to our hearts”, said Johan.

“Once in the YMCA, always in the YMCA”, said current World YMCA Secretary-General Carlos Sanvee. “It’s great to have you with us.”