History Highlights


George Williams was born in Somerset, England on 11 October 1821. In 1836 he moved to London to work as an apprentice to a Draper, and by 1841 was working as a Draper’s.

He stayed in the accommodation provided by the firm in the same building, and became one of the 150,000 young men like him that crowded the city of London

On 6th June 1844, George Williams, together with ten Christian young men, established the YMCA. “Our object is 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.”

Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894, and after his death was commemorated with a stained-glass window in the nave of Westminster Abbey. Sir George Williams is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.


PARIS BASIS – Adopted the 22nd of August 1855 in Paris, France at the 1st World YMCA Conference.

The continuing basis of the work and witness of the Young Men’s Christian Association is expressed in the Paris Basis, as adopted by the delegates of the First World Conference in Paris in 1855, and reaffirmed by the 6th World Council of YMCAs in 1973:

“The Young Men’s Christian Associations seek to unite those young men who, regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour, according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be his disciples in their faith and in their life, and to associate their efforts for the extension of his Kingdom amongst young men.

Any differences of opinion on other subjects, however important in themselves, shall not interfere with the harmonious relations of the constituent members and associates of the World Alliance.”


Henry Dunant, who was born in Geneva on 8 May 1828, came from a devout and charitable Calvinist family. Motivated by his strong sense of faith and desire to help others, as a young man, Dunant began organising prayer groups and bible studies from his home. He went on to co-found the YMCA of Geneva in 1852.

Driving Force behind the international YMCA Movement Henry Dunant then played a pivotal role in the growth of the international YMCA Movement.

He became a fervent spokesperson for the YMCA, promoting it all over the world, and visiting emerging YMCAs across Europe and North Africa. He was also in regular correspondence with YMCAs around the world, updating them on YMCA work in each country; by1852 he was corresponding with YMCAs in nearly 30 different towns.

In 1855 when leaders of YMCA Paris suggested holding an international meeting with other francophone YMCAs, Dunant expressed his disapproval and his wish to have a more inclusive international gathering with YMCA representatives from England, Scotland and Holland for example. His enthusiasm and passion to have a truly international movement led to the first ever International YMCA Conference held in Paris in 1855.

Recognised Humanitarian and Winner of Nobel Peace Prize
Henry Dunant would later go on to found the International Committee of the Red Cross, and win the first ever Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.


James Naismith was a Canadian farm boy from Almonte, Ontario, a small town just a few kilometers from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. He was born on November 6, 1861.

His father and mother died when he was eight and thereafter he made his home with an uncle.He wondered about his future and decided that ‘the only real satisfaction that I would derive from life was to help my fellow beings.’ In 1883 he left Almonte for McGill University where he earned a degree in theology.

While studying at McGill Naismith was influenced by D.A. Budge, General Secretary of the YMCA of Montreal, to pursue a career in the YMCA and to study at the YMCA International Training School in Massachusetts (later to be named Springfield College).

Naismith attended as a student in 1890 and was asked to join the faculty in 1891 by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, the director of the physical education department. During a psychology seminar Dr. Gulick challenged his class to invent a new game. Gulick was desperately looking for an indoor activity that would be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play indoors in the Winter. Such an activity was needed both by the Training School and YMCAs across the country. Naismith believed that one way to meet that challenge was to take factors of known games and recombine them.

50th Anniversary of the YMCAs - London 1894

This brochure published after World War II summarizes in briliant, short and factual way all the work done by the World YMCA all over the world during the War Period.

YMCA and World War II

John R. Mott was born in New York on 25 May 1865. In 1885 he became a student at Cornell University, where as President of the student YMCA, he increased membership threefold, and raised money for a University YMCA building.

He served as President of the World Alliance from 1926 to 1937.

During World War I, when the YMCA offered its services to President Wilson, Mott became General Secretary of the National War Work Council, receiving the Distinguished Service Medal for his work.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work in establishing and strengthening international Protestant Christian student organisations that worked to promote peace.

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The World Allliance of YMCAs – 100th Anniversary Film – 1955