World YMCA Empowering Young People as Changemakers

In this special guest post, Director of Communications of World YMCA, John Phillips, talks us through their incredible work to celebrate International Youth Day.

Each year, on International Youth Day, the global YMCA Movement celebrates the many achievements of its staff and volunteers. Young people are at the centre of the solution to make our world a better place.

The theme of International Youth Day 2021 is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”. To mark the Day, World YMCA is sharing three YMCA stories which illustrate the theme. Young women and men from Togo, East Jerusalem and the USA are stepping up to innovate and to have a positive impact on their communities.

In April 2021, 35 youth-led projects focused on climate action and environment were selected as part of the YMCA Youth-Led Solutions Initiative. One of them is the BrinGreen initiative

A team of young people from YMCA East Jerusalem distributed to the urban population of Palestine packages containing planting pots and seeds to make their world green again. 

As one of the team leaders said: “The contents of the package were edible goods that can be used as food ingredients. This shows people how rewarding it is to plant their own food which is organic and naturally grown”.

Another project is led by the Sioux YMCA Team, from South Dakota in the USA, called “Combatting Food Loss in Indigenous Communities and Beyond”. The aim is to fight hunger and waste by distributing to the Cheyenne Reservation food packs that would otherwise be thrown away.

The third initiative highlighted by the World YMCA is about social entrepreneurship. Young people from Togo created their Restau Youth, providing delivery services and quality dishes. They now want to expand their business and they plan to grow their own vegetables using YMCA gardens. A good way to ensure the food is organic and healthy.

These three projects, among many others, show how resilient and creative young people are. Despite the pandemic, they did not ask the world to be sorry for them, but rather to be given the tools to own their future. 


177 Years Serving Young People 

YMCA is one of the oldest and largest youth-focused movements in the world. Founded in 1844, it now operates in 120 countries and reaches 65 million people. YMCA associations are strongly rooted in their communities and offer a variety of programmes and services based on local priorities and issues affecting young people and their communities.

World YMCA is committed to promoting empowerment, social justice and peace for young people and their communities in four key areas – health, employment, civic engagement, and environment.

Since COVID-19, YMCA branches have offered worldwide assistance to support young people and their families. The response has embraced the three sometimes overlapping stages of ‘Resilience’, ‘Recovery’ and ‘Reimagination’. ‘Resilience’ meant sourcing and sharing amongst ourselves how best to cope with change and disruption. Part of the ‘Recovery’ response was about raising and distributing funds to help National YMCA Movements paying their staff and paying their rents. The ‘Reimagination’ is embodied in how the global YMCA Movement is in deep discussion as it charts its ‘Vision 2030.

At the end of 2020, the ‘Big Six’ youth organisations, comprising World YMCA, World YWCA, World Organisation of the Scout Movement, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Duke of Edinburgh International Award, and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, came together – with the backing of the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization – in a Global Youth Mobilization to highlight and promote young people, their ideas and their innovative solutions to the impact of the Coronavirus and the many community challenges that have come with it.


Playing A Direct Role

In a common statement, the Big Six mark International Youth Day by calling on the world to acknowledge that from COVID-19 to Tokyo 2020, young people offer solutions and leadership.  15% of the world’s population – some 1.2 billion people – are aged between 15 to 29. 

Therefore, their involvement and participation are necessary and mandatory at high levels to take COVID-19 not as a dead end, but as an opportunity to rebuild a more just and inclusive world.


“World YMCA’s mission is to serve young people,” states Carlos Sanvee, Secretary General of World YMCA. “We are a bridge between them and the institutions, such as the United Nations or their local and national authorities. We raise their voices to make sure they are heard, but we also provide platforms for them to express their achievements, their hopes, their fears.

On International Youth Day, we re-affirm our mission to empower young people from over the world, for them to become the leaders they ought to be”.

Find World YMCA on Twitter and Facebook and visit their website for more.

Photo: YMCA Scotland

Throughout today we will be celebrating International Youth Day with inspirational stories. But first, listen to our podcast.

Youth Time International Movement Launches The Youth Time Podcast

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