As the last days of the reunion event of the “Roots for Reconciliation” project were approaching, my mind was set on another important and exciting event – the Annual World National General Secretaries (NGS) meeting from many YMCAs, held in Mexico. I left Budapest with my fellow Russian colleague Alexei and we soon meet up with our colleague Alina from Romania for traveling to Mexico. There we meet with more than 50 other NGS from around the world to share ideas related to our national strategies for the future. Even though we arrived in Mexico late in the evening, we didn’t waste any time. The following day we dived into the agenda’s first topic – Movement Strengthening. We shared a spectrum of opinions on what it means to each of us. Having in mind the global context, we did agree that we see youth empowerment as one of the main components of the Movement Strengthening.
The next topic on the agenda was the importance of the Change Agents program. Romulo Dantas made a presentation on the “Our Way” strategy with plans for recruiting the new generation of Change Agents. He clarified that important lessons had been learned from evaluations of the first group of young leaders. Ron shared inspiring stories from Australia, where they had two Change Agents. One of them is now a senior policy advisor to the Government and the other one has been employed as a full time youth empowerment worker at the National YMCA office in Australia. Based on that, Australia is now planning to increase the number of Change Agents. We all agreed that the Change Agent program is valuable and will continue with some adjustments based on lessons learned.
Other sessions included tackling other important issues. Ian (England), Kerry (Scotland) and Nam (South Korea) shared their experiences, challenges and joys while being NGS. They shared good practices and tips on how to survive in the role of NGS. Later on we heard a presentation from Scott (Canada) on best practices, particularly useful for the bigger YMCA movements. We agreed that we need more space and time for such important issues concerning movement development. We also had a session about Social Enterprises and heard some inspiring stories from around the world.
In addition, we welcomed several keynote speakers: Mr. Juan Carlos Rico from the Mexican Government – Ministry of Youth who gave us an overview of the situation there for youth in general and youth unemployment; Dr. Patrick Lumumba, a lawyer and YMCA member/contributor from Kenya talked to us about discrimination against women and the “Millennium Development” goals. He pointed out that in order for youth to feel empowered, we need to engage with young people in a way that gives them back faith in themselves and courage for the future. Having been involved in the development of YMCA Russia for more than 20 years, Alexei was the key note speaker on health which is one of our strategic areas of work.
Beside the work part, I must mention the part in which we (the participants) enjoyed the hospitality of our host country, Mexico: the city carnival, the open air dinner with campfire and the final ceremony for the new class of YMCA Mexico leaders. They were welcomed by National General Secretaries from all five continents. What a unique experience to be a part of this global friendship!