Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Holidays

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg's
International Working Group
wishes you and yours a very happy holiday season!

During this festive time, it is always important to think of those less fortunate.
If you would like to make a financial contribution to the International fund, please visit our website at or

Coming to the blog in the new year:
  • Information on Uruguay's Casita
  • Profile of Cat Ross, this year's Peace Medal winner
  • International Development week in February
  • and much more!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Statement of Peace

From the World Alliance of YMCA's 1981 Statement of Peace:
Peace has many dimensions. It is not only a state of relationships among nations. We cannot expect to live in a world of peace if we are unable to live in peace with those close to us – even those who differ from us.

The responsibility for peace begins with each person, in relationship with family and friends, and extends to community life and national activities…

Monday, November 23, 2009

Peace Week is here!


We'd love to hear about your experiences with Peace Week Activities. Please feel free to leave a comment below!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peace Week!

Peace Week is just around the corner! Soon Peace Week displays and activities will be featured at your YMCA-YWCA Winnipeg Branch.

Peace Week is November 21-28, 2009.

What is Peace Week?

In 1984 YMCA Canada decided to add an entire week of peace-related activities to follow Peace Day. Peace Week runs from the third to the fouth Saturday in November each year.

YMCA World Peace Week provides an opportunity for YMCAs across the country to promote activities and educational programs to help people explore peace from a personal, community, and international perspective. We teach children, youth and adults about the many dimensions of peace such as acceptance, inclusiveness, caring, respect and responsibility.

Peace Week is unique to Canada.

Stay tuned for our announcement of the 2009 Peace Medal Winner!

Monday, November 9, 2009


The following are a few examples of the lives of youth who are served by the YMCA Homes. These youth try to enter the U.S. looking for better economic opportunities and/or to join parents, siblings and relatives. Many end up going through horrific border crossing experiences filled with exploitation and tragedy. Most arrive at the YMCA Homes mentally and physically traumatized.

Elizandro, 17 years
From Meztitlan, Hidalgo

It was my mother who talked to a friend about my trip to the Metztitlan, There were about 18 people from my town, but in the bus there was a total of 50 people; the rest were from other little towns in my region. We arrived to Sonora to a hotel that looked more like a house. As soon as we got there they split the group and I was in a group of 20 people and 2 smugglers.

We walked for one night and one day; an 18 wheeler picked us up on the side of the road. One of the smugglers had a cellular phone and when we were in the top of the hills he made a call. We hid in the house of the smugglers for about 8 days, after that they crossed to the U.S. and took all the people there and sent groups of people. I was in a group of 18 and they sent us directly to Detroit in vans.

I got to Rafael’s brother’s home. Rafael is my friend in Meztitlan, and he has been in the U.S. for about 6 years. The next day he took me to get my false ID and my social security card; if you want to work you need those immediately. He lent me the money and after I found a job I paid him back. I was able to find a job in a factory that builds vehicle parts. In that factory they hire a lot of migrants, they know that the documents we show are fake, but they support the migrants. The money was not bad, I worked there for a while and after that I moved to a tomato packing factory, since I was saving some money I was able to buy a few things, my bed, stereo, television, clothes and shoes, every ting seemed to be ok.

One day after work some guys offered me a ride home, it was three of us in total, as soon as we got off work we got stopped by the cops, because there was a problem with the vehicle. They kept us in jail for four days. When we were there the Border Patrol showed up to pick us up. The police called them; I was the youngest of the 3 of us. They sent me to the Southwest Key house in the city of Concord, California. The other guys were deported immediately. I was there from March 22 until May 22, I was learning some math and English while I was there. They also took us a few times to the Beach, and got some guitar lessons; they also gave us a dollar per day. While I was there I was told that the Mexican Consulate would give me $250.00 for my ticket to go back home after I was deported. On May 19 I went to court and someone asked if I had the money to go back to my town, a Social Worker intervened and said that the Mexican Immigration would be responsible for that expense, and she didn’t even let me talk. Now I’m in Mexico, without a penny to go home, I’ve lost all my belongings that I paid for, I even left two cheques pending to cash at my work before I was detained and sent to the Southwest Key program. I called some of my friends and ask them to collect those cheques, and they said that the company did not want to give them my pending payment. I decided to call the company and they send me a fax that showed that my money was already paid to some of my “friends” it was almost one thousand dollars, I was robbed. They also took my belongings from my room, when I left home I started a small construction in my parent’s back yard and now I only have $50 that I saved while I was in Southwest Key. But is not important, I know how to work in the construction field and I know I will finish my own room, now I need to find a job as soon I get to my little town. To be honest I am very sad about what happened to me, but I know that I will get to see my family soon, very soon.


Annual Report 2008, Mexican Federation of YMCAs

Friday, October 30, 2009


The following are a few examples of the lives of youth who are served by the YMCA Homes.  These youth try to enter the U.S. looking for better economic opportunities and/or to join parents, siblings and relatives.  Many end up going through horrific border crossing experiences filled with exploitation and tragedy.  Most arrive at the YMCA Homes mentally and physically traumatized.
Mario Montes de Oca

From Ecatepec, State of Mexico

My name is Mario; I’m from the Estate of Mexico. I was born in March 23 1992. My parents were divorced and my dad once told me that my mom lives in Baja California, maybe in Tijuana or Rosarito. Since their divorce, my grandmother took care of me. Since then I talk to my dad once in a while over the phone, but never with my mom.

My friend and I decided to try to cross to the U.S. and find some work. When we arrived to Tijuana, we had no place to stay. We asked for help at the salvation Army shelter and we stayed there for 2 nights. Then, we decided to cross. Like many others, we got arrested when trying to cross through the mountains. As my friend was older, we got separated and I was interviewed by many people and got sent to the Casa YMCA.

During my stay here at the Casa YMCA, I have been trying to help Mari (YMCA staff in charge of the Home) in whatever she needs. She is very kind and always tries to help me to remember any address or phone number. I hope soon I will be able to remember them. Today it will be my first day at work in a carwash. I wish I could find my friend so we can both be together and maybe settle here in Tijuana. But for now, I know that my home is the Casa YMCA and even if Mari is not my family, she takes care of me and other guys that come in the same situation as me.

Annual Report 2008, Mexican Federation of YMCAs

Friday, October 23, 2009

CASA - YMCA Homes in Mexico

The mission of the YMCA Homes for Migrant Youth is:
To contribute to the holistic development of youth along the Mexican-U.S. border in spirit, mind and body, seeking the maximum protection of their human rights, providing migrant youth with safe and secure shelter including food, clothing, health services and access to a means of communication, with the ultimate goal of reuniting them with their families
  • 500,000 people migrate from Mexico each year
  • Many send money back to Mexico to help their families
  • Remittances from migrant workers in the US are now the country’s second highest source of income (over 25.1 billion dollars!)
  • The YMCA Homes have helped over 50, 000 young people since 1991
  • 3,949 youth were helped in 2008
  • YMCA Homes successfully reunified almost 80% of youth with their families
  • 2008 saw an increase in crime in border towns, when organized crime declared war on local state and federal authorities
  • 2800 people were murdered in 2008 in connection with organized crime

Once the youth are caught entering the US illegally (either at the border, or other location in the country), the repatriation process begins. They’re brought back to the border and placed in a detention centre. “A migrant youth going trough the typical repatriation process has already been interviewed by 5 or 6 US and Mexican authorities before reaching the YMCA Home” (Annual Report, 2008)

Without YMCA Homes like Casa, these youth would then be released onto the streets to fend for themselves. Without food, money or shoes and released into border towns such as Tijuana, with high drug and child prostitution rates, the youth were extremely vulnerable.

Since 1991, they have had a safe place to go. The YMCA “is recognized as the lead provider of services to migrant youth in the areas of basic food and shelter, psycho-social counseling, medical and social referral services and family reunification” (AR, 2008)

Each home is managed by a residing host-family, attending to the migrant youths' basic needs. Once they're are settled in the Home, YMCA social workers begin a dialogue that will hopefully lead to reunifying the youths with their families, helping them to pursue healthier and safer life choices.

Most migrant youth stay for 3 to 8 days, but some stay for several months depending on economic or family circumstances. It costs $54 per day, per youth, which covers shelter, food, health and reunification.

Annual Report 2008, Mexican Federation of YMCAs

NEXT WEEK: Faces from the Border

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Formal Introduction!

I bet you're wondering ... what IS the International Working Group anyway?

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg is part of a network of YMCAs and YWCAs located in more than 90 countries worldwide.

Through our overseas partnerships, we support community development projects such as youth employment, healthy living, community economic development, youth shelters and day care centres.

Locally, through newsletters, displays, special events (such as Peace Week and International Development Week) and fund raising, we provide opportunities for members, participants and the general public to learn about international issues and develop a sense of responsibility to each other and the global community.

Thank you for visiting our blog - we look forward to sharing with you what we're up to and how YOU can get involved!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The International Working Group is looking foward to

Watch for more information at your local YMCA-YWCA!

Do you know an individual or group that contributes to peacebuilding in your community?
You can nominate them for the PEACE MEDAL to recognize and share their achievements!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Peace Jam

So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. - Martin Luther King, Jr

Imagine for a moment that our world was at Peace. What would peace look like? How would your life change?

Every year the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg celebrates World Peace Week with YMCAs across the globe. This year’s theme was “The Power of Peace. The Power of People,” encouraging everyone from all walks of life, in each moment of their day, to strive to live peacefully. The LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM held a Peace Jam for their youth in order to “to show our own youth the power that they possess as individuals and as a group” said Mary Moore, the South branch’s Youth Coordinator. The event included games, crafts, food and a guest speaker to present a workshop on Conscious Communication.

Conscious Communication is a method for the effective and efficient sharing of ideas, thoughts and feelings between two or more people. Conscious Communication encourages us to be conscious of our body language and method of speech when communicating with others, and avoiding the trappings of violence in our choice of words and posture. Basically, Conscious Communication is about being mindful of how we use our language - verbal or body - in order to express ourselves.

“The presenter discussed liberating ourselves from cultural learning … and encouraged us to create structures in our lives that support compassionate giving” relayed Mary Moore, who co-ordinates the Leaders Program.

The Leadership Development Program is an integral part of the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg, engaging youth to explore their potential in a value-based space. The program provides teens with a welcoming, supportive and safe environment in which they are afforded the opportunity to grow as individuals by sharing their skills and knowledge with others, gaining new skills, and becoming involved with their community.

After the presentation, the group had a chance to discuss the information. Mary noted that the youth thought the most important thing they can do to bring Conscious Communication into their lives is to UN-learn what they already “know.”

We talked about how we communicate with people as we judge them on the way they dress, the way they act and the way others treat them. The youth discovered the importance of questioning conformity. Another strong point we discussed was the concept of making compassionate giving natural. The youth discussed the significance of empathy and understanding – as it applies both to themselves and others.

A few months have passed since the Peace Jam and presentation, and I wanted to know if any of the concepts had a lasting impression. Was the information left at the door, or did it continue to impact these young people in the months after, when they were tempted to fall back into their old habits? Moore commented that she has seen an increased level of maturity in her Leaders, and they are better able to consider the viewpoints of others when discussing important issues, and expressing their values to others.

What does Moore hope that her Leaders gain from this experience?

As a human being I hope they learn to question, but question in a way that they are open to learning and understanding and to never be afraid to broaden their horizons - Above all, I hope that the youth gained that we care about them so much that we want to hear their ideas, their stories and their values and that learning effective communication is a skill that can promote compassion, understanding and above all, peace.
Would you like to learn more about the YMCA-YWCA Leaders Program, Peace Week and other initiatives? Visit us on the web at!