Wednesday, September 29, 2010

World Alliance in Hong Kong

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg welcomes the YMCA of Regina to the International blog! The YMCA of Regina is a fellow partner of the Tijuana YMCA and the Montevideo YMCA, and therefore there has been much collaboration between our Ys over the years. Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen of Regina attended our latest International Working Group meeting via conference call and we look forward to learning more about each other through the wonders of virtual media!  Some history on Regina's Global Participation:
The YMCA of Regina has had participation in numerous global events in recent years. This list includes sending a delegate to the 16th World Alliance of YMCA's in South Africa in 2006, as well as numerous exchange programs with the Tijuana YMCA in Mexico and Montevideo YMCA in Uruguay, and participation in the YMCA Europe Festival with a team of 8 youth in 2008. Lastly, the YMCA of Regina is proud to be sending a youth delegate to participate  in the 17th World Council meeting taking place in Hong Kong in July 2010.
Alex Rhead participated in the World Council meeting in Hong Kong and sent us some thoughts on her experience:

Alex Rhead on the left, with Koray

Let me introduce myself. My name is Alex Rhead and I am the Youth Development Director at the YMCA of Regina. I grew up at the YMCA, attended Youth programs, and I began working at the Front Desk in 2006. I graduated from the University of Regina with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, and then transferred to work in the Y’s Community Development Department. My first International experience with the YMCA was a Conference in Mexico City in 2007. Most recently, in July 2010, I had the wonderful opportunity to represent YMCA Canada as a Youth Delegate in Hong Kong for the 2010 World Alliance.

I was most surprised about . . .

 The importance of the C in the YMCA’s around the world. The Canadian YMCA’s are a small group of organizations whose Mission is values-based, but not specifically Christian-values. I experienced this phenomenon to a degree in Mexico City, but was surprised with the amount of controversy that surrounded this in Hong Kong. Since the beginning of the YMCA, there has been debate with how integral Christianity is to the Y’s work. By no means did we get to the bottom of this issue but it was interesting to hear both sides of this conversation.

 I was most proud to be Canadian when . . .

During the Cultural Night, every Area- Alliance or Country presented something representative of where they came from. The Canadian Delegation decided to show a slideshow of Canadian landscapes while some individuals completed the sentence ‘ I am proud to be Canadian because. . .’ Afterwards, we played K’Naan’s ‘Waving Flag’ . This song was significant because it was featured in the World Cup, K’Naan is a Canadian Refugee, as well as the video featured the earthquake in Haiti, and the YMCAs of Quebec are international partners with the Haitian Y. As the video played, we handed out YMCA and Canadian Flags, and all World Council participants waved them in time with the music.

This moment was inspiring in itself, but what had an even stronger impact on me was the people that approached me afterwards. Many were curious about our country, and asked to be an ‘honorary Canadian’. We wanted our presentation to portray Canadian diversity and unity- and this was definitely accomplished.

I will bring away with me. . .

It is so important for the Y to provide opportunities for meaningful youth engagement on all levels of its governance. Our Youth Delegation recognizes that this is a very dynamic issue- and it will take lots of dedication, time and resources to implement strategies to make this a reality. Still, the YMCA is an organization that was founded by a man who at the time was only 21 years old. In order to stay relevant in our communities, the YMCA must engage the youth and utilize them as a resource for the present and future. YMCA Canada has taken steps to begin to develop a year-round forum for youth voice in federation decision making. As well, at the Regina YMCA we have implemented youth advisory committees connected to all Leadership Development Programming.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us Alex!
To learn more about the YMCA of Regina's International Development program, please visit their website!

Canada Night - Wave those Canadian flags!
Voting takes place at the World Council. (Featured: Marilyn Kapitany of Winnipeg)
The Canadian Delegation in Hong Kong