Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all our friends in communities near and far - we wish you all the best this season and hope that 2012 brings you peace and joy!

The International Working Group is looking forward to an exciting 2012 as well! Watch for posts announcing our Peace Medal recipient, updates on our Exchange with Camp Artigas in Uruguay and much more.  

You can now sign up to receive notification of our latest blog posts via email. Simply enter your address in the blog tool in the right hand column.

We look forward to connecting with you in January!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Youth Leaders Peace Jam

The Winnipeg Y’s Youth Leadership program met on November 26, 2011 for Peace Jam 2011.  The jamboree is an annual gathering of Y leadership participants from around the city, where teens aged 12-17 can learn about peace, socialize, and meet other youth in the program from around Winnipeg.

This year the jamboree was held at the South Branch and over 70 youth were in attendance.  The evening started off with an introduction from Ken Mason, Manager of the North Y Youth Centre.  With him was Kalyn Murdock, a former leadership participant with the Y Kalyn told leadership participants about her past experience with the Y.  She was first introduced to Y programming when she went to Camp Stephens as a youth in 2-week canoe trip.  After returning to camp year after year, and eventually becoming a counsellor at Camp Stephens, she took advantage of an opportunity within the Y to travel internationally and volunteer while doing so.

Later in the evening, participants were separated into groups and led through several different team-building and Peace Week oriented sessions including a role-play activity called “Natura” designed to assist them understand and appreciate collaborative problem solving.  The activity, which comes from the YMCA Peace Week Activity Guide, was later de-briefed and discussed by the group.

And lastly, after pizza and a jam-packed evening of activities, the leadership participants headed to the pool and finished their evening in the water.

Submitted by Gordon Chandler
International Working Group Member
South Leader

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meet Our Exchange Participants

We asked Kristen, Tara and Marjan to send us a paragraph to introduce themselves and to let us know what this exchange opportunity means to them.  As you can see by their responses below, we have no doubt that these 3 young leaders will excel at YMCA Camp Artigas in Uruguay this winter!

Kristen Schmidt, Winnipeg
Hello everyone!  My name is Kristen Schmidt and I am very grateful to have been chosen for the 2012 Uruguay International Exchange. I have participated in various Y programs since I was very young, and have been employed at the Downtown Y since May 2003. I currently hold the position of the Aquatic Program Coordinator at the Downtown branch. This past June I graduated from the University of Manitoba and received my Bachelor of Arts degree with an advanced major in Spanish and a minor in French. The Y has guided me, and continues to influence me as a leader. I am ecstatic to work at Camp Artigas in Uruguay because I know it will be a rewarding experience. I look forward to helping build leaders in a camp environment, as well as growing as a leader myself. This exchange will accommodate my passion for other languages and cultures. I look forward to experiencing Uruguay, practising Spanish, and building friendships and memories that will last me a lifetime.

Tara Molson, Regina
Growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan, I began working with children at the age of 15 at a residential children’s summer camp.  After this, I became camp director, and currently, I am the Programming and Planning Chair for the Camp’s Board of Directors.  The knowledge and understanding that I have gained throughout these experiences is invaluable; I now continue pursuing my passion of working with children at the YMCA of Regina, where I am the Director of School Based Programs, overseeing programming in 19 Regina schools.

I could not pass up the chance to apply for this exchange opportunity.  I am very interested in the work that the YMCA does internationally; and feel that this experience will give me a unique perspective on the YMCA’s global impact.  Furthermore, this experience will allow me to bring back practices and ideas to the programs that I manage.  As the Director of School Based Programs, I believe that an exchange experience such as this will impact the staff team that I lead, the programs that I develop and the department that I work with.

Marjan Mogharrabi
Hi! My name is Marjan, and I currently live in Guelph Ontario.  I am very excited to have been selected for this exchange to Camp Artigas in Uruguay! For the past 3 years, I have been working at the YMCA/YWCA of Guelph, working in a variety of children and youth programs.  This past summer, I was the Director of our YMCA summer camps, which was a really fun experience that allowed me to both create and facilitate programs, as well as be involved in the camp by participating in daily activities with the children. Through my years of work experience at the YMCA, including my recent camp experience, I have developed skills that I think would be an asset to Camp Artigas.  What is most interesting to me about this exchange opportunity is the chance to gain some unique perspectives and camp practices that may not be common here in Canada. My current experiences have been solely based in North America, and I am interested in broadening my knowledge in terms of camp and recreational activities for children. By participating in this exchange program, it is a great chance to learn, while also building relationships with other participants at the camp.

I am currently reading a lot of Spanish books and listening to Spanish CDs to help prepare for the exchange!  I am excited to be able use what I have learned soon, and to meet the other 2 girls going to Uruguay!  Hope to talk to everyone soon!

As we celebrate Peace Week 2011, the International Working Group encourages you to explore how the YMCA and the YWCA serve the various communities they work in across the globe!

Monday, November 21, 2011

PEACE WEEK 2011 | A Call to Action!

The International Working Group would like to remind you that Peace Week 2011  (November 19-26) is here!

The YMCA strengthens the foundations of community by fostering social responsibility.  We encourage social responsibility by promoting community engagement and leadership, locally and globally.  YMCA Peace Week seeks to inspire Canadians to become involved.  Join the conversation on the YMCA Peace Week Facebook page!  

This year’s key concept is a call to action - What Can You Do to Promote Peace?

We look forward to exploring this question with you during Peace Week 2011!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Exchange Participants Selected!

The International Working Group here at the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg is excited to announce that participants have been selected for the Camp Artigas Exchange!

Kristen Schmidt from Winnipeg, Tara Molson from Regina and Marjan Mogharrabi from Guelph will spend a month at YMCA Camp Artigas in Uruguay this winter.

We look forward to getting to know these participants better, and to hearing their stories as they embark on this adventure in January of 2012.

Congratulations Kristen, Tara and Marjan on being selected for this exciting opportunity! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Y International & Ten Thousand Villages


This year, the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg's International Working Group is excited to partner with Ten Thousand Villages (134 Plaza Drive). On November 12th, 15% of your purchase will be donated to YMCA International Partnerships when you bring in this coupon!

YMCA Peace Week runs November 19 to 26, 2011.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

International Exchange Opportunity

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg's International Working Group is excited to announce an international youth exchange opportunity with YMCA Camp Artigas in Uruguay.  

The deadline to apply is October 14, 2011!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 Peace Medal | Call for Nominations!

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg's International Working Group is excited to announce the call for nominations for the 2011 Peace Medals!

it is possible to build a more PEACEFUL WORLD 

We need your help in identifying people in our community who deserve recognition! Please review the Criteria for this award. Should you know an individual or group, young person or adult who you feel is deserving, nominate them today! The deadline for nominations is December 2, 2011. 

The YMCA Peace Medal is part of the YMCA World Peace Week, November 19-26th. 

Please complete the Nomination Form & answer the applicable questions from How to Nominate | Criteria & Process. To learn more about past recipients, please visit 1988-Present | Former Peace Medal Recipients.
Recipients will be publicly announced at the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg's Annual General Meeting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Somali Famine | Fundraising Effort

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg's International Working Group hopes to draw the attention of Y members, staff and friends to the fundraising effort below. While we do not have a Y partner project in Africa, we hope that you will consider supporting relief efforts during this famine.  

The letter below was received from our friends at IRCOM here in Winnipeg:

Somalia is a country that has often appeared in the headlines of our newspapers as a result of its endless civil war, the recent activity of pirates at sea, the terrorist group in Somalia, and now the worst drought in 60 years. Unfortunately, these are not mere headlines but are events that cause the needless death of hundreds of thousands of Somali civilians.   

There are approximately one thousand Somalis living in Winnipeg and many of them have come from refugee camps in East Africa.  As a result, many of them are very concerned about their families, relatives and other Somalis that they have left behind in Somalia and in the refugee camps. So far over 3 million Somalis have been affected by the worst famine in decades and have no one to assist them. In addition, 500,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition and death.

Saddened by this disaster, members of Winnipeg’s Somali Community are holding a fundraiser to contribute to helping those who are affected. We believe that our Canadian community feels the same way about what is happening in Somalia. 

Through Winnipeg’s Mosques, we have already collected close to 30,000 dollars and continue to fundraise. On August 5 from 5.30pm to 11pm, we invite you to join us for an event “24 hour famine for Somalia” to donate one day’s food money to help the victims of the famine in Somalia. The event will be held at the University of Winnipeg’s Bullman Centre and will include entertainment, Ramadhan dinner, poems, drama skits, storytelling and speakers.

All donations will go to Human Concern International, a Canadian charity based in Ottawa and they have committed to sending 100% of the monies raised to victims of the famine.  Human Concern International will also provide tax receipts to all donations over $20 dollars.

For more information please contact
Omar Aden: phone: (9969722) and email:
Muuxi Adam: Phone: (951-7037) and email:

Please stay tuned for information on additional programs and charities you can support as we work together to bring relief to the Horn of Africa. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RBC Celebrates National Volunteer Week by Helping Out at Camp Y

In celebration of National Volunteer Week (April 10-26, 2011), RBC encouraged employees to perform a Day of Service for a charitable organization in the community. RBC Portage and Parkhill Branch offered to perform this day of service for the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg and we were quick to take them up on their offer.

On April 22nd, 20 volunteers, including RBC employees and their families, helped get Camp Y ready for summer campers by painting several cabins. It was a grey and rainy day, but the volunteers came full of community spirit and ready to work.

As if their hard work wasn’t enough, the Portage and Parkhill team also applied for an RBC Day of Service Grant of behalf of the Winnipeg Y. At our last International Working Group meeting, on June 9th, Assistant Branch Manager Danielle Zanewich presented us with a cheque for $2000! The grant will go to the YMCA Strong Kids fund, which provides much needed financial support for children, teens and families who are unable to afford the full cost of participation in a YMCA program or activity.

All in all this was a successful partnership. Thank you to RBC and all the volunteers!

Representatives from RBC visit the International Working Group
to present a cheque for $2000 to Pamela Wright.
Submitted by Breanna Sawatzky
International Working Group Member

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Casa Canada is Complete!

YMCA Casa Canada for Migrant Youth
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.

After almost seven months of paper work, negotiation and construction work, the YMCA Casa Canada for Migrant Youth has been concluded.

On March 23, 2011, the construction company concluded the details on the construction and presented the final product, which was reviewed carefully by the YMCA Architect Lucia Lopez and Program Coordinator Uriel Gonzalez.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Message from Uruguay

The International Working Group was delighted to receive the update below from the YMCA of San Jose.

San José, May 2011


Dear Friends:

We are pleased to share with you what we have done with what you sent us with such love and great effort.

Regarding the equipment that we received together with Unidad Portones from the YMCA of Montevideo, we were able to build a fitness room to be used by our members. The equipment has revitalized it and allowed us to be a reference on the subject in our city.

Furthermore, you sent us five thounsand Canadian dollars (C$5.000) which were exactly four thousand eight hundred and one dollars with fifteen American Dollars (USD 4.801,15). Part of the money was used for the ‘Club de Niños La Casita’ Summer Camp. Please see the report and pictures attached.

There is still some money we have not spent, which is intended to supplement the cost of building an additional room for La Casita. This room will allow us to improve the care we provide today for both the Kids Club and the Youth Center. A donation from another organization called Reaching-U will also be used in this sense. This organization is integrated by Uruguayans who lived or are currently living in the United States. Works will begin in June, and we will be sending photos of what was done once it is finished. It is important to point out that without your support none of this would have been possible.

We will always be grateful for your generosity. Your thoughts and actions have enabled us to continue to strengthen our work.

We hope to continue along this path of cooperation and would like you to visit us whenever you find it convenient.

Please receive the fraternal greetings on behalf of all here in ACJ San José

Carla Ausán Elizalde Germán Hernández
Directora General Presidente

Germán Hernández
Directora General Presidente

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

International Partnerships

Much has been and continues to happen in the Y’s International Programs.

Hi, I am the new International Liaison for YMCAYWCA of Winnipeg and would like to share with you some of the exciting activities that are underway.

First, we have just renewed our commitment to partner with the Uruguay Y. Part of our commitment is to provide financial support to the Children and Youth Centre in San Jose, one of the more economically distressed centers in Uruguay. Our partnership with the Uruguay Y goes back over 35 years. It has involved both financial support and many youth and adult, staff and volunteer exchanges over the years. In addition, we are supporting a new Y in Ciudad de la Costa, a coastal town that has an growing population of young families needing the services the Y offers. In 2009, we sent a delegation to the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Uruguyan YMCA. What a Celebration it was!!! As well, the Winnipeg Y and the Guelph Y sent a shipment of used fitness equipment that greatly enhanced both one of the branch Ys in Montevideo as well as in San Jose.

Our support continues for the Migrant Youth Casa in Tijuana, Mexico. The casa provides a safe haven for children and youth who have unsuccessfully attempted to cross the Mexico-US border. Prior to the establishment of the Casa, these young people were released back onto the very dangerous streets of Tijuana where they would often fall prey to the drug lords and prostitution rings. The Casa provides food and lodging, counseling and compassion, and assistance in reunification with family members in South America.

Photo of Casa Canada during construction.
For more photos, visit our facebook page.
The success of the Tijuana Casa laid the groundwork for the plan to build another casa in Juarez, one of the most dangerous border towns in Mexico. This prompted our CEO to put out a call to the other YMCAs and YMCA-YWCAs in the Prairie region, and the Guelph Y, to participate in a capital campaign to raise the funds to build the Casa Canada in Juarez. Construction is now nearly complete and the doors will soon be opening!

Our ability to participate in International Partnerships has been greatly enhanced by our partnerships with other Canadian Ys. The Regina YMCA and YMCA-YWCA of Guelph have shared in our partnerships with both Mexico and Uruguay over the past years. Also, in the past two years the Winnipeg Y has provided financial support to a partnership between the Vancouver YWCA and YWCA Russia in Moscow that provides programming and family counseling to women, girls and their families. This year the Winnipeg Y will take a broader approach and direct its financial contributions to YWCA Canada’s international efforts.

The Winnipeg Y is also contributing to the Calgary YMCA’s partnership with the Ukraine YMCA both at the National and community level. The Ukraine Y provides much needed recreational and leadership development programming to children and youth. Amazingly, the Y is in 10 communities across the Ukraine and fully run by very dedicated volunteers other than the 4 paid national Y staff. Though the Ukraine Y is still in its infancy, it has made amazing strides and accomplishments in offering opportunities for recreation, artist development and leadership development for children and youth.

The Winnipeg Y International Working Group reconvened this September and will have met five times by the end of June. We are working hard to focus our energies and determine our direction, and decide the initiatives we want to focus on. The committee is responsible for guiding our Peace Week Initiatives, maintaining a presence in our Branch Ys on an ongoing basis, managing the Winnipeg Y International Blog and managing our relationship with Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, an educational and funding agency. We are also exploring ways that we can increase our impact through opportunities to educate Y members and members of the Winnipeg community on becoming Global Citizens and increase awareness to international issues.

Please be sure to take a look at the links to further information about International Development initiatives by other Ys and organizations.

Pamela Wright
International Liason
Board of Directors, Former Chair
YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Comida for Casa a success!

The South Leadership Program is pleased to announce that this year’s international fundraiser on February 19th 2011, Comida for Casa, was a great success with 29 participants raising over $2000!

Leadership participants fasted for 24 hours to raise money and awareness for the YMCA Casa Program in Mexico. As the Leaders discovered in the weeks before the famine, the situation in Mexico’s northern border is in a state of crisis with drugs, police corruption and social issues that come along with constant migration of people including many vulnerable youth. The leadership participants related to these young people and the dangerous struggle many of them feel they need to undertake in order to provide for themselves and their families. The Leaders learned about the role Casa YMCA’s have and the services they provide to youth just like them!
The Leaders began their famine at 10:00am on Saturday, February 19th and came to the YMCA South Branch for a night of activities! They started their evening out with a presentation by Mary Moore, Youth Program Coordinator and past Mano a Mano Youth Summit participant. To many, the presentation brought to light the issues that are often left out of the commercial image of Mexico. As Katie Clark, LIT and Comida for Casa participant, reflected "after seeing the presentation, I was surprised by the living conditions- when you think of Mexico, you think of a tourist resort. I didn't really know how poor some of the living conditions were and was surprised by the fact that they have so much military around." The presentation also explained the struggle of the average migrant: "One part of the presentation that surprised me was how lots of things that happened to these people would be a horrifying experience for us, but are daily life for them" stated Drew Register, Leader.

Upon completion of the presentation, the youth played gym games and a variation of the game “Quest” wherein participants were given the status of either “migrant” or “settled” and were tasked with acquiring resources in order to cross the border. Advisors were challenges to migration and would complicate or make the journey to cross even more frustrating. Drew Register noted that Quest “was added perspective to the conditions in Mexico and the struggle of people trying to attain resources." After a debrief of the game, participants made post card art for the youth who use Casa followed by some free time with board games, vids, and even piñatas! Finally, the participants settled in for the night to get some much needed rest for the pancake breakfast in the morning.

The Comida for Casa group broke their fast at 10:00am on Sunday, February 20th in the company of many members and family who had come to share in the festivities of the Pancake Breakfast. The breakfast fundraised over $200, making the total money raised $2200 for Casa YMCAs!

"The CASA YMCAs will really appreciate this money. With all of the gang violence in Mexico, people need CASA more than ever" said Riley Proulx.

This Comida for Casa and the pancake breakfast would not have been possible without the support of all donors, families and the driving force behind the event: the South Branch Leadership Program participants AND advisors! A special thanks to the South Child Care centre for their gracious donation of space, the South maintenance crew who demonstrated great patience in cleaning around us, and all the staff, volunteers and families who helped with pancake duty!
Submitted by Mary Moore
South Y Youth Program Coordinator
Member, International Working Group

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

International Development Week

FEBRUARAY 6-12, 2011

International Development Week gives Canadians a chance to:
•Learn more about Canada's role in international development and the important contribution of many Canadians in developing countries
•Learn more about life in developing countries
•Find out how they can become active global citizens and get involved in international development

Please visit MCIC's website to learn how 8 Manitobans are making a difference in the world, and find out what YOU can do to contribute to making our planet more peaceful!

In the midst of one of the bloodiest times in Mexico, where the drug wars of Mexican Cartels have left hundreds dead and terrorized citizens in one of North America’s poorest country, YMCA CASA remains a safe place for youth.

Every year, thousands of youth try to enter the United States illegally by crossing the Mexico-US border. Once caught, they are brought back to the border and placed in a detention centre where they are interviewed and re-patriated. Without YMCA Homes like Casa, these youth would then be released onto the streets to fend for themselves. Without food or money, they are released into border towns such as Tijuana. With high violent crime, drug and prostitution rates, these youth were extremely vulnerable.

Since 1991 they have had a safe place to go. CASA is recognized as a lead provider of services to migrant youth, offering “basic food and shelter, psychosocial counselling, medical and social referral services and family reunification’. (YMCA HOMES FOR MIGRANT YOUTH, 2008).

Each home is managed by a resident host-family, attending to the migrant youths’ basic needs. Once they 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.

To date, over 50,000 young people have been helped by the CASA program.

For over 10 years the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg has been a partner in support of the CASA program.

Individuals can donate to the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s Strong Kids Campaign and designate their donation to the International Fund.

100% of donations received are used to support YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s International Partnerships.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The Peace Medal is a reminder that it is possible to build a more peaceful world, one step at a time, and that everyone can be engaged in these efforts.

Each year the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s International Working Group, along with YMCA’s across Canada, sends out a call for nominations for this prestigious award. Every year the nominees continue to impress, and it is never an easy decision for those who select the recipients. 2010 again proved to be a year of tough deliberations.

The groups below stood out for their efforts, both at home and abroad, and we are pleased to recognize their efforts and award them the 2010 Youth Peace Medal.


The students of Kildonan-East Collegiate’s Tanzania 2010 project were recognized d
ue to their “dedication to the construction of water holding tanks, drinking and hand washing stations, private pit latrines for girls, and a hygiene and water management education program.” The group has been together for four years to fundraise for the project in East Africa, working within the broader framework of the NGO Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief. Aside from fundraising they have learned about global issues such as food security, gender equality, and basic human rights and they have shared this knowledge with their community. As a direct result of their activities, children at Qaru Lambo and Gilala schools in Tanzania, whose students previously drank from sloughs and missed a lot of school as a result of sickness, now have year round access to fresh drinking water for the next thirty years.

The Gay Straight Alliance of Westwood Collegiate was chosen for “their dedication to creating a welcoming, safe and respectful school as ambassadors of acceptance for others.” Functioning for two years in Westwood Collegiate the GSA has proved popular amongst students due to its strong message of acceptance, human rights, safety, peace and harmony. They work tirelessly to fulfill their vision of “A school where everyone is welcome, safe and respected.” They hosted several events including a rainbow sticker drive for Gay Pride week, creating information pamphlets advocating for gay rights, created a teacher education package for “How to Teach Acceptance”, and they inspired 90% of the student body to wear purple on October 20, 2010 to send the message to bring an end to homophobic physical and emotional abuse, amongst many additional accomplishments. They have also helped other GSA groups form throughout the division and city. Their nominator stated that she has seen a change in the school since the group was formed – the atmosphere at the school is happier and more accepting and tolerant. In particular, the peace medal review committee appreciated the positive, inclusive approach taken by the group to build understanding and commitment among students and teachers.