Global Y Movement

UPDATE: Global Y Movement

Service is in my SOUL

Week 3: "My Adventure for Giving and Gaining"

January 2016

In the winter of 2015, Andrea Thiltgen, Sr. Program Instructor/Teen Unit Leader, YMCA Camp Surf, was selected to join Panama’s YMCA Camp Counselor program in Panama City, whose objective is to serve under-served youth in this marginal community. Here, Andrea chronicles her experience fulfilling this important mission as ambassador for the YMCA of San Diego County:

Exactly 2,898 miles from San Diego County, the Panama YMCA serves the community of Panama City and many of the kids from the subdivision of Curundú. Aside from the delicious ceviche, fried patacones and miscellaneous street markets, this January I am fortunate to be part of the Panama YMCA's Verano Feliz program; a five-week summer day camp serving disadvantage youth between 3-16 years old. This program is mostly facilitated by local and foreign volunteers along with a few leadership staff.

With the diverse mix of indigenous natives (Kunas), Amerindian, and West Indian communities, Panama City is infused with both American products/culture and long-standing ancient practices. Walking along the streets of the city or riding in one of the brightly painted school buses (aka Diablos), allows for individuals to observe parts of town in need of restoration. One of these neighborhoods, sandwiched between a highway and many main roads, is the community of Curundrú. It consists of below-basic apartments, mini-marts and laundry lining almost every balcony or window.

The kids of Curundú have pretty thick skin: everyone is either a cousin or brother or neighbor or friend of someone else. There are both physical and emotional hardships that they face everyday. Yet, they know that the Panama YMCA provides a safe and constructive environment for los ninos year-round. Monday through Thursday the local kids who attend Verano Feliz, greet us with smiles, koala bear hugs, and radiant energy! They arrive by bus or paddy wagon from the nearby police station which is both a blessing and a challenge at times.

As the San Diego County Y increases its global engagement, I am honored to be introduced to the international family. Through this experience at the Panama YMCA I'm focused on building tolerance within the group of kids and volunteers. So far, I've done this by introducing intentional games and activities where everyone can participate safely and respectfully. Our 4-6 year old group practices sharing, showing and giving respect, following group rules and utilizing manners. As a front-line volunteer, I'm able to collaborate and share ideas with other local Panamanian volunteers who have experience with the community.

I was fortunate to introduce the Big Picture Deck to our group of staff and volunteers.We connected through discovering commonalities, sharing stories and raising awareness about our cultural differences. After creating a comfortable, open space, we shared a few laughs which were followed by some deeper thoughts and stories as well. To close, we took a closer look at our roles within the Verano Feliz program by completing the "What Do You Do?" Nugget. Individuals truly were able to recognize the true impact and influence they're making with the local disadvantaged youth.

By establishing respect and openness within our group, we have worked well as a team to foster empathy and perspective thinking within our community. I am thrilled to experience the Global Continuum upon returning to San Diego after a six-week Summer experience in Panama City, Panama.

Global Y Movement

Service is in my SOUL

An adventure for giving and gaining

November 2015

In March of 2013, I was selected to be a member of YMCA Camp Surf staff as a Program Instructor. I never imagined that camp would result in leadership qualities that would take me to another country. After starting at Surf, my global-eyes were opened by many international staff members and campers that I had the pleasure to encounter and hear their stories of travel. They made me realize that opportunities to explore and meet others were necessary in the process of creating your own self.

For the past three summers, I have had the opportunity to lead the SOUL Surfers program, our oldest teen campers, which focus on Service-Outreach-Unity-Leadership. With the help, vision, and guidance of our Summer Director, Nat Corrall, I have instilled a passion for service among our campers and our local community. We encourage and support these teens to serve their own communities, and make the impact larger than their two-weeks at camp. Many of these same teens are interviewed and selected by Program Coordinator, Kyle Millard, to come back for three weeks of service as a Camp Assistant. Being a part of the campers’ journey, and having them eventually hired back as staff members makes my involvement that much more rewarding.

This winter, I am thrilled to be joining Panama’s YMCA Camp Counselor program in Panama City. The international team has invited me to develop program and invite the at-risk community into the Y Family. This adventure will be my first of this kind. I know that I will gain more personally than I could ever give in service. Jane Goodall believed, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” I have realized that whether the impact is small or big, you unknowingly have an influence on the world around you.

International Partnerships

Chad Prokop, Health and Wellness Director for the Mission Valley YMCA is providing Technical Assistance to the South Africa YMCA in the Health & Wellness area.

The YMCA of San Diego County has three international partnerships, one of them being the South Africa YMCA. To learn more about Chad's experience visit our Building Bridges Blog

International YMCA Partnerships

Our Association is committed to advancing the Global YMCA Movement and supporting the development of global leaders. A delegation of staff and volunteers visited our partners in São Paulo Brazil to learn from their success in working with the community, with youth and engaging families.

We look forward to their visit to learn from our Y leaders in 2015.

World Council of YMCAs

Our Association attended the YMCA World Council 2014 meeting at Estes Park, Colorado. YMCAs from 83 countries and 1,300 delegates participated in this global Y event.

Check out photos from the event here:


As part of the Diversity, Inclusion & Global Initiative, the YMCA of San Diego County has developed an international Y partnership with the YMCA of Mexico. While attending the North American YMCA Development Organization conference (NAYDO) in San Antonio our Association held a meeting with the Mexico YMCA to discuss partnership goals.

Through our international partnerships we are able to learn different strategies to build a welcoming and inclusive global community and better serve our members and participants.

To learn more about our Diversity, Inclusion & Global initiative, contact Cristina Ballesteros at [email protected]

strengthening our global community

A partnership with the South Africa YMCA

February 2014

Lisa D'Angelo, Regional Vice Present, and Joanie Coudding, Board Member of the Mission Valley YMCA, will be representing the YMCA of San Diego County in an upcoming trip to South Africa.

The YMCA of San Diego County is part of the South Africa Coalition, a group of YMCAs across the country lead by the YMCA of the USA focused on supporting and learning from the South Africa YMCA.

This is a two week trip where Lisa and Joanie will visit several YMCAs in South Africa including Soweto YMCA, Pietermaritzburg YMCA and Cape Flats YMCA and learn about their operations, their structure and focus on learning about their Health and Fitness Programs.

The YMCA of San Diego County has three international partnerships with YMCAs in Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa. To learn more about our Diversity, Inclusion and Global initiatives, please contact Cristina Ballesteros, Association Director of Diversity & Inclusion at [email protected]

Without Judgment or frustration

A personal journey to global understanding

October 2013

In November 2004, I went to live and volunteer at Refugio Infantil, Santa Esperanza- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My biggest lesson was that my right isn't the same as everyone else. This acceptance made me care without judgment or frustration.

In the winter of 2005-2006, I lived on a boat off the Hinako islands in Indonesia and assisted with tsunami relief for the NGO LEAPin (Local Empowerment Assistance Project). LEAPin finished their work and moved on to help new people in new places. This taught me one of my most valued lessons; the importance of sustainability. Straight from the boat, I went to live in Phnom Phen, Cambodia.

I left Cambodia to return to YMCA Camp Surf. I was given the opportunity to start up our leadership program known as SOUL Surfers. The focus is Service-Outreach-Unity-Leadership and since 2006, I have learned that youth want the chance to give back and once they have it, they don't disappoint. Every opportunity I embraced led me to this life and I wouldn't change anything. I have learned more than I could ever give back and have a greater understanding of the world and my place amongst it.

-Nat Corrall

Nat Corrall most recently was instrumental in the creation, pilot and implementation of the YMCA of San Diego County Global Curriculum launched for Day Campers over the past few months.


YMCA Europe Festival

YMCA Europe FestivalJuly 2013

From August 4 - 11, more than 10,000 YMCA members, volunteers, kids, and staff from across the world will gather in Prague, Czech Republic for YMCA Europe Festival held every four years. The gathering will mark an opportunity for personal, professional, and leadership development.

The YMCA of San Diego County understands how the world – and our community – has changed, and we know that to better serve all San Diegans, we need to better understand the world around us. As such, we were excited to apply and be chosen to represent San Diego in Prague this summer. This trip marks the beginning of a burgeoning international program that San Diegans across the county will soon be able to participate in.

To make this trip a reality, we've committed to raising nearly $10,000 as a group. Your donation will help us better serve San Diego and allow us to group into culturally competent, global leaders in San Diego.

To learn more about our International Program please contact Cristina Ballesteros, Association Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Recruitment at 858-292-9622 or [email protected].

Ensuring Access and Inclusion

Bank of America ‘Bridging the Gap’ program

Sasha KnoxApril 2013

“As a part-time employee I was always connected with the Y but also knew that I wanted more,” said Sasha Knox, Outreach Director, Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. In 2012, Sasha participated in a community-based mentoring effort called the Bank of America ‘Bridging the Gap’ program targeted at Hispanic/Latino and multicultural part–time employees. The program is focused on delivering mentoring efforts on transitioning part-time staff of color to full-time positions within the Y.

Committed to multicultural development, diversity, global awareness and inclusion efforts, we work every day to invest, support and develop all of our staff and volunteers. It is because of that commitment that we were selected to receive a $20,000 grant from Bank of America through Y-USA for this very special program. The YMCA of San Diego County is one of five YMCA associations across the nation that was honored by being selected for this outstanding programming.

Sasha credits her participation in this unique training program to her recent promotion to a full-time exempt staff position at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. “My mentor recognized and fostered my passion from the beginning; she has been not only a professional guru but also a personal confidant.”

More than half of the twenty-five mentees that went through the program now hold a higher level position at the Y. “I grew professionally in this program,” said Sasha. “Now I get to make a positive impact in our communities and I have the right people on my team who make me feel that nothing and no dream job here is impossible.”

For more information regarding global outreach, please contact Cristina Ballesteros, Association Director – Diversity, Inclusion & Recruitment, at [email protected] or (858) 292-9622.