YMCA Diversity, Inclusion & Global

March 11, 2014

Y Work on a Global Scale

Durban YMCA

Our visit to the Durban YMCA was on Wednesday afternoon. It was a hot and humid afternoon, much like most of the days in February in Durban due to the subtropics. This climate is very similar to the climate of our friends in Florida.

Joanie: I noticed how many people were around the building and I found it interesting that they were mostly teenagers and young adults. The building has 8 floors designated for residence. As we entered the building we were guided to a rickety old elevator. It appeared to be a little unsafe so I decided to get in a little extra exercise and take the stairs to the 8th floor where the Y offices were located.

When I arrived on the 8th floor I looked out the windows and the view was of a park and soccer field located next to the Y. Kids were playing soccer just like they would in the U.S. I noticed the soccer field was next to the police station and found it a little odd. It was a reminder of the crime that exists in this country. The police station is located there due to the drug infested bridge less than a mile from the field and the Y's property.

Lisa and Joanie: We were escorted to another room where Mike Cuthburt, National Program Director, introduced himself and shared a presentation with us describing the signature programs and the vision for the Greater Durban YMCA. These signature programs include: Y Zone, Y Arts, Y Justice, Y Fit and an entrepreneurial program.

When Mike described the Y Justice program we were all moved by the progress they were making with the young people who have been involved in drugs, rapes, and life on the streets. Drug trafficking is prevalent in the Durban community and its hard to stay away from.

Young people who had no hope are given a second chance through the caring individuals at the Durban YMCA. The Y Justice program has 3 elements- First, they go into the prisons and work with different groups. The first is juveniles 16-21, second is females, and two different male sections - the less serious offense group and those who committed the more serious crimes.

They work with the prisoners to help them change the way they are thinking and work on life skills. They also have a half-way house where prisoners go after they are released. Many of these men and women are released and do not have a place to go. Their aim over an 18 month period is to enable the person to re-enter society and be a functional member.

The third element of the Justice program is going into high schools. They are currently in four high schools where they do life skills training. They link this because it's part of the prevention program. Some of the teachers are from the program (ex-prisoners).

The Y Justice program is wonderful and give the prisoners an opportunity to make a better life for themselves. It also shows them that someone cares about them. They are doing great work and changing lives of these young adults which is what we are all about. It was incredibly inspiring and left us all wanting to bring this to the states: Youth Justice: 3 elements.

Regarding Y Fit, they are building a new center which will help them promote Healthy Living. They raised over $800,000 rand, which is equivalent to about $80,000 American dollars. They are trying to get the University students who live in their residence to get involved in their programs.

The entrepreneurial program includes teaching young people life skills training such as job skills, communication, and phone skills. They receive a certification at the end of this program and it's must like a GED in the US.

The Y Zone is an after care program that is run at 8 different sites. The Twin Cities replicated the Y Zone in Minneapolis and they are running the program now. Some are in schools and they are focused on Literacy. They also have a skills development program focusing on computer skills and Zulu. Half of Africa is French and Africans come into this area and speak French and Swahili so the Y offers training for the Africans who don't speak English or Zulu.

In September they were offered a circuit of equipment. They opened their Y Fit center on October 1, and started with a low rate to test the market. This is an area where the US Y can really help them. Their center is nothing like what we have in the states nor are the staff trained to offer the types of programs we have. They will need help to build up their center to be able to provide good sustainable programs for their community. With obesity rates rising they will need to focus some of their efforts on education and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Right now they have 250 people paying for a membership. With all the funding sources they will be able to sustain their operations in the future based on a new membership price of $150 rand per person per month. That is $400,000 rand/year for 250 members if they did the math right. Their target market: apartments, seniors, residence, some families. One interesting fun fact: 100 young people volunteering in their programs.

This was the Greater Durban YMCA! More to come as we move through our journey! Off to Cape Town next!

- Lisa and Joanie

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