YMCA Diversity, Inclusion & Global

July 02, 2014

Empowering Young People

A message from Carl Vonderau, board member
Greetings from beautiful Estes Park. Baron Herdelin-Doherty, four of our staff and I, a volunteer, arrived with thirteen hundred other Y people from more than sixty countries to experience the World Council. It's a week of sharing experiences and making ambitious plans for what the Y should be doing in the next four years.

The theme this year is empowering young people. A great speaker inspired our thinking on Sunday night. Gabrielle Scrimshaw, born into a First Nation tribe in Saskatchewan, Canada, was destined for a life of poverty, alcoholism and violence. With the encouragement of a mentor, she managed to escape what the world expected of her. She sent herself to college, traveled around the world, and was accepted into a prestigious MBA program in Toronto, Canada. In her twenties, she founded a national foundation for aboriginal leadership and received the highest honor that the indigenous community in Canada bestows on its people. One of the secrets of her success was taking a leap of faith in her own abilities. Now she wants to help other young people to do the same. She encouraged us to make good footsteps in the deep snow so that others can walk in our footprints.

We are all gathered in the YMCA of the Rockies, a fantastic facility eight thousand feet above sea level and surrounded by beautiful mountains. Johan Vilhelm Eitvik, the Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs, was inspired by the mountains of Kilimanjaro, Fuji and the Rockies. They symbolize the huge challenge of empowering our young people- and the opportunity. Twenty-five percent of the world's population is young and a huge portion of them live and work in terrible conditions. The Y is helping to create change agents. These young people will lead the transformation of the world around them.

Adi Davis is an example of such a change agent. He and his colleagues at the Kosovo Y founded a Peace Work Institute for all the countries in the region. Their philosophy is to go forward and not backward. These Ys are trying to help their communities heal from the terrible violence of the past.

The conference has also given us the opportunity to meet with our partner Ys from Brazil and Mexico. We discussed future joint initiatives that are going to make all three of our Ys better.

And this is only the first day!

-Carl Vonderau

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