The Young Men's Christian Association ("YMCA" or "the Y") is a worldwide movement of more than 45 million members from 124 national federations affiliated through the World Alliance of YMCAs. The YMCA was an early influence upon Scouting, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and German Scouting. Edgar M. Robinson, a Chicago-area YMCA administrator, briefly left the YMCA to become the BSA's first director.
Founded on June 6, 1844 in London, England by George Williams, the goal of the organization was putting Christian principles into practice, achieved by developing "a healthy spirit, mind, and body." The YMCA is a federated organization made up of local and national organizations in voluntary association. Today, YMCAs are open to all, regardless of faith, social class, age, or gender.
- Healthy spirit
- The first YMCA was concerned with Bible study, although the organization has generally moved on to a more holistic approach to youth work. Around six years after its birth, an international YMCA conference in Paris decided that the objective of the organization should become "Christian discipleship developed through a program of religious, educational, social and physical activities" (Binfield 1973:265). More recent objectives as found on the YMCA UK website include no reference to discipleship.
- Healthy mind
- Many colleges and universities owe their creation to the YMCA. Furthermore, YMCA pioneered the concept of night school, providing educational opportunities for people with full-time employment. Many YMCAs offer "English as an additional language" (ESL) programs, alternative high school, day care, and summer camp programs.
- American high school students have a chance to participate in YMCA Youth and Government, wherein clubs of kids representing each YMCA community convene annually in their respective state legislatures to "take over the State Capitol for a day." YMCA Youth and Government helps teens learn about and participate in civics in a real-world setting.
- Healthy body
- In 1891 James Naismith, a Canadian, invented basketball whilst studying at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (later to be named Springfield College). Naismith had been asked to invent a new game in a desperate attempt to interest pupils in physical exercise. The game had to be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play indoors in winter. Such an activity was needed both by the Training School and by YMCAs across the country. It was a success from the very first game. Naismith and his wife attended the 1936 Summer Olympics when basketball became one of the Olympic events. In 1895, William G. Morgan from the YMCA of Holyoke, Massachusetts, invented the sport of volleyball as a slower paced alternative sport, which the older Y members could participate in.
- World Alliance of YMCAs (includes a complete listing of all national YMCAs)
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