July 10, 2017  |  

My first YMCA Change Agent experience

It’s quite difficult to find appropriate words to articulate my experiences from Avignon, in France, however as a Communications Officer for YMCA England & Wales – I will try my best. As many say, and for some reading this, a YMCA international experience is an incredibly powerful.

In unfamiliar territories, with people who are often strangers, vast cultural differences and far removed from the realms of our comfort zones – one unifying theme becomes apparent quite imminently: a will to empower young people.

These last few days mark the start of a two year journey to become a YMCA Change Agent. I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information there is to digest and process as I return home with.

Joining me were young colleagues from our national office, and YMCAs across England, volunteers and staff from across Europe, Kosovo, Palestine and Russia.

As a global leadership programme for young people we covered many subject areas that would enable us to develop, plan and deliver new projects to reach more young people in our communities, YMCAs and countries.

This wasn’t just a series of PowerPoints and lectures though; as the schedule was full of self-facilitation; delivery by inspiring participants and graduate Change Agents; management of our own learning; and through conversations that would start in the scheduled agenda and often end up continuing until all hours of the night.

However, I believe that one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal is the art of storytelling. Our first full day began with two hours on the subject. To both share our stories and with space to contemplate how we develop an emotional connection to them – that in turn can, and does, drive change.

And so we heard the stories of the motivations of those around me; who and what inspires them; their personal experiences of being a young person in their countries; of political oppression and dictatorships; of fear to speak out; triumph over adversity; of those individuals who we have loved and lost and drive us forward every day.

These anecdotes continued into every aspect of the training, and I’m sure will continue for a long time to come. Stories that truley humbled me, and at times left me shocked, but helped me to develop a much deeper understanding of the sheer diversity and differences in our world.

I look forward to new found friendships growing in the coming months as we now look ahead to our global gathering in Portugal, where our Africa, Asia and Pacific counterparts will also join us – and hearing their stories.

I will return to our offices at National Council this morning with pages of notes, a renewed sense of vigour and motivation, ideas for collaboration, with new friends by my side, confident that YMCAs global potential to be a movement for societal change is immeasurable.

Be the change.
Communicate the vision.
Inspire impact.

If you want to read stories of young people working with YMCA in England and Wales, head to its website.