From left to right: YMCA Chief Executive Kerry Reilly, Tim Kamaboakai from LIberia YMCA, and YMCA Europe Secretary General Juan Simoes. Photo: Robbie Cheyne/YCI From left to right: YMCA Chief Executive Kerry Reilly, Tim Kamaboakai from LIberia YMCA, and YMCA Europe Secretary General Juan Simoes.

As we leave Scotland for Ireland on our Tools for Recovery tour, YMCA Europe’s Secretary General, Juan Simoes blogs about the collective action we can take to tackle global poverty. Juan was in Edinburgh for the YMCA World Challenge 2015 and attended one of our Tools for Recovery roadshows which are raising awareness and vital funds to rebuild lives after Ebola.

The Ebola crisis that affects areas in West Africa has brought us scenes of suffering and death. Once again the African continent is in the media not because of the wisdom, life and strength of character of its people, but because of deep challenges connected with heath, poverty and lack of opportunities.

I had the privilege of spending most of my childhood in Africa. Those seven years in Maputo, Mozambique where my father was a public servant, were a milestone in my life. I humbly can say that this experience shaped my life forever and that is probably the reason why years later I committed to social work in the local and international contexts. In those years I experienced the real impact that social differences have in the community and how people seek for responses when poverty, hunger, diseases and natural disasters become a daily and dramatic issue.

My responsibility within the YMCA movement, has made me join hundreds of colleagues that serve this movement giving the best of themselves to provide answers to those challenges. Today – more than ever in the history of humanity – those answers need to be global and each of us has a responsibility by taking action. As a civil society organization we have a double commitment. On one hand we need to identify issues that affect sectors in our global community. Our history and the network that we have created across the world are two unique elements that we shall be able to use in order to constantly observe those issues. But on the other hand, immediate and coordinated action is needed as we do not belong to a theoretical or philosophical platform but are rather part of a movement in action formed by non conformists.

Using the full potential of our network, experience, local presence and capacities is a must as we are called to play an active role in tacking issues like poverty and diseases.

From the perspective of the YMCAs in Europe, we must be able to look beyond our own borders and reach out to the rest of the world with a solidarity approach. Regarding Africa, we do not only have a historical responsibility but we also have a commitment as a continent that has achieved levels of development despite our own social and political challenges. Therefore, strengthening our European network in order to be effective not only in our communities but also overseas, shall be in our agendas as we put in practice real international cooperation for development.

We encourage all our member YMCAs and stakeholders to combine the outstanding work in the local and national contexts in Europe with an international and global perspective. And we strongly suggest that this balanced action takes place not only when we are hit by the news of a natural disaster or a deep health issue affects our brothers and sisters from another continent, but in a continuous way as part of the annual plan of each of our YMCAs. Acting with coherent and continuity, the effects of the challenges that we daily observe will be reduced in a substantial way.

Juan Simoes Iglesias, Secretary General, YMCA Europe

The UK government will match every donation pound for pound thanks to the UK government’s Aid Match scheme. This means twice as many people reached, twice as much hope offered. Donate online to the Tools for Recovery Appeal today or text YGIV30 with your donation amount to 70070.