One of the founding ideals of the global YMCA movement is unity: to unite people of different backgrounds so that they can build a better world. Uniting YMCAs together as one through a truly inclusivemovement. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values we reach people of all faiths and none to build a more just world, free from poverty.
We seek to build a unified community of support for vulnerable young people around the world – just as we bring together YMCAs in the UK with those around the world; we bring together our donors and supporters with our young volunteers.
Recently YMCA Somerset Coast hosted over 100 local supporters at their stunning Barley Wood House to learn about the work of the YMCA locally and globally. Our President Terry Waite shared his experience of founding Y Care International and why he remains committed to helping young people to enter work and thrive.
I accompanied Simrath Dhillon, 21, who spent three months volunteering with us in Togo. Like many of Y Care International’s young volunteers she is energetic, ambitious and full of compassion. She shared her experience of volunteering with YMCA supporters from across Somerset:
When I was in Togo, I helped to raise awareness of starting a trade. We worked in the men’s prison where lots of people are held. It was the size of a small sports hall. It was incredibly overcrowded; really hot with what felt like no air. You had to shout to be heard. We were with a small select group who were taking part in our entrepreneur workshop about how to make a living. It was nerve-wracking doing it for the first time but it was also really rewarding. I did it and it was really good to know that they were gaining a skill to help them in the future.
It might sound a bit cheesy but volunteering in Togo has been the last push for me to become an adult. I felt that before I went I was quite mature. After I got back it took me a couple of months to realise how it changed me. I felt that I was ready for all the responsibilities of being an adult. It’s the final bit of growth and showed me how far I have come. When I was in secondary school I would never have done anything like this event. Even going to an event with Terry Waite I would have said ‘No!’ as I was so nervous. My confidence has really improved; it’s definitely helped me and given me a confidence boost.
Putting this renewed confidence to the test, Simrath spent time chatting with Terry Waite. She says:
He was really quite awe inspiring. I was a bit overwhelmed as he has been through so much. What really touched me was a poem he had written about anger. He talked about needing to use the warmth from the embers of anger to help you and drive you forward. It will stay with me for a while. Not falling into negative energy and using it in a positive way. That really spoke to me, especially as he has a very calm and committed energy about him.
Most of the evening was spent talking to supporters of the YMCA movement:
They were such interesting people. It was really nice to have people share why they were there, the charities they are involved in locally and what they were doing. It was good to raise awareness of YMCA. It reminded me of my time in Togo. There the highlight was probably the connection I made with the people who were there. Not just the other UK volunteers in my team but also my in-country team leader and the host family I lived with. I am still in touch with them now and the people really made it for me. Around the world we all seem to work for similar goals.
Simrath volunteered overseas last year during her university summer holiday. If you or someone you know want to volunteer overseas click here to learn about our ICS programme.