Celebrating Fathers at YMCAs around the world

Y Care International’s Helen Frost blogs about the fathers she has met while visiting YMCA projects around the world, and impact they’ve had on the lives of young women and men in Africa, Asia, Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America.

When asking my Dad a question, it is best not to expect a straight forward answer. You may get a riddle, be given a tattered and old smelling book or have to wait a few hours or days for him to magic an article from 1969 which may or may not relate to your question. Over the years, I have realised that by not providing me with the direct answer my Dad allowed me to find answers that I didn’t realise I was looking for; he is one of my most treasured teachers!

This Father’s Day I got to thinking about some of the Dad’s that I have met or heard about through my work with Y Care International and the different roles they play in the lives of young women and men in Africa, Asia, Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Defender
In traditional societies, families and communities can sometimes be a barrier to young women accessing opportunities like training and employment yet I have witnessed many Dads who have made a stand to defend their daughter’s right to learn and participate. In the West Bank, Abdul challenged his friends and community to think differently about their daughters and understand that projects, like those of Y Care International and the YMCA and YWCA, can be ‘very good so that women have another choice, another option’ other than remaining at home. Click to find out more about our work in the region.

The Provider
In Guatemala many fathers are not at home. With increasing financial inequality within the region many fathers are leaving their homes to travel northwards to the USA to try to secure work to support the family; many are gone for months or even years at a time. Mothers are left to care for the family alone and young people have to step up in to new found roles and responsibilities; they learn from a young age that sacrifice and hard-work is needed to ensure that the family unit survives. We’ve just published a report on how we’re supporting family members in Guatemala to reduce domestic conflict.

The Carer
In 2014 as Ebola raged through West Africa, Tom Parry of the Mirror reported on a story of father in Liberia who had recently lost his wife to Ebola and who was now facing the daunting task of caring for his small son. We just launched our Tools for Recovery campaign which is helping communities rebuild after the Ebola crisis.

An often under-reported element of a father’s role are their efforts to protect and care for their children; John in Colombia moved his daughters away from the conflict in the countryside only to find them at risk of other dangers in the capital, Bogota. Support from the YMCA has meant that his children can now access school and he is able to ensure a safer life for them.

The Absent Dad
Unfortunately, I have met many young people who no longer have their Dads present in their lives.  In many contexts around the world, losing a parent at a young age is a sad norm, many of the young people Y Care International works with are orphans or from single parent households.  Whether the loss of the parent is from illness, conflict or disaster it has a huge impact upon the young person’s life yet their stories remain full of love and hope that they will be able to make the most of the opportunities they have available and use the lessons they learned from their Dads.

Being a Dad may vary from culture to culture but from what I have seen it is obvious that they want their children to be able to access opportunities that will allow them to be happy and safe.

Follow Helen Frost on Twitter for more updates about the impact of our work around the world.

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