YMCA in the World
In 1844 twelve young men led by George Williams founded the first YMCA in London, England. Their objective was the “improvement of the spiritual condition of the young men engaged in houses of business, by the formation of Bible classes, family and social prayer meetings, mutual improvement societies, or any other spiritual agency.”
Together with the other founding members, George Williams wasted no time in organizing YMCA branches throughout England,Scotland and Ireland. Over the next ten years, YMCA Movements also began to develop across Western Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
The idea of creating a truly global movement with an international headquarters was pioneered by Henry Dunant, Secretary of YMCA Geneva, who would later go on to found the International Committee of the Red Cross and win the first Nobel Peace Prize. Henry Dunant successfully convinced YMCA Paris to organize the first YMCA World Conference. The Conference took place in August 1855, bringing together 99 young delegates from nine countries.
As of 2010, the YMCA worldwide movement counted over 40 million members. 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. The World Alliance of YMCAs is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
YMCA in Armenia
Based on the historical records provided by the Y USA in 2004, Armenians were historically engaged in the first YMCA groups formed in the territory of the Ottoman Empire in 1880s where Armenian and other Christian minorities were involved. Unfortunately, all those YMCAs along with many other christian organizations have been shut down in Turkey when in 1914-1922 teh Genocide of Armenians and other Christian national minotities took place.
The arrival of YMCA movement to Armenia took place through Tigran Kocharyan in 1992, who has been leading a local humanitarian aid organization. By the support of Y Care International he had initiated humanitarian relief projects in the south-west of Lori province to support the regions and people affected by teh earthquake of 1988.
With the further expansion of those projects the need to establish a separate organization emerged and a formal NGO was founded by Tigran and his associates to implement crisis relief programs primarily targeting Armenian refugees escaped from Azerbaijan because of the conflict over Karabakh issue, while continuing helping the poor families that had lost their shelters because of the earthquake.
- In 1998 the Armenian YMCA already had operating branches in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor, Spitak and Vardenis.
- In 1998 the YMCA Armenia was transformed into Armenian National Union of YMCAs, consisting of the former branches registered as independent local NGOs.
- In 1999 the Armenian YMCA became a full member of the YMCA Europe.
- In 2002 the YMCA Europe and World Alliance of YMCAs passed official resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
At present YMCA Armenia has 5 member-associations operating in the communities of Gyumri, Vanadzor, Spitak, Vardenis and Paraqar and one YMCA initiative group of Syrian Armenian young people working in Yerevan. The YMCA offers youth and child development, civic engagement, camping and rural development programs to the communities it is located in.