YMCA 175

Kia Ora Koutou Katoa,

My name is Luke and I am the Impact Director at the YMCA Christchurch! These past few weeks I had the privilege of attending my first global YMCA conference as a New Zealand delegate. As an immigrant, it was an honour to be selected and represent Aotearoa alongside my other Kiwi comrades, Tyla Hei (YMCA Gisborne) and Mitch Skudder-Dey (YMCA South & Mid Canterbury). I thought I would just take a moment to describe what took place.

The first week was spent at YMCA Fairthorn-Manor Camp near Southampton, England. The camp is a beautiful facility equipped with accommodation, a dining hall, and heaps of fun activities like high-ropes, rock climbing, flying fox, canoeing and more! Quite similar to our very own YMCA Wainui Park. Our time at Fairthorn-Manor was part of the YMCA Change Agent programme, which is a global leadership development programme designed to empower young leaders to be positive change-makers in their own local communities.


The programme was 6 days and comprised of 120 youth delegates representing 42 countries. It was a magical experience, to say the least! We shared culture, talked about world issues, our differences and similarities, we broke stereotypes, gained understanding, and developed plans to create meaningful change in our communities. We also played heaps of games, sang camp songs, practised making fire, high-ropes, and even got to do some site-seeing around the city of Southampton! It didn’t’ take long for all 120 delegates to bond and become one Global YMCA whanau.

Following Camp, we made our way to London to join 3,000 other YMCA delegates from around the world to gather and celebrate the 175th anniversary of the YMCA! And what better place to commemorate this monumental event than at the birthplace of where Sir George Williams founded the movement on 6th June 1844, in London, United Kingdom. The purpose of YMCA175 was to connect the YMCA’s global movement, strengthen cross-cultural understanding and create solutions to address complex social challenges. It kicked-off with an absolutely electric opening ceremony at ExCel London convention venue. There was live music, flag-bearing and an inspiring address from Hon. Jayathma Wickramanayake who currently serves as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth!

Over the course of 3 days, participants could select from a variety of workshops, seminars and panel sessions delivered by YMCA leaders from around the world deemed experts in their field. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind of excitement and exhaustion as people from all over the world hurried from activity to activity cherishing every moment. There were a few break-out rooms to escape the chaos as well. A Heritage & History exhibition was in one area, but the soft seating and soothing music quickly transformed this area to a designated “napping zone” (haha).

Another large room had a plethora of recreation activities like basketball, rock climbing, volleyball, as well as a whole heap of games that I have never seen before. Games like “Spikeball’ and “KanJam” were just a few of the innovative games that you could learn to play and take back to your own Y. There was, of course, the obligatory dancing to that YMCA song by the Village People that no one has ever heard ever…

The workshops that I attended were great! Each one designed to inspire and invigorate. Participants were encouraged to take part and ask questions in order to develop their ideas and bring about change in their communities. I ended up attending 5 workshops in total and one of my favourites was entitled “Pathways to a Preferable Future”, in which we discussed some pretty wild ideas about what the future is going to look like and how we are going to adapt.

Questions like what jobs are robots actually going to take? Do we even want those jobs? What does power look like in the 21st century? How does one make lasting positive change and overcome adversity? Mind-blowing content.



Another workshop I attended was by an Australian gentleman named Jayden Parsons. He was a part of the Change Agent programme in cohort 3 (last year). In his workshop, he talked about his group fitness programme, mYnd Pump designed for young people experiencing mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, or overwhelming stress. Jayden talked about how he implemented his programme and the positive evidence-based outcomes it had on his community! I left this workshop, much like all the others, feeling motivated and eager to #bethechange and make these ideas happen in our community in Christchurch!

I hope that gives you a brief idea of what this big trip was all about! If you would like to learn more about the details of the event, please feel free to get in touch. Thank you to YMCA New Zealand for allowing me to be part of this programme, and thank you to all of the amazing people that made #YMCA175 an unforgettable experience.


Nga Mihi,

Luke Weber


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