The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) is today celebrating its 30th anniversary to reflect on the successes of the association. In that regard, Youth Forum managed to speak to Mr James Gomez the out- going Executive Secretary of Africa YMCA, in an exclusive interview yesterday at Manse Hotel in Kololi during the African Alliance of YMCAs Gender workshop.
According to Mr Gomez, they are a Christian organization but do not discriminate against any religion or against even those who do not have a religion. “Our aims are to work with underprivileged people particularly young people by creating a better life for them through different programmes. For example we are involved in skills development, vocational training programmes, women in development programmes and refugee and emergency programmes.”
He said that YMCA is operating in one hundred and twenty five countries worldwide with a membership of one hundred and twenty million people working on different programmes.
When asked why they choose to host the celebration in The Gambia this is what he had to say “well first am a Gambian and since I am retiring I thought it would be very nice to retire with organizing the 30th anniversary in The Gambia and this is an office I have worked in for 12years and in appreciation of my contribution to the office, the executive committee decided that they would have the meeting in The Gambia.”
He said they count themselves lucky to have been able to make meaningful contributions for example in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and in all war-torn countries in Africa and have been involved in one way or the other in providing services to the communities.
In addition to that, in the countries where there is peace they have very meaningful programmes all geared towards helping young peoples particularly.
He also described the building of Africa YMCA headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, as another success story registered during his tenure of office.
Mr Gomez also lamented the problem of lack of enough resources for sustainability in most YMCAs in Africa due to the organization’s active involvement in charitable works.
He said one of his functions was to raise funds for all the YMCA programmes in Africa, which has been a challenge.
He however said that they have targeted 2015 that all YMCAs must be sustainable.
Commenting on the theme of the celebration “Thanksgiving and Renewal” he said that they want to thank God for what we have been able to achieve over the years particularly our services to the human kind and our little contribution to make life better for people.” He said that they also want to renew them selves to the objectives of the association, as there is a lot of demand in the association. “We want to lay more emphasis on the development of young people, arguing that they are not only leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today as well.”
Mr Gomez said his successor, Mr Carlos M. Sanvee of Togo, would also succeed if he commits himself to creating understanding among YMCAs in Africa and around the world and to build the capacities of YMCAs in Africa.
It could be recalled that Mr Gomez served as the Gambia-YMCA Executive Secretary and also served for ten good years as the Mayor of Banjul.