I spent September 20th to 30th in Ukraine as part of our International partnership with YMCA Ukraine. I participated in their Annual General Meeting of all YMCAs in the country, met with other International partners, and visited some local YMCAs.
The situation in Ukraine remains relatively unchanged in the past year. Crimea was seized from Ukraine in March 2014 by Russia, and the eastern region of Ukraine remains an active war region. This has resulted in approximately 1 million people being displaced from these areas of Ukraine to the western region of the country. This has created an increase in demand for support services for these internally displaced people. The YMCAs in western Ukraine are responding to these needs by offering programs for children and youth, especially camping programs during the summer.
The context for YMCAs in Ukraine is much different than here in Calgary. YMCA Ukraine has existed for only 24 years and there are 25 local YMCAs, only 7 of which have physical spaces they can utilize for programming purposes. Despite the challenges within the country and within the YMCA, some of the local YMCAs are growing and are becoming stronger each year.
I visited the Volyn YMCA in Lutsk, a small city of 250,000 people. This YMCA is currently raising funds to continue renovating an old Cinema that they hope to convert into a youth centre. They have some useable space within the building now, and a group of children and youth performed some wonderful dances and songs during our visit. We also met with their local youth board (comprised of young professionals under 30 years of age) and also their other board. For the first time in their history this YMCA produced a surplus from their overnight summer camping program in the summer of 2017. They had a waitlist of campers and also graduated 14 youth from camper to counselor this summer.
I also had the opportunity to visit the Lviv YMCA and the Verkhovyna YMCA, both in the western region of the country. It was wonderful to renew acquaintances and to meet some new volunteers involved in the YMCAs in Ukraine. Everyone is keen to learn more about our YMCA, to share ideas, and to actively plan for the future. Should you wish to learn more about our International partnership, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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