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December 3, 2012

The YMCA in Africa

The first YMCA in Africa was founded in Liberia in 1881, and the American YMCA was working to spread the movement on that continent as early as 1890. Records of YMCA international work in 25 different African countries are available at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives. The most extensive collections document work in Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, and South Africa, but there are also records of YMCA work in Angola, Cameroon, The Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

ya000412.jpg Programs in Africa sponsored by the YMCA focused primarily on youth, who formed the majority of its population and were seen as representing Africa's future. YMCA youth development programs in Africa included health education, vocational training, crafting development, small business development, rural development, family planning, refugee assistance and rehabilitation, environmental protection, youth sports projects, youth job development, leadership training, young women training and education and camp programs that included farm training.

Another area of focus for YMCA work in the continent of Africa was the continual problems brought about by war and drought. Many YMCA relief efforts were continuously underway in Africa, and many occasions where the YMCA either asked assistance from outside agencies or simply made them aware of the problems that Africa was facing and suggested that they get involved. Among the agencies that the YMCA worked with were USAID (United States Agency for International Development), Africare, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), the Red Cross and the Peace Corps, to name a few. The Y's Men International was also quite helpful to the relief efforts and the individual YMCAs in Africa. The YMCA's relief work played a significant role in the survival of the African citizens at times, and established the organization as a trusted agency concerned with the well being of Africans.

Photo: Picture of the Month - December 1969 ,YMCA World Service. Caption: "Towards a brighter future in Nigeria: While the civil war rages on, Nigeria's YMCA continues to provide some of the more 'normal' experiences of childhood for increasing numbers of the nations youth. In the Kaduna Y, where library books are a big attraction for some, the YMCA is housed in a church from which all the members have fled and become refugees." Kautz Family YMCA Archives.