YMCA Europe Camping Group

The YMCA Europe Camping Group provides a platform for member organizations to share best practices, resources, and experiences in camping. The network also organizes training programs, workshops, and exchange programs for camping professionals and volunteers. Through its activities, the organization aims to provide high-quality camping experiences that promote personal growth, social integration, and environmental awareness among young people.

In addition to its work with member organizations, the YMCA Europe Camping Group also advocates for the value of camping as a tool for youth development and social change. The organization actively promotes the benefits of camping to policymakers, funders, and the wider public, and collaborates with other organizations to advance the field of outdoor education and youth development.

An updated database of YMCA Camps across Europe is available here.



Consultations between YMCA Europe and YMCA Macedonia with a focus on camping initiatives resulted in expanding the team with YMCA Kosovo and YMCA Greece. The first pre-study visit was held at YMCA Greece in Thessaloniki. where we had the opportunity to further discuss the importance and need of having a program group on camping within YMCA Europe.

The event was followed by a new expansion of the team by adding representatives from YMCAs in Denmark and The Netherlands and another meeting in Thessaloniki was planned where we discussed the different approaches in camp management. We have exchanged best practices, experiences, and shared training modules for camping which are currently in use in various YMCA movements.

From one side, we were able to see the diversity of approaches. On the other side, we saw the possibility of learning and building a common system of standards and training modules that can be used as a basic guideline in this area of YMCAs running camps in Europe. We have discussed the development of different possibilities and worked out a general action plan, taking into consideration different challenges and follow-up activities in order to keep working on the development of this initiative.

Later, on in the years 2015-2017 a total of 4 events were organized, involving a large number of other European YMCAs, raising the profile, the importance and the perspectives of this program group. This is a summary of those spaces created :

  • May 2015, Training “Empowering Summer Camp Youth Leaders” (known as ESYL) in The Netherlands.
  • May 2016, Training “Empowering Summer Camp Youth Leaders” (known as ESYL) #2 in The Netherlands.
  • September 2016, Camp seminar “Towards Common Standard” in Portugal.
  • September 2017, Camp seminar “Common Standards of Y-Camps – Management and Training” in Finland.
  • May 2018, Training “Empowering Summer Camp Youth Leaders” (known as ESYL) #3 in The Netherlands.
  • June 2019, “Training for Camp Managers” in France.

Main reasons for the existence of this Program Group:

  • The camping programme provides many possibilities for working with young people in the field of non-formal education and outdoor experiential education following a successful tradition within the YMCA
  • Camping is one of the YMCA flagship programs among the YMCAs worldwide.
  • Camping is part of the YMCA Europe long term strategies focusing on a healthy lifestyle.
  • In Europe, there is a large variety of YMCAs with camping programs even if there is not a strong link among them.

The goals of the program group are:

  • To identify all existent YMCA campsites and camp programs across Europe.
  • To create a platform where European YMCA’s working on camping programs can communicate on common topics, cooperate, share resources and knowledge.
  • To run events to discuss camp topics and build capacities.
  • To strive to create personal and professional development opportunities for camp staff and volunteers, strengthening the foundation of the YMCA Camp movement by educating, connecting and motivating those human resources.
  • To work on building common standards for YMCA camps in order to increase the quality of our camp programs.
  • To promote YMCA camps and camping culture, raising awareness about the benefits of camps and outdoor experiential education.
  • Cooperate with camp organizations from Europe and beyond.

The group has a volunteer board with experienced leaders in camp/program management, coming from several European YMCAs working in camp programs:

  • Joost Vlasblom (The Netherlands) 
  • Alina Pop (Romania)
  • Francesco Zoffoli (Italy)
  • Joao Moura (Portugal)
  • Pete Nieminen (Finland)
  • Rafal Kusa (Poland)
  • Viktor Iliev (North Macedonia)

Contact email: camps[at]ymcaeurope.com