„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


26th November 2020

During the Covid19 crisis, YMCAs across Europe have been determined to help their communities as far as possible, establishing some best practices.

cover photo

Online Resources

YMCA Europe created the Facebook community YMCA CONNECTS, open to all YMCAs across the world. The groups shared resources on how to maintain physical and mental health, best practices for staff on how to switch to working from home, webinars on advocacy and fundraising tips, online tools and informal online gatherings, also with some song production to lift the spirits during the first lockdown.

  • No. of members: 1,701
  • Social media reach: 84,425
  • Interactions: 1,754

YMCA Europe Peacebuilding Project Roots for Peace also stayed true to its vocation to build bridges despite divisions and had its peace activists singing together the song IMAGINE to keep them united, while inspiring and lifting everyone else.

Global Lockdown is no obstacle when there is a wish to check on and socialize with your friends - the Roots staff team made the call, people responded and technology did the rest. 14 Peace Work Institute Alumni from 8 countries teamed up in Zoom space on April 3rd, 2020 for what turned out to be a very positive and fruitful online Reunion.

  • #beResponsible Campaign: YMCA Europe launched an awareness campaign on wearing protective masks.
  • YMCA Setubal (Portugal): in the spirit of its mission of training young people, for their personal fulfillment and participation in the development of society, YMCA Setúbal launched on social networks, the first of 4 episodes of the program DESCONFINAMENTE, a series of talks on how to navigate the pandemic.
  • YMCA Scotland reached out with a video: #OurMessageToYoungPeople is a YMCA Scotland campaign showing that YMCA is there, ready to give all the support young people need as we moved through the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
  • YMCA Romania, YMCA Czech Republic and YMCA Ukraine, took part in a pilot project implemented by YMCA Colombia, and organised the first on-line Camp for youth and kids involving also young people.   
  • Leaders Talk: World YMCA invited YMCA CEOs, board members, youth leaders and senior staff to hear from experts in crisis management, overcoming adversity, mental health, planning for recovery, governance, civic engagement, risk mitigation, innovation, transformation through technology and more. Speakers shared practical tools and concrete action steps to help YMCA lead through change and into the emerging future.
  • World YMCA has launched the Youth-Led Solutions Initiative designed to launch young people’s ideas to solve the world’s biggest challenges. It receives young people’s proposals, gets experts to evaluate them, and seed-funds them. The first event - on climate action - was organised with YMCA USA on 12-23 October, opening on 19 October and closing on 23 October. It received proposals from 80 ‘Solutions Teams’ comprising 600 people from 50 countries. 

In April, World YMCA launched a Solidarity Fund to help the many YMCAs who found themselves in acute financial difficulty caused by Covid. It raised some $400,000, to which it added $200,000 from its reserves. The Fund has allowed YMCAs to keep serving their communities during the pandemic. 27 National Movements have been supported and nearly 400 jobs saved.

Yet again, I am proud of the collective spirit shown by the global YMCA community in the face of real challenge”, said Carlos Sanvee.

World YMCA also joined the Big 6 in the message: "Community, hope and the power to do good" - a message from the big 6 youth organizations.

  • YMCA North Staffordshire (England & Wales) teams are delivering Activity and Family Resource packs. These packs have been made by our super teams at the YMCA, they will go a long way to help families, children and teens during these current social isolation measures.
  • YMCA Örby Scoutkår (Sweden), made over 200 visors for elderly homes in Örby
  • YMCA in Kosovo - donating to the Safe House (for victims of domestic violence), bedding, laptops, clothes and chocolate eggs for the children
  • In Northern Ireland, YMCA Portadown, have been hard at work having delivered over 140 food parcels to those in need.
  • YMCA Siderno (Italy) supplied 65 families who had requested home care with food as part of their response to the COVID-19 situation
  • ΧΑΝΘ - YMCA Thessaloniki (Greece), in collaboration with the Municipality, supplied food and necessities to families and people in need, that have requested home care
  • YMCA Spitak (Armenia) team performed priceless work, serving healthy and safe food to Covid positive patients and to the medical workers
  • YmilesOn is ON! YMCA Romania started their step challenge! 40 young people from all of the country joined the challenge to do individually and in team 1 million steps in September.
  • YMCA Scotland: a collaboration was enacted across the youth sector and with the government to support young people on learning and educational achievement, especially those with a learning gap; the government has recognised youth work as key service, thus allowed to continue its operations. Great achievements in the field of digital youth work, where YMCA Scotland has trained the rest of the youth sector for digital youth work, tools and skills, and collaborating with university on how to use gaming to help young people in these trying times.

The Back on Track report was launched by YMCA England and Wales in August 2020. The aim of this research was to find out from young people themselves what the impact of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown has been on them.

  • More than two-fifths of young people report that they are worried about their mental health or wellbeing as they come out of the Covid-19 lockdown (42%).
  • Hand-in-hand, mental health services and youth services can work together – not only to address  the negative impact of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health, but to build lasting resilience in the face of all shock and hazards that people face.

back on track

Challenges and Opportunities
  • Several YMCAs who run Health and Wellbeing or Childcare facilities had huge trouble with CoVid19 restrictions, and income was lost.
  • Young People reported big challenges with Employment and Mental Health due to CoVid19.
  • Several YMCAs reported a good success with summer camps despite restrictions, but struggled as a lot of volunteers report not being able to plan their involvement in usual activities due to insecurity on what will be possible or not.
  • Some YMCAs who struggled with loss of income from social enterprises reported great cooperation with in communities of impact to find ways out of the crisis.
  • Other YMCAs report how reliance on public funding meant stability, but also loss of income generation that could be used for operative means.
  • Some other YMCAs reported a very non NGO friendly environment, without support from the State. Some opened social enterprises like coffee shops to support activities, which could not be very active due to CoVid
  • There are YMCAs that report decision fatigue for the organisation: it is very difficult to have to plan and then change plan and then change again; uncertainty is also having a toll on young people’s mental health and employment prospects.
  • While some report a discreet success with summer camps, they also engaged in lots of alternative programmes online and worked to adapt staff operations to it, underlining how important it is to explore online possibilities.

YMCA Europe has elaborated and run COVID-19 Impact Survey which embraced not only European YMCAs but other geographical areas as well. 

You can see the key data here: 

donate now