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


22nd February 2021

Organized by YMCA Europe´s Working Group on Refugees, the purpose of the Conference was to highlight the work that YMCAs develop with refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.


It was also an opportunity to share best practices through relevant programmes and reaffirm YMCA Europe´s commitment with this work in partnership with our key stakeholders.

Even if most participants were from European YMCAs, we had 26 countries represented, including colleagues from North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The event started with a welcome by YMCA Europe´s President Emma Osmundsen who reminded the rich history of our movement in working with displaced persons, highlighting the relevance of this work still today as part of YMCAs identity.

Ed Eggink as Chair of the Working Group on Refugees, reminded the objectives of the conference and introduced the speakers at the opening session (video min. 7`40).

We were honored and inspired by Mr. Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission (video min. 9`45) and Mr. Antonio Vitorino, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration of the United Nations (video min. 24`10 and 38`50).

Both speakers shared very valuable thoughts and facts about the phenomenon of migration, emphasizing the need for the work that the YMCA develops in his field.

Carlos Sanvee, Secretary General of World YMCA (video min. 20`05) referred to the actions involved migrants and refugees as crucial in contemporary times and the need for a global approach combined with relevant local projects.

Rachael Rinaldo from YMCA New York )video 2`08`34) in the US and leader of World YMCA Community of Impact on Refugees spoke about that global dimension based on a common understanding of a phenomenon that continues shaping our societies.

We had presentations and panel discussions on specific initiatives at national and local levels by Lynda Gonzales-Chaves from YMCA USA (video min. 55`25), Dolores Tarrafeta from YMCA Thessaloniki in Greece (video 1`06`36), Charlotte Faure from YMCA Le Rocheton in France, Maja Halmen from YMCA Nürnberg in Germany, Pedro Fueyo, NGS of YMCA Spain and Monika Ciok-Giertuga from YMCA Northdown in Ireland. (video 1`26`50)

Juan Simoes Iglesias, Secretary General of YMCA Europe (video 2`00`55) spoke about the strategic framework that is presently under consultation across the European movement which shall include spaces for networking and joint initiatives in the field of migrants and refugees strengthening the cooperation at all levels.

The Conference finished with an “open space” (video 2`26`20) in which participants listened to presentations and video testimonials from several national and local YMCAs such Ukraine, Nagorno Karabakh, Toulouse, Nürnberg with examples of impactful projects plus a sharing by Ilenia Ventroni, from YMCA Europe´s staff team in Brussels on funding opportunities within this work.

In her closing remarks (video 3`01`20), Emma Osmundsen thanked all participants, organizers, presenters and Marius Pop our Director of Communications for all technical arrangements. Finishing her words with a prayers and a reading from Mathew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”.

Video testimonies from YMCA refugees and migrants programmes:

Read the article from the World YMCA

The Conference report is available here.

1,384,671 €

Funds received up to October 31th in response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Check here the YMCA response and projects across Europe.

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