YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association. This is a global movement with a large membership of more than forty five (45) million individuals from 124 affiliated national federations of the YMCAs.
Founded on June 6, 1844 in London England, the YMCA came about as a result of unhealthy social conditions following that end of the Industrial Revolution. From the beginning the organization intended to emphasize Christian principles and practices. The YMCA’s approach is symbolized by the inverse red triangle used by YMCAs around the world representing the YMCA mission of building a healthy spirit, mind, and body. The young men who migrated to London in search of work often lived in unsafe conditions and squalor thus the YMCA was committed to reinstating their life on the streets with bible study and prayer. The idea of the YMCA began among evangelicals and it was deemed somewhat odd because it impacted everyone regardless of their social class or church and this was not the norm in England at the time. Hence with this approach came the eventual inclusion of all men, women and children, regardless of race, religion or nationality in YMCAs.
The YMCA’s effort to address the social needs within a community was really a passion from the beginning. With its holistic approach to individual and social development it encompasses the spiritual, intellectual and physical methods of every one it touches.
The YMCA is a federated organization, which consists of local and national organizations in voluntary association. Today, the programs and the degree to which Christ and the Christian faith are emphasized in programs vary between individual YMCA associations.
Prior to the American Civil War, YMCA provided shelter, nursing and other support during the wartime. The YMCA raised and spent over $155,000,000 on welfare efforts for American soldiers during World War I. They organized and deployed over 25,000 staff in military units and bases from Siberia to Egypt to France. They took over the military’s morale and comfort operations worldwide.
During World War II the YMCA was also involved in supporting millions of Prisoners of War (POWs) and the organization also supported the Japanese-Americans in internment camps. They assisted the young men in leaving the camps to attend Springfield College and provided youth activities in the camps. Additionally, the YMCA was one of seven organizations that helped to found the USO during World War II.
YMCAs in the United States were built like hotel – type rooms known as residences or dormitories in the late 1950s. Most YMCAs throughout the world still maintain residences as an integral part of the programming. In the UK however, many of these have been sold and are being used for student accommodation.