Speech by Mr. Tu Hanqiao at the Welcome Dinner of Executive Committee Meeting on March 6
It is my great privilege to be invited to share with you the current situation of YMCA in China. Before I am going to tell you the story, I would remind you of some background information, some key elements may help you better see how and why the story took place and is going to be.
Four key elements
1. The first YMCA was founded in a missionary college in 1885, which marked the starting of YMCA movement in China, boasting a history of nearly 130 years. The first city YMCA was founded in Tianjin in 1895. The National Committee of YMCAs of China was established in 1912, representing 25 city YMCAs and 107 student YMCAs at that time. 2012 witnessed the centennial anniversary of the National Committee of YMCAs of China.
2. YMCA ceased organizational operation in 1966 in the radical revolutionary time. In 1980, the National Committee of YMCAs of China took the lead to rehabilitate, and then followed by 10 city YMCAs. During the early days of rehabilitation, the National Committee of YMCAs of China devoted to the heavy and important task to train new generation of leaders and staff. The good work resulted to be very fruitful. The National Committee encouraged the local organizations to develop programs mainly in the four areas, which were educational, sports and wellness, cultural and recreational, community service so that YMCA could “serve the society and benefit the people”. All these witnessed the revival of YMCA movement in China.
3. In general, the process of YMCA development in China was an effort for indigenization and practice of YMCA value in Chinese context. YMCA then launched four movements of literacy education, livelihood education, health education and civic education directing against the four social ills in old China, which were “illiteracy, poverty, unhealthiness and egoism”. YMCA was unique that has popularized modern sports in China. Basketball, for example, was introduced into China by Tianjin YMCA.
4. China is different from other countries in social system, thus YMCA in China develops in the special social context. In China, Christianity is not in the main social stream and YMCA is very often taken as a religious organization. This more or less hinders YMCA to develop social resources and supportive partners. Even though, we insist on Christian faith and value. We take care our corner stone very seriously. YMCA maintains close relationship with churches and YWCA, as we are in one body of Christ. Top leaders of YMCA also take part in the leadership of churches, and this close relationship also reflects in specific work. We have cooperation and joint projects with churches in social services.
The National Convention:
The most important and exciting event in recent years is the 2012 National Convention.
For many years after its restoration in 1980, the National Committee of YMCAs of China has played an important role in promoting YMCA movement in China. For the purpose of further development and institutional construction, the leadership both at the national and local levels were getting more and more concerned about the mechanisms of the National Committee.
The year 2012 marked a milestone in the history of YMCA revival in China. On April 15, the National Convention was held in Beijing. Delegates representing 10 YMCA movements gathered for the first time after 1949. The convention resulted very positive and achievements were made as following: the National Committee of YMCAs of China changed its name as the National Council of YMCAs of China, to emphasize the involvement of local movements and clear status of the National Movement; the constitution of the National Council was revised; the new leadership was elected and a five year strategic plan was approved. The institutional construction became the top priority.
Currently, we have YMCAs in ten major cities; Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Xian, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing, Xiamen and Chengdu. In recent years, Local YMCAs celebrated one after another their 100th anniversaries. Nevertheless, programs have overstepped the tradition and opened up vaster space for development, and our services are extending to small towns and villages. Programs and projects cover youth development, environmental protection, peace education, employment training, serving the seniors, helping the disadvantaged, medical aid and some local organizations are also involved in the hot social issues of AIDS, migrant workers, sexual abuses to the children, better living of agriculture population in urbanization.
Last June, the National Council of YMCAs held the Social Service Exhibition. It was exciting and inspiring. YMCA programs and services are far beyond the geographical limitations. Today, ten YMCAs work at over 200 program centers and community bases to carry out YMCA mission among different people. 444 staff with the help of 33,837 volunteers, served close to one million people in the year.
The transformation can trace back to late 1990th. When YMCA in China was confronting the rapid social change and reform, we saw through the great challenges our opportunities to expand and looked for more spaces to develop in meeting with increasing social needs. When the government of Shanghai took the initiative to reform its community service system and provided the chance for NGO to join in the community project, Shanghai YMCA was commissioned to undertake the operation of community center in Pudong area in 1996. That was a good exploration for YMCA to cooperate with different social sectors in creating a new mechanism for community service. That also pioneered the way for all the local YMCAS. By the end of last year, the government commissioned projects had an increase to 32, undertaken by local YMCAs.
And in recent years, our new targeted groups are floating population and their children, as well as elderly people. Coming along with the rapid urbanization, China has seen a rapid tide of transfer of rural labor force to urban cities. The people have floated from economically less developed areas to developed areas, pursuing mainly a better income. The access for their interaction with local people and equal social participation are limited despite their strong intention to integrate into local communities. Owing to the same problem, their children are at a disadvantage in terms of schooling, social participation and overall development. The situation is even worse for the left-behind children and aged people. The
National Council of YMCAs of China is helping and encouraging local organizations to work with these children and their families in the schools and rural centers.
With the increasing of program centers and government commissioned projects, new challenges also come together, challenges to our organizational strength, capacity of our social work, professional skills, and so forth. What if we get lost in doing the business? Shall we miss the mission? Is there character building in spirit, mind and body in the programs? We have to keep asking ourselves.
YMCA of China treasures the international fellowship and network, and to strengthen close ties with YMCAs around the world is one of the important roles of National Council. In recent years, international exchanges have been conducted through a number of institutional and thematic activities to deepen connotation. I would like to mention in particular the China-Japan-Korea YMCA Peace Forum, Sino-Japanese YMCA Peace and Friendship Youth Symposium, China-Japan-Korea YMCA Youth Peace Camp. We make our efforts to unite our young people to have a better participation in making peace in North-east Asia.
Our strength lies in the capability to gather people who are willing to help and share resources with others, assembling individual passion to group value. For the YMCA, volunteers are our most valuable and indispensable asset, and their participation is an inexhaustible motive force for us.
YMCA provides for volunteers a platform of social service to give full play to their initiatives. We encourage creativity of volunteers in program planning and operation, to help the personal growth of the youth. At the national level, we implemented a 3-year project targeted at 100 local YMCA youth leaders, aiming to improve their understanding of YMCA movement, develop their leadership endowments. It has been proved that the project had very positive effects, and we are still expecting more.
The Psalmist said:
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps. [Psalm 85:10.]
We hope YMCA in China can contribute to social justice and improvement of a civil society through our community services and help the people to help themselves.