Growing YMCAs in China
Kohei Yamada, General Secretary of APAY
Most YMCAs in Mainland China were established over100 years ago in major cities. During the Cultural Revolution, 1966 – early 1980’s, all YMCAs had to close the YMCA and their properties were used for different purposes. In 1980’s one by one, the YMCA got permission from the government to use the original buildings. This time Xi’an YMCA and Hangzhou YMCA conducted their 100th anniversaries.
The Chinese society has been rapidly changing and growing. We saw many buildings under construction in many parts of the city. Many people in rural communities have moved into urban cities such as Xi’an and Hangzhou. Both have over 8 million populations. In the last 3 years, the Government changed their policies. The policies have been shifted from providing social services by the government to selecting service providers for more social services. Due to this big shift, many social service organizations have been established and have become very competitive for receiving contract from government as responding to the growing number of population in many cities. In the last 3 years, they got nearly 100 government projects by the existing 10 YMCAs in China. The programs they offer are for the left behind children due to the parents’ migration to big cities or migrant children in cities, services for elderly and handicapped people as well as running community centers.
Due to the competition in getting the contract from government, YMCAs naturally have become more open to public needs rather than for their members. The organizational qualifications required by government to get government projects may probably change the nature of the YMCA as well as the qualification of YMCA staff members. More skills in project management, more specialties in social services and experiences and skills in working well with government have become necessary.
Changes also have been happening among young people. The rapid economic growth in China has caused more diversified life styles and that demand more choices of programs. It was just three years ago, YMCAs were able to recruit many young volunteers for its programs, but now young people have various choices of volunteer activities. Many young people are joining other NGOs for their interests. This challenges YMCA a lot.
On the other hand, YMCAs in China have kept good relationship with local governments, and also have kept close relationship with churches. YMCA now realized that they should be different from the other social service providers. YMCA has Christian values and own missions. Mr. Tu, the NGS of NCY China, said that they need more professional YMCA secretaries who understand and carry out the YMCA mission through the programs. Such mission oriented training is important and very necessary, he said. At the same time, as needs and demands of the people have changed, YMCA’s programs should be challenged to fit the needs of the people, young people in particular.