Our Global Movement

Celebrating 180 Years of the YMCA

Colleagues, friends, YMCA family,

Today marks 180 years of our remarkable global movement.

Created from humble beginnings in nineteenth century London, 22-year-old draper George Williams joined together with a group of friends to organise the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets of London.

180 years to the day, YMCA has grown to serve more than 65 million people across 120 countries, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic background, rooted in our inclusive Christian values.

As the founding movement, YMCA England & Wales is proud to support 375,197 young people across 669 locations, made possible by more than 3,900 incredible members of staff and 1,900+ dedicated volunteers, each of whom enable YMCA to operate as it does today.

Looking back over our 180 years, I’m struck by the consistency of YMCA’s approach to support. From our efforts in World War II, both on the front line and within communities at home, to tackling to a more recent threat in the ongoing housing crisis, YMCA continually serves as a beacon of hope in times of turmoil.

Equally, our resilience and adaptability are intrinsically linked to our longevity as an organisation. I have no doubt that without YMCA’s unique, dialogue-driven approach to support, we would not have made it to this point. Just as it did in 1844, so much of what we have grown into is shaped by those we serve. The insight and direction provided from within communities enables us to address a diverse range of needs, breathing life into YMCA’s belief that everyone should have a fair chance to discover who they are and what they can become.

That’s why, today as we pay tribute to our founder Sir George Williams for starting this epic journey, and to our staff, volunteers and supporters for getting us to this historic landmark, we also pay tribute to the young people and communities YMCA serves for driving our work forward. And drive forward we will, because our story is far from over.

A vital component in the continued evolution of YMCA is undoubtedly Vision 2030, our first collective strategy, providing a roadmap for all YMCAs, and created alongside young people. As a national movement we are excited to see our own strategy come to life as we join World YMCA in our commitment to the shared vision of a ‘just, equitable, sustainable, and inclusive world’.

Embracing our accolade as the world’s oldest and largest youth organisation, YMCA is the definition of an unstoppable force; one that has steered communities and countries through war, natural disaster and pandemic alike, and continues to forge forward for the people it supports.

Which is why, as much pride as I feel looking back on the past 180 years, I feel in equal measure excitement at what the next revolution of this circle has in store.

So, let us continue to forge forward as one, rooted in faith and community support, and inspired by words which resonate as much now as they did when they were embraced by the Paris Basis in 1855, ‘that all may be one’ (John 17, 21). Because today, as local, national and global challenges continue to test those we serve to the limit, YMCA matters more than ever.

– Denise Hatton, National Secretary


Share your YMCA memories with us!

Contact joe.haydar@fyldecoastymca.org to share your fondest YMCA memories from over the years.

If you would like to make a donation to YMCA Fylde Coast, please email joe.haydar@fyldecoastymca.org or donate to our JustGiving page here.


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