As it observes 135 years in Barbados, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has been told to reinvent itself and become relevant to young people today.
At the organization’s annual general meeting last night, guest speaker Rawle Brancker questioned whether the YMCA and young people were “on the same page”, while the association’s president Tony Cave said the nation had changed and the YMCA had to follow suit.
Cave spoke to the small audience at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank about Barbadian values that he said were “rapidly disappearing under a welter of reports on the behaviour of young Barbadians” and wondered aloud “what has happened to the YMCA”.
“I have always seen the YMCA as a microcosm of the Barbadian society. It captured, it nurtured, projected, and promoted the Barbadian spirit . . . For many, the YMCA had been a home away from home, a nation builder, and as such it remains. Regrettably however, the nation has changed because our homes have changes, but so must the Y,” Cave said.
Brancker questioned why and where the YMCA went off track.
“Has the Y become irrelevant?” he asked.
The prominent businessman congratulated the association for coming up with a three-year plan, but questioned its relevance to the young people of today.
“Is the Y on the same page as the youth you serve? Does the Y understand the language of the youth they serve? When the plans were being drawn up, were focus groups of youths consulted to determine what they wanted to see, not what you wanted to?” Brancker questioned.
“Unless you consult with the youth, maybe the participation may not be what you’d like.”
Brancker, who recalled benefitting from services of the YMCA more than a half-century ago, suggested: “It might help the Y to select two smart young people between the ages of 20 and 30. Get that thinking on your board because I don’t think like them and you don’t think like them . . . You want that new blood, new thinking within the organization.”
“The Y must be relevant and start doing the things that the community needs, the things that the country needs, not only the things that you need. Understand the language of the youth,” he added.
But Brancker said it should not be left only to the board of directors and management of the organization.
He called for involvement of others in society.
“Barbados is home to a number of wealthy people who are enjoying a fabulous life here and we need to make them understand that they have to make a further contribution to that, and in organizations like the YMCA they should be putting their time,” Brancker said.
“They should be putting some of their money and effort into making it work, because if it works it makes Barbados better, and if Barbados is better it makes their life better.”