It was once a major hub of activity for the young and young at heart, but as the years went by and the facilities deteriorated, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) facility on Pinfold Street and the organization both lost some visibility in Barbados.
Therefore, the organization has embarked on a strategy incorporating the use of the latest technology and making significant improvements to its infrastructure in a bit to regain that lost ground.
Speaking during the organization’s 138th Annual General Meeting, outgoing President Antonio Elcock stated: “With the present trends in society, where Christian values are not being represented as they were before, the YMCA’s role must become even more critical in providing guidance for our youth.”
Elcock, as well as the main presenter, architect Tony Brooks, recalled when older people interacted with the youth on a regular basis at the “Y,” many years ago, and they both called for a return to those times. “We had the chance to rub shoulders with very positive characters who had no difficulty in telling us how to improve ourselves,” Elcock stated. He added, “Barbados currently has an ageing population looking for ways to stay active in their retirement years, and what better way to do it than to have them interact with younger people in friendly competition, where they can learn from each other?”
He added that the YMCA will make greater use of social media by streaming activities taking place there and will conduct more community outreach programmes to attract new members, “so that parents will see it in a positive light and want to get their children involved in it.”
Tony Brooks outlined some of the proposed changes to the infrastructure, which will not only improve the physical plant, “but also [provide] potentially lucrative revenue streams to help the YMCA become more self-sufficient.” Some of the plans include a new canteen and office space, which Brooks noted: “can be used as ‘incubator offices’ for entrepreneurs, and given their close proximity to the Law Courts, will also be made available to newly qualified attorneys wanting to set up their first practice.”
Another set of rooms, the majority of which will be modified freight containers, a form of construction Brooks described as “cost-effective and a trend that is becoming more popular worldwide,” will be used to provide Airbnb style accommodation. “The size of the containers we are using, some 20 x 24 feet, can easily hold a full-size bed plus a bathroom, and will be even bigger than some of the Airbnb facilities I have stayed in when I visited other countries,” Brooks said.
Given the YMCA’s reputation many years ago as the centre of basketball on the island, the proposed upgrades also include a fully modernised basketball court which can hold 600 audience members and meets international standards.
The estimated cost of the infrastructural work, which will be done in six phases, has been pegged at between $3 and $4 million, and the YMCA is now seeking assistance to raise those funds.