See the World with the YMCA

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Author’s Note: Over the past 35 years, I have had the privilege of living and working in some of the poorest, most remote and underserved parts of the Asia-Pacific region and in the United States. My work involves assisting governments, international aid agencies and local communities to strengthen their systems for managing communicable diseases (including HIV/AIDS), women and child health, and youth leadership.

This presentation given at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA of the Rockies in Colorado, USA covers roughly three decades of personal international development experience throughout the Asia-Pacific region, starting with the YMCA and continuing on with other development aid agencies. And this all began for me as an overseas volunteer with the YMCA! 

The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) or “The Y” is one of the oldest and largest movements for youth in the world. Founded in 1844, the YMCA now reaches 58 million people in 120 countries, and works to bring social justice, empowerment and peace to young people and their communities regardless of religion, race, gender or culture.

Responding to priority needs and issues affecting young people and their communities, with a focus on key areas of health, employment, civic involvement and environment, YMCAs operate in a wide range of program areas including: agriculture, education and vocational training, sustainable development, gender equality, climate change, health and HIV/AIDS prevention, inter-faith dialogue, food security, leadership development, human rights education, migration, civic engagement, emergency response and peace building.

While each YMCA is autonomous, with its own Board of Directors responding to local needs, the common mission and focus of the YMCA movement worldwide is to develop the whole person — as depicted in the red triangle promoting a healthy spirit, mind and body.  Thus the individual is not merely a separate body and a mind and a spirit, but a wonderful result of their union, something entirely different than any single aspect of the self. Thus, one’s overall character is of greater value than simply the intellect or physical excellence.

I first learned about YMCA overseas volunteer opportunities when I was a college student working a summer job at Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George, New York. After graduating in 1982, I was soon off to Sri Lanka for a six-week summer internship – that turned into six months — leading outdoor recreation and life skills programs for disadvantaged youth.

After Sri Lanka, I was hooked on the thrill of international living. For the next eight years I worked with local and national YMCAs and other non-governmental organizations (including the Thai Red Cross Society, Tom Dooley Heritage Inc. and the Catholic Relief Services) in fifteen developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Eventually, I returned to school for specialized training in public health, and joined organizations such as UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee, and have worked as an independent contractor on health and development projects funded by institutions such as UNAIDS, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).

The lure of continued fun, adventure, personal growth and meaningful service as a humanitarian aid worker has taken me to over 20 developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Except for six years of graduate studies in Hawaii where I completed my Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Public Health, I have been overseas ever since.

This photo presentation is an overview of my international work experiences, starting with the YMCA and continuing on with other humanitarian aid agencies in countries including: Sri Lanka, Samoa, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Korea and Vietnam.

I also enjoy volunteering seasonally at YMCA family retreat and conference centers in the USA and traveling on a shoestring budget to exotic destinations throughout the world. I currently live in a quiet seaside island setting in southern Thailand.

Stay tuned for more stories – coming soon!

You can read more about Jim’s backstory,  here and here.

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