The YMCA Sao Paulo, Brazil was recognized following a week of many celebrations,in a solemn ceremony at the auditorium of the YMCA, for all its history and work in strengthening people, families and communities in the city of Sao Paulo. It was formally commended by City Counselor: Paulo Frange, who delivered the “Silver Sage,” praising the meritorious actions of the volunteers and staff who lead the Sao Paulo YMCA. He highlighted the warmth, dedication and pro-activity in actions related to the empowerment of physical education, social assistance, well-being and quality of life for citizens over the 120 years. The Max Managels Commendation was also awarded to members with 50-plus uninterrupted years serving the YMCA

Official Newsletter of

The World Fellowship Of YMCA Retirees

April 2023 * View as Webpage

Notes from the chair...

By Kohei Yamada, WFYR Chair

Hello Craig,

 It was amazing to see some of you again and to meet others anew at our exciting event in Aarhus, Denmark in July 2022 where over 50 members from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America attended.

I want to share what is going on since July 2022. It is exciting to know how much we tried to contribute to the active participation of retirees outside of the YMCA regular programs while still striving for the essential needs of YMCAs. We are studying the benefits of YMCA retirees as well as for the retirement preparations for the current employees of YMCA. 

We call it Global Retirement Initiatives. We initiated three GRIs, one in Sri Lanka, one in Kenya and another in Latin America. The WFYR GRI fund is coming mainly from the World Brotherhood Fund (WBF) which was developed in USA YMCA Alumni.

In order to carry out this GRI project, trust in all involved parties is necessary. Therefore, communication is of utmost importance.

Photo: WFYR Leadership Zoom, March 2023

Another development, WFYR Special Workshops, has started in Canada with the help of volunteers from Latin America and Germany. It will be held biannually. Any YMCA retiree can participate online by Zoom. Our first event will be May 24, 2023, with special guests from Europe concerning the YMCAs’ responses to the Ukraine situation. Details are provided below.

With this issue, you can see our WFYR is very busy and involved between our actual physical meetings held every four years. Bridges, our newsletter, is one of our communication tools to keep you all informed. We hope you are all doing well and remaining active in your retirement lives.



WFYR Chair, 2022-2026

Thoughts from the editors...

By Len and Joyce Wilson

Your editors are spending a great deal of time on Zoom calls. The pandemic has created a new way of reporting and planning. But Zoom lacks the moments of quiet personal conversations and sharing vital to maintaining close relationships and fellowship, particularly among retirees who lack workplace opportunities to chat.

We miss the group photos and accounts of outings that we enjoyed sharing through Bridges.

We are all looking forward to the AGAPE conference in Brazil this coming September. The list of activities and opportunities is most exciting. Our friends in Latin countries find ways to get together and have sent us pictures of their enjoyment. Bridges is sharing a photo of a newly formed group of retirees from that area that has settled in Florida and formed a new chapter of WFYR.

Zoom has maintained and expanded the reach of our WFYR membership and this edition of Bridges provides information and an invitation to join two worldwide WFYR sessions being conducted by our friends in Canada that will link WFYR members separated by oceans and great distances.

Local chapters of Y retirees in the U.S. are starting to gather again. Your editors were part of a group attending a briefing on the YMCA Alumni National Service Project that has garnered large financial support and participation. (See link for details) Retirees were treated to a tasty luncheon in the corporate center of the Greater Philadelphia YMCA and learned more about the Y’s plans for a major expansion of facilities and community services.

Hopefully you have read and share Kohei Yamada’s thoughtful remarks and hopes for the coming years as he begins to provide  leadership to increase our membership and WFYR’s capacity to support YMCA retirees without pensions in various parts of the world.

Please remember Bridges whenever retirees meet in small or large gatherings and send us photos and brief descriptions. (Photo below: Members of the Central Atlantic Chapter of YMCA Alumni gather at the Philadelphia YMCA.

Photo below: Members of the Central Atlantic YMCA Alumni Chapter gather at the Philadelphia YMCA.

German retirees visit Israel

By Margret and Güenter Ozdyk, Vice Chair/Europe

Twelve days full of impressions in Israel
, tired but happy, we say goodbye on February 26 at the Berlin airport to our small travel group, with whom we spent an eventful time in Israel.

Nineteen participants, from young people to pensioners, from sporty hikers to us, with severe walking disabilities, and one participant in a wheelchair - can it work? Yes, it worked.

The evening before our return from Israel, we experienced the beginning of the Sabbath in the square in front of the Wailing Wall. Groups of people sang songs and praed, others, especially young people, danced loudly and happily. In between tourists, people from all over the world, and us.

Thomas Brendel from the YMCA Silesian Upper Lusatia organized everything. The participants thank him for his patient and knowledgeable leadership of this study trip. Helpful were also again and again the biblical references Thomas pointed out to us.

The days began after a good breakfast with thoughts on the respective Herrnhut watchwords and ended with an exchange in the evening. In the evenings there were also short contributions from the participants, on various topics about Israel.

Hotel Israel

During the first week we stayed at the HI-Karei Deshe Hostel in Khirbet Minim, which is located directly on the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias. It is a simple but very nice hostel full of life with many groups of young people. In the second half of the trip, we stayed at the German Hospice of St. Charles in Jerusalem of the former German colony, founded in the second half of the 19th century by members of the German Templar Order.

Benedictine service in the Church of the Multiplication of Bread in Tabgha, excavations in Magdala with exciting explanations by Professor Vieweger, exclusive guided tour of the excavations under the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, a drive through the Jordan Valley, Capernaum, the place where Jesus and the disciples lived, then the place where Jesus was baptized. So many impressions.! 

We visited the oasis En Gedi, Massada on the Dead Sea, had conversations with contemporary witnesses, saw the impressive work for people with disabilities of Lifegate in Beit Jala. Burghard Schunkert, a YMCA secretary, built this work.

We saw the wall across Jerusalem and were reminded of Berlin. Painted with graffiti, some very famous by Banksy, but we also heard voices that Banksy was anti-Israel. We realized that the problems are so complex and that we should hold back on our proposed solutions. 

We visited Yad Vashem, the international Holocaust memorial, saw the stories and commemoration of the personal fates of six million men, women and children, saw the huge memorial stones with the names of Jewish communities that were wiped out, saw the list of names of the Righteous Among the Nations who are honored by the State of Israel for putting their lives on the line between 1933 and 1945 to protect threatened Jews.

Beautiful and sad, joyful and burdensome, unknown and familiar. So many impressions.

Top Photo: German retirees group photo on Israel tour: Above Photo: HI-Karei Deshe Hostel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Some history: Secours Speciaux

By Bonnie Mairs, Chair

The Secours Speciaux Fund committee serves in an advisory capacity to the Secretary General of the World Alliance. The Fund began in the 1950s as a private effort of Anna Franklin, wife of the Secretary General.

She was aware of the needs of Eastern European Y leaders after their countries became Communist and their Ys were closed. She found ways to send money, clothing and medicine to them behind the Iron Curtain.

The Fund has grown to serve retirees worldwide and the committee structure has evolved over the years. Rosemarie Miller of Reading, Pa, the German-born wife of Robert Miller who had been a fraternal YMCA Secretary in Germany, chaired an informal Secours Speciaux group for many years. Before marrying, Rosemarie had headed the German YMCA’s World Service effort so was well aware of retiree needs. As Secours Speciaux chair, she wrote hundreds of fundraising letters. I took over in 2007 and have been chair since then.

The Secours Speciaux Fund committee met by Zoom In 2022, and also in person at the World Council meeting in Denmark. Decisions included: 1) making a holiday gift to the needy retirees on our COVID list as COVID had increased inflation in so many countries, 2) setting up a rotation system for committee members. Members will be assigned to classes and able to serve up to two terms of three years each. I asked to be replaced as chair after 16 years and Carlos Sanvee has appointed Philip Dwyer/USA. I will stay on the committee for two years as the rotational system kicks in.

The Secours Speciaux Fund is in good shape. It continues to maintain a balance of 250 Swiss Francs, as requested by the World Alliance of YMCAs in case of catastrophe. It has dedicated committee members, an updated application system and good information on the World Y website. Applicants for assistance can apply online, and contributors can make donations online, too. 

The India YMCA has decided to set up its own emergency fund which is exciting news. Some years ago, the Secours Speciaux committee determined that a separate committee should address the worldwide problem of little or no retirement; a subcommittee was appointed which began the Global Retirement Initiative

The need for an emergency fund continues because the retirement issue remains as does the possibility of personal medical, political, environmental and other emergencies. Secours Speciaux will need your continued help in expanding the number of individual and national YMCAs contributors, in identifying people in need to apply for assistance and in helping them to apply. 

Thank you for your support over the years. I wish all those who have benefited from Secours Speciaux grants could thank you directly. Together, we have helped our colleagues through life crises, as we should. It has been a privilege to chair a program that does so much good; I am grateful for the opportunity. Please keep on with your support. 

News from Latin America & Caribbean

As usual there is a lot of interesting information from our retired friends in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their Regional Executive Committee is finalizing plans for “AGAPE 2023” to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 6-9. It is open to all YMCA retirees; the hosts are hoping for attendance from beyond their own areas.


Latin American Retirees Gather in the USA

Latin American retirees who live in the united States and are members of the “Latinet” network, gathered in Tamarac, Florida October 20-21, 2022, There were two days of intense activity, meetings, celebrations and fellowship the opportunity was also taken to honor Jerry Prado Shaw, who turned 80, and his wife Martha, his enthusiastic collaborator. Josias Arteaga, from Colombia, chaired the meeting and Cristina von Lindenberg, from Colombia, was elected Coordinator of the Latinet Group.

Y's Retired of the UK

By Rev. Graham Clarke

As a Christian Organization, the YMCA has and continues to stand alongside with those who might be feeling the darkness of Lent, carrying the message of hope. It is a responsibility that we all continue to share both for the world and for one another through Y’s Retired.

So, as we face the challenges of our own ‘Lent’ may we also remember the challenges faced by others and pray that both we and they may be encouraged by the hope that is shown to us by the empty tomb.

Our congratulations to Jim Thomson celebrating

his 100th Birthday in February

After a military career Jim Thomson served with the World YMCA Refugee Service in the aftermath of World War 2 and went on to work with YMCA General Services in England before becoming National Secretary of YMCA Scotland and Overseas Director of the Ockenden Venture and later the consultant for the Oxford University Refugees Studies Programme,


By Jean Carmichael, President

It’s spring in the northern hemisphere.  Like many of our chapters, my own Sam Schreiner Chapter is planning a membership gathering this month. It will be in Fredericksburg, Texas and no matter where we are driving from, I can guarantee we will see magnificent displays of Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Poppies and other wildflowers on our journey.  

What I can’t guarantee is exactly where we will see them. Of course the wildflower experts tell us when the flowers will bloom and how many there will be depends entirely on Mother Nature. So, we will expect the unexpected: roadside hillsides, open fields, front yards, grassy knolls, highway medians, construction sites, and random patches here and there all arrayed in brilliant colors.

That is truly what makes the small pleasures in life so special. They appear inexplicably and often unexpectedly. We must remember to appreciate them and take the time to enjoy them. We never can predict when or if they will occur again. Perhaps golfer Walter Hagen said it best: “You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

International volunteer opportunities available now.


Details of multiple international opportunities for short term volunteer service have been announced by the International Service Corps (ISC), a program of YMCA Alumni of the USA. 

Those who are interested in volunteering for projects in 2023 and 2024 should submit an application now. 

YMCAs included are located in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Panama, Albania, Macedonia, Cayman Islands and Latin America (Regional Office).

Click the button below for the information and application form.

ISC Details

YMCA History Project


The headline above shouts for attention and consideration by all retirees of the YMCA. Retirees in Canada, the UK, LACA and USA are joining in recording all or parts of their careers that helped shape the development of the YMCA.

Many of our retirees have influenced programs and leadership models that are used by Associations around the world. We ask readers to send their personal reflections and insights to Bridges for publication in future editions. 

Remember, if you spent a career serving the YMCA and its communities, then you have a story to tell. Future editions of Bridges will provide background on three leaders in particular: George Williams, John R. Mott and John Wanamaker. All three are enshrined in the National YMCA Hall of Fame.

We encourage readers to view the newly improved and informative website for the YMCA Hall of Fame which is located at Springfield College in Massachusetts and learn more about these inspirational YMCA leaders.


YMCA retirees in Canada are being asked to get personally involved in their YMCA History Project.


During our YMCA career, many of us have read or referred to The YMCA in Canada, published in 1951. In it, Murray Ross chronicled the first century of the Y in Canada. Thirty years later, Bob Torrance led the National Y History Project resulting in a book that captured the work of the YMCA up to 1980 in a compendium of newspaper stories, reports and awards. In 2022, the Canadian YMCA Alumni recognized the dramatic changes that have taken place in the Canadian YMCA.

It formed a YMCA History Project Committee. The committee has met over the past several months. It has understood that this is a very extensive effort and is likely a multi-year undertaking.

Please contact Franco Savoia or call (403) 671-4298 for further information and to offer assistance

United Kingdom

Retirees in the YMCA UK and Wales are being urged to provide suggestions, topics and speakers for a YMCA Heritage Project.


YMCA England and Wales are establishing a Heritage Project to celebrate and use the history of the YMCA to inform current developments through the establishment of events and resources. In conjunction with the YMCA Archives group it hopes to develop a video library of ‘Digital Snapshots’ -- interviews with staff and members who can speak about the various developments and programmes offered by the movement over the years.

If you have suggestions for topics and possible speakers please email David Standing.

Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care? (Benefit) What do I want them to do here? (Call-to-Action)

Create a great offer by adding words like "free" "personalized" "complimentary" or "customized." A sense of urgency often helps readers take an action, so think about inserting phrases like "for a limited time only" or "only 7 remaining"!

Basketball, for example, began at Springfield College, USA over 130 years ago. In 1891, James Naismith was challenged to come up with an indoor winter game. He hung two peach baskets about 10 feet off the ground – and the rest is history.

Now the World YMCA and FIBA Foundation (the philanthropic arm of the International Basketball Federation) have officially joined forces. Based on the two organizations’ common cultural heritage of basketball, they will collaborate on programmes to empower young people to initiate positive change in their communities.

“This is such a natural partnership because our organisations are aligned in so many ways”, said Carlos Sanvee, Secretary General of the World YMCA. “We are both committed to empowering young people, and of course, we share the heritage of basketball”.

Over the next few months, the two organizations will work together to:

• Explore opportunities to partner with like-minded organizations to contribute knowledge, expertise, resources and visibility.

• Begin digitizing basketball-related historical memorabilia to create an online archive, thereby preserving basketball’s cultural heritage and values.

• Activate grassroots basketball and youth-led solutions by strengthening the relationship between YMCA National bodies and National Basketball Federations

Bridges thanks our friends in the UK for reminding us how important the development of basketball has been for youth and sports around the world and is now a primary focus of collaborating organizations working with the World YMCA.

First Worldwide Zoom Meeting

for YMCA Retirees May 24, 2023

Please plan to attend the first-ever virtual meeting on Zoom for all YMCA retirees around the world May 24 at 8 p.m. European time. It is free, easy to register, and you will have the fun of connecting with retirees around the world. 

The World Fellowship of YMCA Retirees (WFYR) is working at ways to strengthen the bonds between its members worldwide. As only a few of us can attend world meetings in person, the WFYR leadership is looking for other ways to help retirees make new friends and keep the old.

It has planned two worldwide Zoom gatherings in 2023, in May and October. The first, May 24, will focus on the YMCAs in Europe. Juan Simoes, YMCA Europe’s executive, is the featured speaker. Viktor Serbulov, YMCA Ukraine, will discuss the current situation in his YMCA. There will be time for questions and answers. 

The Zoom format means that you will see and hear from retirees in real time, the next best thing to meeting in person.

The idea for these Zooms came from WFYR leadership. The planning committee is very excited about bringing YMCA retirees together via Zoom. Members are Franco Savoia, Canada, Guenther Ozdyk, Germany, Alicia Sanjurjo, Argentina and Bonnie Mairs, USA. We promise you an hour you will enjoy. Put May 24 on your calendar NOW. You may want to get together with friends to participate as a group.

Date and time of meeting: May 24, 2023; 12 p.m. Mountain Time (US and Canada)

To register: (so we know who will attend), click HERE.You may join the actual Zoom call May 24 by clicking HERE.

To call into the meeting by phone: Find your local number by clicking HERE.

WYFR Leaders

BRIDGES is produced for all who wish to receive it. Just click the button below.

Join our mailing list

BRIDGES is published with the support of YMCA Alumni of the USA. Editors: Len and Joyce Wilson. Production by Craig Altschul + Associates, Tucson, Arizona, USA