Eleven Latin American and Caribbean YMCA Retirees living in the Miami area enjoyed a mid-year fellowship gathering. L-R: Gladys Gonzales de Rojas, (Colombia); Heli Rojas (Colombia); Omaira Romero (Venezuela); Hernan Romero Matute (Venzuela); Reverend Hector Mendez (Cuba); Oneida Mendez (Cuba); Standing: Libia Vargas (Colombia); Husband Juan Manuel Duque (Colombia); Jerry Prado Shaw (Bolivia); seated: Martha Prado (Argentina); and Mary Rivera Croto (Colombia). One of the most important highlights was Hernan Romero's 97-year birthday celebration.

Official Newsletter of

The World Fellowship Of YMCA Retirees

August 2023 * View as Webpage

Notes from the chair...

By Kohei Yamada, WFYR Chair

Hello Craig,

At the midpoint of this calendar year, I have some goals and objectives for the next six months.

I am very happy to share the progress I have observed during the first one year, from July 2022 after the WFYR General Gathering in Aarhus to today.

One big progress has been seen in the Global Retirement Initiatives. During the leadership of 2018-2022, we discussed and studied the possibilities in various countries where YMCAs for various reasons did not have pension systems to support their YMCA employees.

The U.S. YMCA Alumni Group along with other retirees offered generous support if necessary and realistic to keep such initiatives. Now, we started in Sri Lanka for 10 existing staff members of local YMCAs, and two countries in Africa, Kenya and Sierra Leone. These initiatives are seeking to provide long term retirement benefits to their employees to retain effective YMCA leadership in those countries.

The first trial of the WFYR Visual Gathering on May 24 was the initiative of several members of the WFYR Leadership team. (Special thanks to our friends in Canada for taking care of all the technical arrangements.) The one-hour event was attended by 82 members in 13 countries. 

It was a time for participating YMCAs in the world to share their prayers and support. It was very interesting due to the speeches from the National General Secretary of Ukraine YMCA, the Area General Secretary of European Alliance, and the Secretary General of World YMCA. It was a big success and we have decided to repeat this gathering on October 18, 2023 for a different sector of our world, possibly using a translator version of Zoom.

Reflections on the conference we attended a year ago.

It was a year ago when we met in Arhus, Denmark. I cannot believe what happened then to my wife, Marlene and me. After the World Council, I went to visit my friend in Norway and found out that both of us were positive for COVID. We both had very light symptoms, but the Japanese regulation did not allow any travel back to Japan unless the passengers receive negative test result by PCR test. The rule was strict and we were positive for the next three weeks by PCR test in Denmark. That was an experience we will never forget!

I have some travel plans for the coming months.

There will be the special gatherings in Buenos Aires, Argentina from September 6-10. This is called AGAPE meeting, and members of YMCA retirees will gather from 12 or more countries. My wife, Marlene, and I will attend this rare occasion with Latin America to get to know people and activities of AGAPE.



WFYR Chair, 2022-2026

Thoughts from the editors...

By Len and Joyce Wilson

This was an exciting and memorable edition of Bridges for your editors. It is exciting when we receive notice of activities in so many places around the world.

We have a new and distinguished WFYR member in China (Jianrong WU, former National General Secretary of China YMCA). More and more, we can feature members that are celebrating their golden 100th birthdays. Learn more when you read accounts from Y’s Retired of the UK.

We hope to have more accounts of “leisurely trips” from our friend Shigeru Shimada reporting from Japan. You will enjoy his journey.

(Photo: Len and Joyce found a taste of home in Atlanta at Y-USA's General Assembly)

We were honored to be invited to the YMCA of the USA’s General Assembly held in Atlanta last month so we could be there as several friends were inducted into the YMCA Hall Of Fame. We were able to spend time with former WFYR Chair Don Anderson and his wife, Sue, and got to mingle with some YMCA greats, including former WFYR Chair Norris Lineweaver.

We can share some pictures of happy moments with them. Don has written a short account of the persons honored (below) and it is important to note that all the honorees had some connection with World Service projects.

During the recent YUSA General Conference, the Atlanta YMCA hosted an international reception of more than 100 attendees representing various countries in its recently developed community and childcare/education facility. The facility would be the envy of any Y in the world. The project was a result of extensive community collaboration with government and private sector funding. Read Don’s article for a better description of the event.

Our friends in Latin America are nearing their long-awaited AGAPE conference. Bridges will be reporting details and photographs of the event. The India Fellowship of YMCA Retirees continues to have a very close relationship with its National Council of YMCAs and enjoying festive gatherings.

In future editions of Bridges, look for articles honoring some of the great leaders of the YMCA. Every country has its legendary leaders that built the foundations for today’s YMCA. Perhaps your country has such a person, and you would be willing to provide background and pictures to share with our readers.

It is great to be past the pandemic and once again reporting on WFYR activities around the world.

No goals. No mission.

Just enjoying seeing friends.

By Shigeru Shimada, Former General Secretary

National Council of YMCAs of Japan

What I longed for after retirement was to take a leisurely trip without being bound by time. When I was active, traveling was just a means of transportation, and I was thinking of going quickly with the shortest distance and economical means. I wanted the result rather than the process. Now I was longing for a slow traveling and enjoyable process, but I hadn’t gotten rid of the habit of being chased by time, so I think I ended up traveling the shortest distance.

Last year, I attended the 20th YMCA World Council and the 7th WFYR General Assembly in Denmark and planned to spend a week in Germany after the conference. However, it turned out that I was infected with COVID in Germany, and I decided to stay there for a month.

With just a €9 monthly ticket, I was able to enjoy a local train and bus journey from Lübeck to Munich. I also stayed 4 days at Albrecht Kaul’s house and enjoyed awesome foods of his beloved wife, Brigitte (photo right). It was a very happy moment staying with them. I have never forgotten his friendship.

In order to participate in the eve of the 26th Regional Convention of Japan West of the Y's Men's Club International Association held in Kumamoto on June 9 this year, I used trains instead of an airplane. The distance from Toyama to Kumamoto is over 1,000 km. I wished to go by local trains, but it would take two days, so I used the limited express and Shinkansen. It was a trip with a fixed purpose, but on this day, I was mainly traveling and only attending the party on the eve of the festival in the evening, so I just enjoyed the train trip for about eight hours.

Nowadays, in Japan, various TV programs about train travel are very popular. Just like the TV program "Nomitetsu Honsen." I bought some sake and snacks at the station and enjoyed the train trip, even though I had to change trains twice. (Photo: sake and snacks on board)

After arriving at Kumamoto Station, I checked into a hotel near the venue in front of Kumamoto Castle, and arrived at the hotel of the venue for the eve of the festival. Kumamoto Castle could be seen beautifully in the setting sun through the window of the venue. The capacity of 120 people for the eve was filled up quickly, and the members of the Y's Men's Club who couldn't sign up seemed to have a special party with friends with whom they had exchanges. More than 600 people participated in the convention the next day, filled with the joy of being able to meet friends for the first time in several years due to COVID.

As a partner of the YMCA, the Y's Men's Club works through the YMCA to address youth, regional and international issues. The Toyama Club I belong to belongs to the Japan West Region. In Japan, Japan Region was established in June 1932 and has a history of 91 years. In 1997, Japan Region was divided into two regions, Japan East Region and Japan West. (Photo: The view from the train)

Currently, about 1,500 people in 80 clubs in Japan West and about 800 people in 60 clubs in Japan East are registered and active. It has 25,000 members in 1,500 clubs in 66 countries around the world.

It is also a strong YMCA support organization for disaster relief and international cooperation such as Ukrainian refugee assistance that YMCA is working on. In addition, many YMCA retirees have joined the members. This year's Regional Director of Japan East is our dear Chair, Mr. Kohei Yamada. (Photo: Shigaru with Kohei Yamada)

*There are several kinds of Railway Enthusiasts in Japan. Typically, four groups are categorized. 1. “NORITETSU”:who enjoy riding trains. This is normal. 2. “TORITETSU”: who enjoy taking photos of trains and surrounding view. 3. “OTOTETSU”: who enjoy listening to trains and surrounding sound and records the sound and shares with fellows. 4. “NOMITETSU”: who enjoy drinking SAKE or any alcohol in trains and watching the view. (Photo: Banner translation: 26th Regional Convention of Japan West, Y’s Men’s Club International Association)

L-R: Don and Sue Anderson, Hall of Famer Len Wilson and Hall of Fame new inductee, Norm Joyner in Atlanta.

'Grumpy Old Men'

assess today's Y scene in Atlanta

By Don Anderson, Past WFYR Chair

A few of us older YMCA retirees (Len Wilson, Norris Lineweaver, Dave Mercer, Norm Joiner, Mike Bussey, me and others) recently attended the YMCA of The USA General Assembly with about 3,500 participants in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with the event was the YMCA National Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies. Dave, Norm and Mike were among those being inducted.

The General Assembly was filled with a diverse young crowd with some slightly older senior leaders. It was the perfect set-up for us old codgers to bemoan that this younger generation was leading the YMCA to ruin. However, this new generation didn’t give us “Grumpy Old Men” a chance. Some of us could have easily been in the cast of the movie by that name. The spirit, energy, dedication and creativity of these young people overshadowed any thoughts of criticism.

Currently, this generation of YMCA staff and volunteers are finding astounding ways to deliver first class programs and facilities to the neediest communities. They are using the incredible strength of the YMCA to bring other charities and governmental agencies into collaborations to address human needs in neighborhoods that cry out for help.

We attended a reception by the YMCA of the USA’s International Division. It was held at an Atlanta YMCA program center in a poor neighborhood. The facility left me stunned (photo left). The YMCA’s attracted millions of dollars from YMCA donors, foundations, corporations and the government to create a fantastic facility that surpasses anything I would have ever imagined. The majority of the building was dedicated to a child development center for toddlers and preschoolers.

The quality and thought behind the indoor and outdoor areas used by the children was amazing. All the children that attend the center do so totally free of cost. We learned of many other similar stories around the country - serving children, older citizens and poorer families. The YMCA remains relevant and in good hands.

I mentioned using the YMCA’s incredible strength to bring others to the table. It should be noted that that strength rests on the shoulders of some Grumpy Old Men and Women. Several of those were just inducted into the YMCA National Hall of Fame.

YMCA World Service: Creating for all

By Mary Tikalski, Director, YUSA World Service

From July 19-23, more than 3,300 staff and volunteers from the U.S. YMCA movement and seven countries met in Atlanta, Georgia, for the 2023 General Assembly (GA) of YMCAs to learn and network together for the first time since 2019. This GA was especially inspiring due to the engagement of our global YMCA movement through multiple unique opportunities. Some of the many highlights included:

Carlos Sanvee (Secretary General of the World YMCA) presented Vision 2030, which is our shared, global straegy to buid a just, sustainable, equitable and inclusive world for all. (Photo above right)

A powerful performance by Sofia Leshyshak of the Ukraine Tera-Incognita Choir, hosted by the Lviv YMCA. Ukrain showcased traditional Ukrainian song and culture during the general session. Following GA, Sofia and leaders from YMCA Lviv, Ukraine, have embarked on a tour of U.S. YMCAs, sharing the profound impact of their work during the war.

Several YMCA World Service champions were inducted into the National YMCA Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023, including Jane Seaver Kirk, David Mercer, Norman Joyner, Jose Rendon, Michael Bussey, Carolyn Creager, Dick Jones and Marvin Ludwig.

Three global YMCA panels featured conversations around global engagement and the (1) World YMCA Vision 2030, (2) YMCAs of the Americas Agenda, (3) the South Africa/US YMCA Coalition.

In a touching ”Mission Moment,” we learned about the Chukhvitskiy family’s journey from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Atlanta because of the war. The YMCA of Metro Atlanta is playing a crucial role in supporting the family’s adjustment to the U.S., including inviting the children to their YMCA camping programs, positively impacting the entire family.

Y's Retired UK:

A happy birthday and some golf

Birthday congratulations to Walter Crosby (third from left in photo) who was Treasurer of YMCA Scotland for many years in the 1980s and 1990s and continued his interest and support for the YMCA.

He is a Vice President of YMCA Scotland and attended Y’s Retired meetings in person pre-COVID and on Zoom during COVID.

A banker by profession, Walter has been an active Church of Scotland elder and trustee/active supporter of many charities.

Twenty-two (including nine “first timers”) were welcomed by President Graham Clarke to our July golf outing at the Griton Country Club. He opened by offering prayers for colleagues departed since our last meeting and colleagues unable to join us through incapacity, ill health or other commitments. He also offered thanks for our food and those who prepared it and looked after us during our time together.

While the in-house team cleared the main course, we assembled on the practice putting green for the customary group photo, which because folk are intent on chatting, always takes a little while to achieve. Then, by asking four folk on each table to move to another table while enjoying dessert, we ensured that the buzz of conversation continued to flow.

India Fellowship of YMCA Retirees:

'binding us together'

Reflecting on the Indian Fellowship of YMCA secretaries:

Greetings on the occasion of the annual IFYR conference hosted by the Bombay YMCA in April. Twenty five years after IFYR was founded and after a grand Jubilee celebration in 2022 at Madras YMCA, a question comes to my mind - what is the original aim and motive of founding the IFYR? What was in the minds of founding members which led them to form this Fellowship?

Searching for an answer to this question still works as the motivating factor and shapes the IFYR even today. The answer to this question draws us back towards the original motivation for answering this question.

I thought for a moment and contemplated on their motives and initiatives and I am convinced to say “the founding members of the IFYR had one thing in mind, and that was to bind the YMCA Retirees together in order that they might strengthen their faith in Christ, and that they might share with one another their happiness and sorrows, and their personal experience with Christ.” -- Stanley Karkada, IFYR President (photo avove)

(Photo above: IFYR Leadership Team)

A message to IFYR from the President of the India YMCA National Council: 

As the National President of the National Council of YMCAs of India, I feel honoured to address such a distinguished Federation of Indian Retired YMCA Professional Secretaries who have contributed immensely to the growth and development of our great organization.

Your ‘Dedication’, ‘Hard Work’, and ‘Commitment’ have helped the YMCA Indian movement achieve its “Goals and Objectives” over the years. Your contributions have made a significant impact on the lives of countless individuals of “Youth & Women and Downtrodden Communities” across the country. Your leadership and mentorship have inspired many “Young People” to pursue a career in "Social Service and Community Development."

-- Vincent George, President, India YMCA National Council (photo above). (Photo below: IFYR Candle Ceremony)

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