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Message from the Sierra Leone NGS during the celebration of 106 birthday of Sierra Leone YMCA

Mr. Christian Martyn Kamara, the National General Secretary Sierra Leone YMCA making his presentation at the YMCA Hall, 32 Fort Street, Freetown

Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen; I bring you greetings from the Board and the entire membership of YMCA. 106 is a major milestone for an institution, as it is for an individual. It’s very rear to see an individual exist for over 100 years

Our celebration is not much of a festivity, but a solemn occasion to pause and look back at this 106 years journey. A moment to look at the mountains we still climb

So today, we pay homage to our founding fathers; Late George Williams at the world level and the late Dr. IC Pratt for Sierra Leone

In the coming weeks and months, we will reflect on how faithful we have been to their vision and ideals. We salute men such as past and present leaderships of Sierra Leone YMCA. As a result of their tenacity, the Sierra Leone YMCA was born on 6th June, 1912

It was a very modest beginning. A modest but important beginning; many people have been critical on this journey

Today, I want to pay tribute to our members, our staff and our partners. To our illustrious predecessors, of whom we honor in their memories…to the management, staff and volunteers who have loyally served the institutions over the years

Some are no longer with us, and I invite you to join me in remembering them all

When Sierra Leone YMCA was born, much of it was newly independent with high hopes and aspirations. In the following years, those aspirations were often challenged by economic decline and political instability. But those aspirations and hopes never died

Men and women of goodwill and resilience were determined to prevail

So as we look back to whether we have been true and faithful to the dreams of our founding fathers, we can say with pride that we have our part and will continue to play our part

The YMCA was able to remain a dynamic institution in a fast changing environment. Some of the decisions needed for that dynamic flexibility were without their controversies at the time such as welcoming the global operation plan

Over the years, as the needs of young people have grown, the YMCA has strived to respond from been just a membership organization to that of a dynamic organization that interacts and respond to the needs of young people and this we have done over the past years through our youth empowerment programmes

Successive general capital increases and replenishments of the concessional window have built the capacity of the institution. That has been demonstrated by the strategic choices the YMCA has made around those areas critical to Sierra Leone needs today

Throughout our journey, we have had to look continuously at our relevance in transforming young people and also our business model. From being a highly centralized institution, to a decentralized institution that is closer to our clients (the young people). From a process- driven to a results-driven organization

And we have always strived to do so while ensuring response to emerging youth issues at all times, even in the most turbulent of environments

The YMCA was able to navigate even the most financially stressful environments, such as the impact of the global economic turbulence

Now we must redesign ourselves for the new challenges and opportunities that we face in the current challenging funding to embark and build a strong social enterprise

Our new five year strategy provides a sound platform for youth transformation as well as financial prudence. Our S2C and Youth Power Space programmes have increased and commitment to youth empowerment. Our work with slum communities and our support through our educational centers will continue to provide the enabling environment in transforming the lives for young people

We must constantly rethink our tools, our systems, our responses.

We must be wary of providing old answers to new problems, such as how we finance our programmes. How do we strengthen and expand with new branches. We must seize the windows of opportunities that open only once, such as the demographic dividend

Above all, we must continue to be at the centre of social and economic transformation, and in the creation of fair and inclusive societies that provide equal opportunities for all more especially those of our young people

Let me close by thanking you all and those who preceded us. For nothing would have been possible without your devotion to the task at hand. Remember, no one organization has a divine right to exist

As the winds of change, economic change blow across our continent, we are at the same time confronted with the mayhem in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and terrorism in the Horn and Sahel

As the middle classes and consumer power expand, so does unemployment, poverty and inequality, while desperate young people drown helpless in the Mediterranean Sea, making perilous journeys to what they believe to be greener pastures. We still have a lot to do!

I expect that between now and December, you will be exploring all these matters. 106 years later, our mandate remains as relevant as ever

Old problems have metamorphosed; new ones have risen, and our toolbox, our responses must accordingly evolve. In that way, we remain true to the founders of YMCA and the pioneers; and we remain an institution fit for 21st Century.



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