Five lucky young people from YMCA Whittlesea were chosen to represent our organisation in London for the Y's 175th birthday. Andrew Lozanovski, John Walker, Jonathon Santamaria, Phoebe Green and Steph Ferguson flew out in early August to join over 3000 young YMCA staff and volunteers representing over 100 countries. The event showcased the differences and similarities we share across the globe at our Y's as well as discuss some of the most important issues facing our societies. Our very own Jonathan Santamaria presented a workshop in front of a packed room addressing the 'WhyNot' program, which received excellent feedback. Each of our five young people came back in awe at the power of inspired young people, and they hope to install change into their respective areas of work at Y Whittlesea.
Each of our five lucky young representatives were given the opportunity to reflect on their experience upon returning home.
"Two weeks ago I was one of 5 emerging leaders that represented YMCA Whittlesea on the global stage as part of a 48 person strong Australian delegation at YMCA175.
From the opening ceremony, it was clear that this event was going to be a bigger occasion than any of us could ever imagine. Amongst the amazing performances, TED talks and keynotes from the youth envoy to the United Nations and President of the UN General Assembly. The biggest sense of occasion came as the 3000+ delegates welcomed over 119 nations flags into the arena. As each nation passionately applauded for their flag, the largest collective cheer was reserved for the LGBTI flag and flag for displaced peoples, a signal that reinforced that this conference was a welcome space for all people. (You can see recordings of the opening ceremony, anniversary celebration and other keynotes here).
On a personal level, it was very humbling to co-host a workshop that introduced the WhyNot? platform to the global movement. The session was so well attended that they had to stop letting people in and after our workshop it was clear that the movement is looking to YMCA Australia and the WhyNot Editorial Committee to model best practice when it comes to YMCA providing digital spaces that empower and inspire young people.
For Steph, Phoebe, Andrew, John and I this experience has certainly opened our eyes to the amazing work that the YMCA does globally to empower and inspire young people. While our learnings and takeaways are too numerous to list here, we have already begun to collate our learnings from the amazing event and once everyone is back we will share them with the association and the rest of the movement.
We’d like to once again thank the board for providing us with this amazing opportunity.
"YMCA175 was without a doubt a once in a lifetime experience. Me, being 22 years old with only 2 years of work experience with the YMCA, was awestruck by the inspirational history and message of my work-place. Everyone who attended was so friendly, willing to listen and learn, and had such a passion for leading the future of the Y in the right direction. Those 4 days were truly eye opening to the potential and the opportunity that the Y presents. I am so happy and humbled to have been a part of this piece of Y history.
The speakers at this conference were incredibly knowledgeable and consummate professionals. The most notable speakers for me were the motivational speakers in the opening and closing plenaries. Keynote speakers Christine Ntim, Ziad Ahmed, and John Loughton emphasised the potential the youth of the world hold, and just how much change we are capable of. All 3 of these speakers were young themselves when beginning to chase their own goals and tackle issues relating to them and their communities. To know that simply telling your story and playing to your strengths is the beginning for anyone and their goals is so empowering, especially for me. Even though I am just a coach, I know now I can still make so much change.
Brushing shoulders with CEO’s, co-founders, activists, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers from across the globe both in an informal and formal setting was so much fun. Anyone would think that a work conference would be a snooze fest, but there were literal mosh pits forming at the stage when musicians would begin. There were crowds roaring when a speaker finished a presentation. Delegates wore uniforms and badges and pins with pride. There was definitely a competitive nature with who traded the most pins; a competition I definitely lost, but so much more was gained."
"Recently I had an amazing opportunity to represent YMCA Whittlesea and be a member of the Australian Y delegate in attendance at the global event held in London called the YMCA175.
As I reflect on the conference, the highlights and moments which generated inspiration, ideation and self-awareness continue to multitude and even as I write this piece, key quotes and flashes across the week-long conference come back to me.
I went into the experience not knowing exactly what I would get out of it, but understanding that it was going to provide me with an opportunity to firstly network and meet some amazing people that are doing great work not only across Australia, but around the whole world. The second thing that I knew, was that it would take me out of my comfort zone, it would broaden my understanding of key global issues and have a profound effect on my own personal development.
I must thank YMCA Whittlesea for investing in its young people, regardless of status, title and role and providing myself with the opportunity to attend the YMCA 175. This has opened the door for me to meet, hear, learn and connect with/from the leaders across each of our own states and territories ranging from the CEO of YMCA Australia Melinda Crole, to the project leadership team of the YMCA National Program YNOT.
Being able to spend quality time with our leaders across the industry allowed me to lean in and tap into their skill set, plus provide an opportunity for me to tell my story on what I bring to the Y, and how we can continue to empower other young people in the business to find their voice.
In terms of the sessions and talks that we were able to engage in, I left each speaker/session with a greater perspective and awareness of community and civic engagement, and it allowed me to better understand how I can make a more positive impact in my day to day living.
When I discuss my own personal development that I took from the trip, there are tangible and intangible skills that I am more aware of and understand that I have. Without such trip, I don’t know when I would have unlocked these skill sets. I encourage all young people within the Y to seek out these opportunities and make the most of the opportunity to engage and connect with the leaders of the business- they want to listen , they want to hear from you, but it is on us to make noise!
The power of connection and the power of networking can not be underestimated, reach out and ask the person who inspires or intrigues you to catch up for 15-30 minutes. For introverts it can be tough, but my advice is if you are willing and open to communicate and conversate, and bring a positive energy, in most cases, the other person will be to. My journey of networking is just beginning, and it continues to get easier the more I put myself out there, and I look forward to sitting down in 6 months’ time and reviewing this very piece."
"A onetime opportunity to grasp with both hands and squeeze for every drop.
How often do you get the chance to be surrounded, inspired and enthused by 3000 fellow young people from over 100 counties? Once.
4 days of pure adrenaline and organised chaos is what unfolded for everyone at YMCA 175. Reflecting on such an extreme experience was certainly overwhelming at first, and still is, however I’ll do my best to pick apart some of the important stuff for you.
Firstly, without the generous investment and complete and utter backing from the YMCA Whittlesea Board and our CEO Michele this would not have been possible for the 5 lucky chosen young people from Y Whittlesea. Now, I was never great at finance in University but like anything in life, you want a return on your investment. Therefore it is our job to bring back our new found knowledge and experiences to everyone at YMCA Whittlesea.
I was given the opportunity to choose an Australian who was presenting at Y175 and cover their story across the week. I chose Jayden Parsons. A 24 year old from Brisbane who engineered a program from the ashes of his own mental health struggles - MYnd Pump. The program is designed for young people who may be experiencing anxiety, symptoms of depression, or overwhelming stress. It’s completely free of charge and is focused on the thing that gave Jayden relief during hard times, exercise.
It was an eye opening and awe-inspiring experience listening to not only Jayden speak, but the many people that attended his seminars. People are more comfortable than ever sharing their mental scars, but clearly we still have a long way to go.
So, here’s a few topics to speak about on your next lunch break or to mull over your next cup of coffee:
· We all have mental health, some good some bad.
· Whether we know it or not, we all know someone that is struggling with their mental health right now.
· Ask “How are you?” Then ask “How are you, really?”
The topic of mental health was at the forefront as well as being an undercurrent throughout the entirety of Y175. Alongside climate change, it is the biggest issue facing our immediate future.
So, if there’s anything I learnt from Jayden and all the others lucky enough to present at Y175 – get stuck in and remember age is just a bloody number."
I went into the conference with two specific areas of interest in mind: mental health and the environment. In the lead up to the conference, YMCA England & Wales reached out to invite me to be part of a focus group about the environment. It was one of the highlights of the conference for me; being able to talk with a group of passionate young people about how important environmental sustainability is to us personally and in our local Ys, and seeing just how different the focus was from the USA to Switzerland to the Philippines to Australia.
I went to quite a few talks and workshops focused around the theme of “environment” that ranged from petitioning for climate change action to making simple zero waste changes in your everyday lives. When it comes down to it, change starts with you, so I’ll challenge you now – what are you doing to lower your environmental impact? What is your centre doing? What changes can we make for a better future?
On that topic of a better future, I was really impressed with the focus that YMCA175 had on mental health as a general topic of interest. There was no shortage of workshops, seminars and panels that aimed to dig deep into mental health; how we deal with our own struggles, how to connect with others, how to ensure we’re doing the best that we can for ourselves and everyone around us. Something that I have taken away in particular around this topic is that I plan to do more things that I genuinely enjoy, and to take some time out of every day to centre myself and be grateful for all the good things I have going on.
One of the highlights around this topic for me was hearing Jayden Parsons of YMCA Brisbane speak on one of the panels. Jayden is behind the program mYnd-pump (I highly recommend looking it up if you haven’t heard about it) and is a big advocate for mental health and its relationship with physical activity. Jayden was raw and open about his experiences and struggles and emphasised that when you ask someone how they are, you should follow this up with “how are you really?”
Everyone’s knee-jerk reaction is to just answer “fine” or “OK” but this simple follow up question opens an honest channel of communication. Check in with yourself and check in with those around you – you never know who might be struggling and just wants to talk.