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YMCA moved a long way forward since starting 150 years ago

YMCA moved a long way forward since starting up 150 years ago, UC researcher says

November 15, 2012

From running bible studies 150 years ago, the YMCA has come a long way since its inception in Christchurch in 1862, a University of Canterbury (UC) researcher said today.

UC masters student Cassandra Troman of Nelson did her arts internship at the YMCA in Christchurch and prepared an archive for their 150th celebrations this year.

``Because of this anniversary the YMCA plans on having a number of celebrations hopefully including an exhibition at the beginning of next year. My job was to create an archive for them so they were able to record and store all their historic documents and items,’’ Troman said today.

``This archive will hopefully make it easy for them to create an exhibition that represents the best parts of the last 150 years of work the Christchurch YMCA has done. There are 14 affiliated associations that run 48 YMCA centres in New Zealand. The first YMCA in NZ was opened in Auckland in 1855 while the Christchurch YMCA was founded in 1862 and begun work that included education programmes, athletics and bible studies.

``In the last 150 years the Christchurch YMCA has extended its work to a number of areas, including sport and recreation. They have run a number of sport teams and tournaments. They also have impressive gym and fitness facilities.’’

Troman said outdoor education was also a huge part of the Christchurch YMCA, with a camp at Wainui that runs camps and youth leadership programmes for school students.

Their focus has always been to help improve the mind, body and spirit of every individual involved in their programmes. The concept of their self-improvement was based on respect, responsibility, honesty and caring.

``The stories that come out of the archive and the research are amazing and show a real sense of community spirit and support which is what I think makes the YMCA such a successful organisation. My work for the YMCA went incredibly well and I hope that the work I have done can be carried on and used for their 150 year celebrations and maybe some more celebrations in the future.

``My research, under Dr Katie Pickles’ supervision, looked the YMCA history with an emphasis on the community work and youth development sides of the Christchurch and National YMCAs.

``Being part of this arts internship has been the highlight of my time studying at UC. It is a great course.’’

Troman found evidence in the archives of a fire in 1876 that destroyed all the records of the Christchurch YMCA’s first 14 years in existence.

A big part of the YMCA’s history in Christchurch has been the Carols by Candlelight service on the banks of the River Avon. The YMCA has kept thousands of energetic teenagers out of trouble during school holidays through its long standing holiday programmes.

The YMCA was ahead of its time in embracing fitness and the idea of a healthy body as the way to a healthy soul – the mantra of many modern day fitness freaks. In times of crisis, such as world war, the YMCA has been there to help. They have been a place of welcome for many people migrating to New Zealand and this work carries on through its hostels, she said.


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