Christian Association (YMCA) is one of the largest nonprofit voluntary organizations in
the world. It serves about 25 million members in more than 90 countries. The World
Alliance of YMCA's, an international YMCA organization, has headquarters in Geneva,
In the United States, about 13 million people participate annually at over 2,000 local
YMCA branches, units, camps, and centers. Membership and services are open to people of
all ages, religions, races, and incomes. Women and girls make up about 45 per cent of
those involved in the YMCA. About half of those served are under the age of 18.
All YMCA branches share the same basic goals. These goals are: (1) promoting healthy
lifestyles, (2) strengthening the modern family, (3) developing leadership qualities in
youth, (4) increasing international understanding, and (5) assisting in community
The association promotes its values through a variety of programs, such as health and
fitness programs, child care, senior citizens' activities, and international education and
exchange. Some YMCA's have residential and hotel facilities. YMCA's also offer employment,
adventure, and leadership programs for teen-agers. The YMCA sponsors programs to fight
juvenile delinquency. Other activities include refugee resettlement programs and
educational programs for the disabled.
Volunteer board members from the local community control each individual YMCA. The
national headquarters, called the YMCA of the USA, works closely with local YMCA's to
discover successful program ideas at the local level and spread these ideas nationally.
The YMCA of the USA has national offices in Chicago. It publishes a bimonthly magazine,
In Canada, more than 70 YMCA's provide programs for about 300 communities throughout the
country. More than a million persons, almost half of whom are women and girls, take part
in these programs. Most Canadian YMCA's provide programs in six areas: (1) adult
education, (2) camping and outdoor education, (3) community and youth services, (4)
guidance and counseling, (5) health and physical education, and (6) institutional
services, such as residences and cafeterias.
Each YMCA is managed by its own board of directors or governors. In 1912, the existing
YMCA's established the National Council of YMCA's of Canada in order to help individual
YMCA's achieve their goals through collective action. The council's main office is in
History. The YMCA was founded in London in 1844 by a young British clerk named George
Williams. Williams wanted to provide young clothing store clerks from the countryside with
a place in London where they could read the Bible, relax, and find out about decent
lodging. The YMCA movement traveled overseas to the United States and Canada in 1851. In
that year, Thomas Sullivan, a missionary and retired sea captain, founded a YMCA in
Boston. A group of young men formed a YMCA in Montreal at the same time.
Exercise and gymnastics became part of the American YMCA in the second half of the 1850's.
The first YMCA swimming pool opened in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1856. In 1891, a physical
education instructor named James Naismith invented the game of basketball at the School
for Christian Workers (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Mass. The school was
associated with the YMCA. The original teams had nine players and used peach baskets as
goals. In 1895, another physical education instructor, W. G. Morgan, invented volleyball
at the Mount Holyoke, Mass., YMCA because he believed that basketball was too strenuous
The San Francisco YMCA admitted the association's first women members in 1874. The YMCA
introduced the ideas of night school and junior college. It also assisted with the
formation of other major voluntary groups, such as Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Boys and Girls,
and the United Service Organizations (USO).
Critically reviewed by the YMCA of the USA