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Today in History: YMCA Founded – June 6, 1844

Image: YMCA Kampala. YMCA is the oldest and largest youth charity in the world. Courtesy photo.

This week marks the anniversary of the founding of the major international youth organization, the Young Men’s Christian Association by British citizen George Williams.

A farmer-turned-department store worker who moved to London for work as a teenager, Williams founded the group when he was 22 along with other young adults.

“Our object is the improvement of the spiritual condition of the young men engaged in houses of business, by the formation of Bible classes, family and social prayer meetings, mutual improvement societies, or any other spiritual agency,” stated Williams.

Years later, in 1851, the YMCA established its first chapter in the United States, which was organized by a retired sea captain named Thomas Valentine Sullivan.

Sir George Williams (11 October 1821 – 6 November 1905) was an English philanthropist and founder of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

In the present day, the YMCA has an estimated 2,700 chapters in the United States, with a global outreach to approximately 45 million people in 119 countries.

The first mention of a YMCA in Uganda was made in a 1913 report of the World Alliance. The matter rested until 1947, when the World Alliance of YMCAs in Geneva sent Dr. George Haynes to investigate the possibilities for YMCAs in Africa. He met in Uganda E. M. K. Mulira. As a result, the present site for the Headquarters, currently in the Kampala YMCA building there, was chosen.

Later, in 1959, a meeting on 12 June convened by A. R. Russell, then acting director of African Housing, and with nine people attending, discussed the formation of the Uganda YMCA. A further meeting on 28 July was chaired by Dr. Leslie Brown, Bishop of Uganda, and the first committees were appointed.

The World Alliance then dispatched Merlin Bishop to Uganda; and on the strength of his report the YMCA of the USA showed interest in the formation of the Uganda YMCA. Two fraternal secretaries were sent in response to a January 1960 application of the formation committee.

Dan. P. Tyler arrived in Uganda in 1961 and started the YMCA at Kampala. Moses Perry in October 1962 started the branch at Jinja. In May 1965 a third branch was opened in Mbarara; and the fourth branch was at Gulu.

YMCA Comprehensive Institute is one of the other Degree Awarding Institutions recognized in Uganda by National Counci for Higher Education (NCHE) as a fully registered and classified Tertiary Institution for Higher learning.

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