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YMCA Delegation Returns From Finland

Nov 5, 2009, 2:29 PM | Article By: Nfamara Jawneh

A four-member delegation from the Gambia Young Men Chirstian Association YMCA led by Mr. Sam B. Thorpe, the National General Secretary returned to the country recently from an official trip to Finland.

Other members of the delegation includes Sophie Sarr, Takku Liggey Project Coordinator, Joseph Taiwo Peacock, Programmes Secretary and Sang Carayol ,Takku Liggey Project Beneficiary.

The visit accorded the Gambia YMCA the opportunity to share experience on best practices with their counterparts in Finland.

On the first two days, the delegation spent with the Helsinki YMCAs, especially with the General Secretary who gave us a detailed explanation of the operations of the branch being the biggest branch in Finland with a conducted tour of their facilities. This YMCA branch is well endowed with a well-respected hotel, Arthur and a good basketball facility. Keen among their work is the operations of a youth centre/facility that are situated in the centre of Helsinki.

The main possibility of partnership discussions was based on the support to The Gambia's YMCAs sports initiatives.

The delegation traveled to Truku City by train for a day and a half visit. The visit to Truku, was based squarely in partnering Banjul Branch with Truku YMCA. It is a branch that has made massive investment in estate development.

It works in close contact with the church through receiving funds for youth development. The Truku branch has a strategic intervention in Youth Development in the area of camping and has a very developed and sophisticated camp sites in Harva, an island that is well located. Discussion with the leadership aroused interest of working with the Gambia YMCAs.

The NGS of The Gambia YMCAs, Sam B. Thorpe harped greatly the need to support The Gambia YMCAs renovate its branch premises.

There was a great interaction with the young people of the branch, especially the FINYMCA2 Group. This is a group of young people who has been coming to The Gambia over the past five years and are presently serving as The Gambia's YMCAs Ambassadors within the Finland YMCAs structure.

The climax of the visit was threefold and centred on the board meeting of the YMCAs Finland and the Annual General Meeting.

During this meeting, the Gambian delegation made a very strategic presentation. About the Takku Liggey, the presentation was done by the NGS and Sophie Sarr supported by Joseph Peacock who introduced the group with a documentary video of the Takku Liggey Project and its corresponding activities in The Gambia.

In his presentation, the NGS gave a brief history about The Gambia, its economic challenges with regards to youth development. He harped on the attitude of youths in using the risky seas to the Canary Islands for greener pastures.

Miss Sophie Sarr talked about the Takku Liggey Project, its mode of recruitment, challenges and opportunities, especially with regards to its target marginalised youths in The Gambia. Miss Sarr shared with the board members the greatest impact of giving hope to youths whose lives were scattered due to the lack of positive opportunities. The most touching component of the presentation was a live testimony by Sang Carayol (Takku Liggey Beneficiary) who shared with the august body his life before the project.

He told the gathering that the project is changing lives and providing economic empowerment for young people. Many questions were asked based on how monitoring activities are done, how the project tracks down past beneficiaries in terms of record-keeping mainly by those who have never visited The Gambia.

YMCA Finland 2009 AGM - The Gambian delegation was invited to the 2009 Annual General Meeting of the YMCAs Finland during which The Gambia NGS shared greetings from The Gambia. NGS Thorpe shared the appreciation of The Gambia YMCAs board for the support from the Finnish YMCAs and from the Finnish Foreign Ministry for supporting the Takku Liggey and the trip.

He emphasised the long standing cordial relationship between the two YMCAs, which emanated from the initial days of the establishment of the YMCAs in The Gambia. The length, interaction and activities of the relationship, is a clear demonstration of the trust generated between the two organizations.

The 2009 AGM saw the re-election of the former President Yuoho for the second time to spearhead the activities. Among the outcome/recommendation was the positive decision to continue working with The Gambia YMCAs in the years ahead.   

120 years Anniversary Celebration - The 2009 AGM culminated with the 120 anniversary celebration of the work of the YMCAs Finland and at the same time the celebration of 30 years relationship with The Gambia YMCAs. The climax of this activity was a state Banquet hosted by the Finnish Ministry of Education at the Government House in Helsinki.

The Gambia YMCAs delegation attended a Grand Church Service of Thanksgiving. At the State Banquet, the NGS of The Gambia YMCAs was given the privilege to bring greetings and share the fruit of 30 years of positive relationship that has been marked with great activities and collaborations. NGS Thorpe also used the opportunity to convey thanks and appreciation of the Gambian people for the support given by the Finnish government through the YMCAs.  It was also a time to fellowship with past old time Gambia YMCAs friends who have been supporting all fundraising activities organised by the YMCAs Finland in support of The Gambia.

Visit to Vantaa

The group had the opportunity to pay and days' visit to the Vantaa YMCA and share ideas at the after school program for school going children of 7-11yrs. Vantaa YMCAs always contributes a lot of energy, resources and talents when it comes to a Gambia YMCAs issue. Discussions were centered on how best to replicate the same activities in The Gambia at the YMCAs in Banjul.    During this same visit the Gambia YMCAs had the opportunity to be feted to a dinner by the Vantaa Y's Men Club who has been very instrumental in raising funds to address the counterpart contribution towards the Takku Liggey Project. That was also a very apt time to say 'Thank You' to them for such commitment and support. At the Vantaa YMCAs the delegation also shared the idea of purchasing the Banjul YMCAs premises and a documentary about the Banjul Branch was shared with them.

Visit to Lahti YMCAs

The centre of Finnish Basketball, Lahti has one of the most outstanding basketball teams of which the YMCAs is one of them in operation both a senior and junior team respectively. At the Lahti YMCAs the delegation focused on building relationship for the Gambia YMCAs Basket Ball team. Two basketballs were donation to The Gambia YMCAs Basketball.

One of the former staff and an active board member of the Lahti YMCAs committed to support the course of work in the Gambia.

Visit to Oulou YMCA

 The visit to Oulou was a very challenging one. The delegation had to travel by the night train and arrived very tired. The activities of the Oulou YMCA are synonymous to that of The Gambia YMCAs. It has a traditional programme with scouts at all ages ranging from all sex. The delegation made a visit to the Lutheran Church where we had an extensive discussion with the Vicar General who was also one time President of the Oulou YMCAs.

 The Vicar General took time to share with us the operations of the Lutheran Church of Finland, the involvement of young people in the life and work of the church and the link between the church and the YMCAs. The Oulou YMCA also operates basketball teams for both males and females.

The delegation visited the Settlement Home for young people. This establishment serves as a home for young people who can freely enter and share their problems where they will receive counseling and other special support. The delegation returned to Helsinki YMCAs through the same way (night train) and arrived in the early hours of Saturday 31st October 2009 and prepared for departure on 1st November 2009.

During the visit,the delegation was involved in experiencing some home stay with Finnish YMCA families and in some instances at hostels or hotels.

Highlights of Visit on Possible New Areas of Intervention

The visit was a very successful one despite the many visit and discussions held which gave the delegation less or no time at all for other extra activities.

Key among some new areas of intervention, collaboration and support are;

- The intention to support the purchase Banjul Branch from the Anglican Mission.

- There was clear indication for the support in the continuation of the Takku Liggey project  after it phases out in 2010.  However, it is envisaged that new opportunities will be included especially through the strengthening of the micro finance component.

- Full coverage of the visit by the press and all the local YMCAs in Finland

- The decision to support The Gambia YMCAs basketball team.

The discussed idea of starting an educational learning exchange programme for Finnish Young People to spend six weeks in The Gambia engaged in many cultural, educational, developmental and sporting activities (Proposal to be shared with YMCA Finland in December 2009).

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