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peace-dove-vector-1023337In a show of solidarity for those affected by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, YMCAs throughout the world have released statements and sent letters to leaders calling for intervention, justice and peace in the region.

Both the Africa Alliance of YMCAs and the World Alliance of YMCAs released a statement last week condemning the violence against civilians, and most especially youth, in the Gaza region. Expressing deep concern for the state of freedom in Gaza, Carlos Sanvee, the General Secretary of the Africa Alliance of YMCAs stated that "peace in the region can not come without justice. The attacks on Gaza are disproportionate and the greatest victims of this conflict are innocent youth and children."

This week, Eduardo Ibichian, President of Argentina YMCA, and Norberto Rodriguez, Secretary General of Argentina YMCA, sent a letter to Argentinean Ambassadors from Israel and Palestine. The letter states (translated from Spanish):

"The [global] community is in state of shock before the events that are happening in the Middle East, with its epicentre in the Gaza Strip and the State of Israel. Nothing justifies the death, and less [the death of] children and innocent civilians. It is observed, with great concern, a disproportionate reaction which has its correlate in the horrifying escalation of victims in the Gaza Strip... Violence, paraphrasing the Holy Father Francis, is not resolved with more violence."

In a similar move, the YMCA of Japan, "sent a letter to the former Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affair, who has been a member of YMCA" to take any possible action to halt violence in the region.

In explaining their actions, Shigeru Shimada, General Secretary of the National Council of YMCAs of Japan, stated that the "Gaza Strip is separated by tall walls and people cannot move out freely. It is like a bird cage and concentrated asylum. To attack people in the cage is another holocaust. At this moment many children and citizens are killed by [the] absurd attack and violence. We, [as a] YMCA, should stand up for peace and justice and change the way of solution by violence to solution by dialog. This is the very moment to take action for peace. The National Council of YMCAs of Japan appeals to all Japan YMCAs to commence the international cooperation fund for the relief work of the Gaza YMCA."

The YMCAs of Europe have joined the show of support for the region. Juan Simoes Iglesias, Secretary General of YMCA Europe said, "The daily news coming from the region shows how dramatic the situation is with open war and an escalation of victims. The whole international community is shocked while a solution that brings peace and justice to the communities seems to be far away. We keep our hope alive, praying for the immediate end of any sort of violence and the peaceful coexistence of peoples. This wish is strongly connected with our deep YMCA values and the way we understand human dignity in all nations."

By Africa Alliance of YMCAs
Source: YMCAs of Argentina, Europe and Japan.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 17:21
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hanipicWhen my eldest son, Firas, was born on 14 November 2008, I told my wife that I wish his future to be safer than the one we had during the first and the second Intifada, when we were young. It wasn't a safe childhood.

On 27 December 2008 at 11:30am the first war on Gaza began; 70 F16 Israeli Air craft attacked different targeted places in the Gaza strip and that war continued for 22 days. During that war a team of youth from YMCA Gaza helped people who had fled from their houses to schools in order to be safe. They led psychosocial activities for children and youth, and I was worried about my little son who was less than 2 months old. With each attack he would just open his eyes and let our sharp cries.

Then on 14 November 2012, it was a special day, it was Firas' 4th birthday. The strange thing was that during the day, while his friends in his Kindergarten class sang "happy birthday" he began to cry and asked them to stop singing. During the evening we also tried to sing to him but he continued to cry. That night, while we slept, at exactly 4:30am a huge and powerful attack began next to my house. Even now, I don't know how in one second I could be fast asleep and the next, find myself standing up, reassuring my wife that everything would be ok and not to worry, and then moving our 11 month old twins, Amir and Carol, from their beds. Their beds were full of glass from the broken windows above them. We moved to a safer place and Firas started to help by cleaning the ground of glass. That war continued for 8 days.

During the 18th World Council meeting in Colorado - East's Park; the situation became hard and Israel started to attack Gaza on Monday 7 July 2014; my body was in the USA but all of my thoughts were in Gaza. When I arrived on Friday, 11 July, I was surprised with Firas’ questions. During the war in 2012 his questions were “what is this sound?”; “Why is it happening during the day and the night?”... now though he was asking, “Why is Israeli attacking us?”, “What do they want?”, “Why do they kill children?”.

These little words can tell you a lot about my children.

Firas is now six years old and he has been through three wars. Amir and Carol are three years old and they have been through two. Is this the future I was dreaming of for my family and children? Can I do anything different for them?

Day and night I do psychosocial activities with them, like when the F16s attack they clap their hands and say “bye-bye aircraft”, but what about other Palestinian children and youth?

I will never lose my hope for better future but I wish this situation will end soon and the Palestinian people could live with the same sense of safety most of the world feels. We are all human, let us have the right to live in a safe environment.

By Hani Farah, YMCA Gaza

Source: AAYMCA

Thursday, 24 July 2014 17:09
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hopeChildren screaming and running, so afraid, looking for their parents and siblings, but the don’t find any. It was so painful and devastating to see, I was left helpless and tears rolled down on my face. What if they were my children? 

The scene was repeated during the following days with countless Palestinians trying to rescue people from the rubble of destroyed buildings. Dead bodies and injured people were usually taken out of the rubble while people were shouting, screaming and crying for their losses. 

This has repeatedly been the case over the last eight years in Gaza, mainly in 2008, 2012 and now. These scenes now are so similar to those from previous years. Israeli air strikes were used to assassinate Palestinian leaders and destroy infrastructures, using any excuses to justify the attacks. To do this, Israel used to bring big buildings down on the heads of their inhabitants, killing many innocent civilians. Since 1972, this policy of assassination has always been used by the state of Israel by targeting Palestinian leaders from the entire Palestinian political spectrum... seeking to put a stop to the Palestinian resistance to occupation.

Over the last years, when there were negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and when there was pressure on Israel to respect its obligations and the terms of reference of the negotiating process, Israel would escalate violence as the best escape from such obligations. This was done through settlement activities, confiscation of land, and refusing to release political prisoners. The result of this was much disappointment from the Palestinian Authority and consequently from the people. Freezing the negotiations and protests by the people was the result.

Since the declaration of the Palestinian Unity, the government between Fatah and Hamas, Israel has accused the Palestinian Authority of choosing violence over peace. Israel tried to incite many countries against the Palestinian Unity, but failed. Then Israel waited for the proper time to end the unity government or at least to weaken Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. The “kidnapping and killing” of three Israeli teenagers was the excuse used to start this process by demolishing the houses of “suspicious” people without trial or arrests. The people accused of the kidnapping and killing are members of Hamas. Then violence and tension started.

This tense scenario will be repeated more and more, even if there is a truce in the coming days. The root causes of the conflict will still be there. The entire Palestinian question must be addressed in a genuine way and a comprehensive solution that brings justice must he reached in order to put an end to the oppression, the suffering of the Palestinian people, and to bring peace to all. The siege on Gaza that is so tight and dehumanizing should immediately be brought to an end. It is not accepted that Israel gets to decide what and how much food and goods the people of Gaza consume. It is not accepted that people there have very limited access to medicine, water and power because of the siege.

Can this be realised after 66 years of suffering? History has taught us to use affective strategies to make this dream of a just peace possible. Israel has never complied with the international law and has always enjoyed impunity and support from USA headed super powers.

Most the Palestinian civil society groups believe that Israel must be placed under legal, economic, cultural and diplomatic pressure to abide by international law. This can be done through promoting the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) Campaign against Israel worldwide and copy the example of South Africa in this regard. Joining the international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the international Criminal Court, and promoting all the advocacy related campaigns as well are Palestinian popular nonviolent resistance to occupation and oppression are also important strategies to take on.

The Palestinian people are greatly in need for an enhanced international solidarity movement to work on the grass root level and to lobby governments to move and act in accordance with their obligations under International Law. All the group and individual efforts that support our right to freedom, peace and justice are desperately needed.

This will keep our hope alive.

By Nidal Abuzuluf, The East Jerusalem YMCA/YWCA of Palestine

Thursday, 24 July 2014 16:56
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mandela day1So I set out, with all good intentions, on Mandela Day last week to do 67 minutes of something good, just or meaningful. I really did. Then I had one of those days where you just want to climb back into bed and try to start in a different way.

It was a day filled with mishaps and near dramas, mostly caused by my absent-mindedness as I am still suffering from jetlag from my last trip. My newly-tuned brakes failed me on a steep incline and I nearly coasted into my colleague’s car. Still shaky we went to the nearest mall to pay bills and all the fun began: one place was offline and couldn’t process my payment, and it was only when I tried to pay the second bill that I realised I had asked my youngest son to bring my banking card with us. An inquisition revealed that he had left the bank card on the hood of my car - so that was never found again.

Browsing through one of the shops, I put my cell phone down on a shelf (yes that had bad idea written all over it) and meandered downstairs to another shop. Shock and horror! Where was the phone. I ran back upstairs, not holding much stock in it being handed in and I was hardly surprised to find it hadn’t been. I was then given a store phone to call my number… It rang and rang. Then what can only be described as an angel, walked towards me with my ringing phone. She had found the cell and had been waiting in the store for me to come back for it.

With a few other equally confusing episodes, my day was done. Sans the 67 minutes. So instead, I spent my 67 minutes reflecting on what Madiba would do and what lessons from his values I can derive. I thought of the silly day I had and how Madiba always urged us to be thankful and count our blessings and I realised I am so blessed. I am blessed with a job in youth empowerment that on the one hand brings me fulfilment and on the other is contributing to a future generation of responsible citizens.

I also thought a lot about justice and peace and my heart went out to all those embroiled in the various global crises, from Gaza, to MH17 to the continuing #Bringbackourgirls… no resolutions, just deep meditative thoughts.

So, I am thinking that next year on Mandela Day I must just stay in bed and do lots of virtual acts of kindness from the safety of my laptop… Or I must actually plan an agenda and have something solid to do.

Madiba was never one for lazing around in bed so I had better get my act together and plan ahead!

Gil Harper, AAYMCA

Thursday, 24 July 2014 16:46
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MOUSipho Sokhela (SA YMCA National Director) at the signing of an MOU with the National Choral Music Awards Chairperson. The partnership brings together the leading lights of Choral music in South Africa and one of the leading Youth Development organisations in the world, the YMCA. With support from SA YMCAs international partners, NACMA intends to launch an international choral music festival in 2015.

By Mike Cuthbert

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gatesBill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recent set out why he is optimistic for Africa’s future, stating that “the rise of this continent will depend on whether leaders – here in Ethiopia and all across Africa – are open to learning from each other, and from their own people.”

Addressing students at Addis Ababa University, where he was presented with an honorary degree, Gates said: “Africa is now in an incredible position to shape its own destiny for the better for one very simple and powerful reason: the countries of Africa are learning from each other.”

In his remarks, Gates acknowledged the development gains made through foreign governments, international aid, and non-profits, such as the foundation, but asserted that “the real fuel for development will be the resources of African nations themselves – whether that’s in the form of government funding, private-sector investment, or just plain human creativity at all levels of society.”

“This is where the idea of ‘African countries learning from each other’ becomes so important. If you want to spend your national budgets as effectively as possible, there is now a clear path for doing exactly that – and Africans themselves are defining that path, for others to follow if they choose,” he said.

During his visit to Ethiopia, Gates emphasized the importance of health and agriculture, commending the government of Ethiopia for its Health Extension Program and the establishment of its Agricultural Transformation Agency. “If you get health and agricultural development right, the gains are exceptional, and they reverberate through the rest of your economy for decades to come,” he added.

He also praised other nations, such as Liberia, Malawi, and Tanzania, for the great progress made in cutting child mortality rates, but acknowledged that there is still a long way to go before Africa reaches its full potential. “There is no path to lasting growth within Africa that is not widespread growth. It’s not possible. If Africa seeks prosperity, it must provide for the health and nutrition of all – including the poorest.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with partners in Africa to make smart investments so that together we can achieve real and lasting impact for those with the greatest challenges. The foundation’s investments range from cutting edge research in health and agriculture in the world’s most high-tech laboratories, to innovative approaches to delivering basic public goods and services to families and communities. The foundation’s efforts cover nearly all of its key program areas such as agriculture, family planning, financial services for the poor, HIV, malaria, polio, and vaccines delivery.

Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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bomb blastsKADUNA - At least 82 persons were killed recent, and several others injured in two bomb blasts in Kaduna, targeted at former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. Both men, however, escaped unhurt.

In a statement he issued immediately after the incident, General Buhari declared that it was an assassination attempt and narrated how the suicide bomber tried to carry out the deadly assignment.

Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, in response imposed a 24-hour curfew on Kaduna town after the blasts.

In his reaction, President Goodluck Jonathan thanked God for sparing the lives of General Buhari and Sheikh Bauchi, and extended condolences to families of the dead, while commiserating with the injured.

The first bomb attack took place on Isa Kaita Road, off Ali Akilu road around 12:30pm, yesterday, when the convoy of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi was returning home after he gave a Ramadan Tafsir sermon to thousands of Muslims of the Tijaniyya sect. The Police said 25 people were killed, but those who spoke to newsmen at the scene said about 40 died in the blasts.

Bauchi had escaped a bomb attack about three weeks ago near his home in Eskolia quarters of Kaduna.

Click here for the fully story

By Luka Binniyat
Source: All Africa

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SLYMCA1The Sierra Leone YMCA regrets to announce the passing of Rev. Fred Musa Karimu, former National General Secretary of the Sierra Leone YMCA. He passed away on Tuesday, 15 July 2014, at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown at the age of 72.

Fred, as he was fondly called, joined the YMCA in 1980 as a volunteer from his hometown in Kailahun before being employed as a member of staff in the dark and challenging era of our beloved nation’s civil war during the 1990s. He served the Sierra Leone YMCA as Refugee Secretary during this period, exhibiting his passion for service to humanity and dexterity in the distribution of relief resources to the internally displaced in Sierra Leone and refugees in Guinea. This passion was mostly directed towards the transformation of the lives of our young folks whom he always referred to as “the gems of our nation”. It was this same passion that motivated him to apply for and attain the position of National General Secretary in 2000 which he held until 2006. When he knew that he had reached his optimum and could no longer offer anything new to the Sierra Leone-Y he voluntarily retired to allow one of the vibrant youths he personally nurtured to assume the office. This was the turning point for the SLYMCA. A remarkable decision that remains unparalleled to this day.

Fred’s tenure as NGS was challenging. It was during a delicate period in our country, the transition period from conflict to post-conflict, from relief to development. He was able to run a series of youth development programmes, especially those aimed at skills’ acquisition by young people, to address the middle level manpower gap in post-conflict Sierra Leone. He was instrumental in the establishment of the YMCA Skills Training Centre in Kenema which has served over 1,500 young people since 2001 in acquiring marketable skills in trades like carpentry, masonry, tailoring and weaving. This Centre has now been transformed into a Technical and Vocational Training Centre that currently serves over 100 young people on annual basis and has trained and resettled ex-combatants in various parts of the Eastern Region. He should also be credited with the designing of several HIV/AIDS awareness raising programmes that were implemented in the Northern region of the country and the pioneering of a scholarship programme for school going kids.

After his retirement from active management service, Fred decided to return home to support and volunteer at his local YMCA which is now engaged in agricultural activities. He actively participated in national YMCA activities and would always visit the National Office from morning till evening whenever he visited Freetown. He had shown great interest in our youth empowerment programmes and always took pleasure in supporting young people whenever he was given the opportunity. Fred attended many international YMCA conferences including the World Council meeting in Mexico and several Africa Alliance of the YMCAs meetings.

Fred’s death is a shock to us as a YMCA family. He will be remembered for his electrifying humour in addition to his love for humanity and attachment to young people. His humour always came into play to ease tense moments during deadlines or when the Association was in dire need of funds. He would always say: “I will serve the YMCA till death”; a vow he upheld as he continued in serve as adviser to his local branch in Kailahun until his death. His enthusiasm for volunteerism is unprecedented.

Our dear friend, colleague and brother has left us with some legacies:

• To live life to the full.
• To avoid taking life too seriously.
• To smile a lot – it’s infectious.
• To invest in our young people, “the gems of Africa”.
• To be nice to beneficiaries, professional colleagues and people in general.
• To love your family, job, social life, hobbies, and never lose your zest for life.

Fred is survived by his wife and seven lovely children, they will need our support.

You will never be forgotten Fredo. You lived a fulfilled life. Continue to rest in the Lord.

Source: Christian Kamara, Sierra Leone YMCA

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africa aidResearch released by a coalition of African and UK partners reveals that Africa loses almost six and a half times the amount of money that it receives in aid.

“It says something about this country. It says something about our standing in the world and our sense of duty in helping others… in short – it says something about the kind of people we are… And that makes me proud to be British.”

As exhibited by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who made the above comment on 8 June 2013, governments of wealthy countries like to tell tales of generous aid spending and a common responsibility to help those less fortunate in the world. But there is another story to tell. And it is not a story of what is given to continents such as Africa, but of what is taken away.

Research published today reveals that whilst the continent receives $30 billion in aid a year, this figure pales in comparison to the $192 billion leaving the continent via illicit financial flows, the repatriation of multinational company profits, debt repayments, loss of skilled workers, illegal logging and fishing, and the costs imposed as a result of climate change.

When these losses are compared to overall financial inflows – including not just aid but foreign investment and remittances − Africa is left with a $58 billion a year net loss. To put it in to context, that is over one and a half times the estimated $37 billion a year extra funding it would cost to deliver universal health coverage for everyone in the world.

These figures expose the true financial relationship of wealthy countries with Africa, a relationship that is seldom mentioned by politicians. It is a relationship in which the world doesn't aid Africa, but in which Africa aids the world.

For the full article

By Judith Cavanagh

Source: Think Africa Press

Friday, 18 July 2014 08:31
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ebola liberiaPeer educators from Liberia YMCA have been travelling to schools, market places and video clubs to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea at the beginning of the year and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people. Symptoms include fever, weakness, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and rash. There are no vaccines available for the virus and patients often require intensive supportive care to ensure they stay rehydrated.

For the world’s poorest people with little access to health care and often weak from the grinding effects of poverty, Ebola is deadly. In this current outbreak there have been 635 cases recorded, of which by the end of June 2014 399 people have died due to the virus.

Given the lack of treatment for Ebola, the only way to reduce human infection and death is to raise awareness of the risks for infection and protective measures people can take. The peer educators are part of our ongoing Act2Live programme working across six sub-Saharan African countries. They have all been previously educated about Ebola, how it is transmitted, and ways to prevent the spread of the virus. Information about the virus had been integrated into their health awareness projects. However, these are being scaled up to further raise awareness of the outbreak.

Y Care International’s Lizz Harrison praised the efforts of the peer educators, “these young people now have an understanding of the risks of Ebola and could play a vital role in preventing the spread of the virus,” she said. Lizz, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergencies Advisor, went on to stress the importance of increasing awareness of Ebola in communities that are heard to reach and have limited or no health services. ”The peer educators are trained to raise awareness of health issues, so having knowledge about the ways to halt outbreaks of diseases like this will potentially save lives in their communities. It’s great they’re taking action.”

To date there are 100 suspected and confirmed cases in the country in Lofa, Montserrado and Margibi Counties and the outbreak continues to grow in scale. Liberia YMCA has been coordinating with the Ministry of Health in Liberia who have encouraged partners to raise awareness of the Ebola virus and prevent the outbreak spreading.

Y Care International and Liberia YMCA are working closely together to monitor the situation and support efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. To ensure the health and wellbeing of YMCA staff and volunteers in Liberia, including the International Citizen Service volunteers currently working in Liberia, we continue to liaise with doctors and public health specialists and implementing rigorous preventative measures.

Source: Y Care International

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