The Young Men’s Christian Association (“YMCA” or “the Y”) is a worldwide movement of more than 45 million members from 124 national federations affiliated through the World Alliance of YMCAs.
Founded on June 6, 1844 in London, England by George Williams, within eleven years it had become an international movement. The original intention of the organization was to put Christian principles into practice. Young men who came to London for work were often living in squalid and unsafe conditions, and the YMCA was dedicated to replacing their life on the streets with prayer and Bible study. The YMCA idea, which began among evangelicals, was unusual because it crossed the rigid lines that separated all the different churches and social classes in England in those days. This openness was a trait that would lead eventually to including in YMCAs all men, women and children, regardless of race, religion or nationality. Also, its target of meeting social need in the community was dear from the start. Now the YMCA uses a holistic approach to individual and social development encompassing spiritual, intellectual and physical methods. This approach is symbolized by the inverse red triangle used by YMCAs around the world representing the YMCA mission of building a healthy spirit, mind, and body.
The YMCA is a federated organization, made up of local and national organizations in voluntary association. Today, the programs and the degree to which Christ and the Christian faith is emphasized in programs varies between individual YMCA associations. Generally, YMCAs are open to all, regardless of faith, social class, age, or gender.