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New York YMCA International branch records

Identifier: Y.GNY.89


The collection primarily contains materials collected by Alice L. (Bonnie) Mairs, for many years head of the International branch and its successor, International Program Services, until her retirement in 2005. The collection includes Board of Managers minutes, information about sources of grant funding, material about the relationship between the YMCA in New York City and the United Nations, material related to the World Alliance of YMCAs, information about exchange programs, and training materials. The YMCA in New York City both created and participated in numerous international exchange programs, including Mano a Mano, country exchanges that included Hungary, USSR and France, International Camp Counselor exchanges, and USIA Young Diplomats and other USIA programs.


  • Creation: 1960-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1985-2000

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.


International work at the New York YMCA, then known as the Young Men’s Christian Association of the City of New York, began in 1911, when John R. Mott instituted the Committee on Friendly Relations among Foreign Students for the YMCA in the United States. The name of the organization was deliberately non-sectarian; it did not mention the YMCA or refer to Christianity in order to be neutral and welcoming to students of all religions. The Committee focused on foreign students studying at US colleges and universities. Because it was based on the national offices of the YMCA in New York City, the Committee conducted much of its work among students whose first experience of the United States was when they stepped off the steamship onto the dock in New York Harbor.

Although international work was formalized at the national level in 1911, the YMCA in New York City had operated programs with an international focus almost since the beginning. For example, in the 1880s through the 1910s, volunteers and staff went to Ellis Island and the Brooklyn and Manhattan docks to welcome immigrants.

In the late 1950s, the name of the International Committee changed to International Student Services (ISS) and continued to work with students from other countries. Around that time, the YMCA added the International Camp Counselor Program (ICCP) that facilitated exchanges between US and European camps of all types. The program additional exchange programs developed in the 1970s, when the name was changed to International Program Services (IPS). Although international students remained a core part of the mission, summer work programs also included placement in the hospitality industry and other work sites. In 1981, when the office of the YMCA of the USA moved its office from New York to Chicago, International Program Services remained in New York City and was operated by the YMCA of Greater New York on behalf of the national Y. In addition to operating existing international programs for YUSA, the New York Y began encouraging branch-level international partnership and cultural programs at the YMCA of Greater New York.

In the early 1990s, international work in New York City became an official branch of the YMCA of Greater New York and was known as the International branch. In addition to the programs operated on behalf of the national organization, such as maintaining the links with the United Nations and operating the Camp Counselor Program, the new branch expanded its international efforts among New York YMCA branches, developing programs for special international populations in the city. Examples include programs for Korean immigrants in Queens and Japanese families temporarily assigned to work in the US.

International work in New York City after 1981 was housed in a variety of branches and other rented locales after 1981, including Sloane House, a building owned by the Vanderbilt branch, and the Masonic building on 23rd Street and 6th Avenue. The branch expected to sign a lease for its own space in September of 2001, but after 9/11 the Y expected revenues to drop, making a separate building an expense that could have affected overall operations. Instead, the West Side branch took in the International branch. It continued operations there until 2012, when it many international programs in New York City ceased. Despite this, the Y in New York City continued the Global Teens program that gave high school students a chance to travel and learn.

In addition, the YMCA in New York continues to operate the ELESAIR program (English Language and Employment Services for Adult Immigrants and Refugees). Focusing on new Americans, ELESAIR offers English and citizenship classes, job placement services and computer literacy instruction. It is one of the largest programs in New York City offering services to immigrants and refugees. Another New York City international program offers young YMCA professionals around the world a chance to improve their skills and expand their horizons through the Y Global Leaders program. This program pairs the young Y leaders with distinguished YMCAs throughout the United States.

Information from Alice (Bonnie) Mairs and from the collection.


45.1 Cubic Feet (47 boxes)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

See also related materials in the New York YMCA program and event records, separately catalogued at Also see related materials in the MCBurney YMCA records, separately catalogued at

Processing Information

Catalog Record ID number: 9975484403301701. Mostly unprocessed.


An Inventory
Louise Merriam
October 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area