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Records of YMCA international work in Paraguay

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-18


The collection includes correspondence, reports, and printed material concerning the YMCA in Asuncion, Paraguay. A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning finances, fundraising, staffing, and construction efforts at the Asuncion YMCA.


  • 1951-1987.


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is 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 the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The YMCA in Asuncion, Paraguay was established on May 10, 1943 with the assistance of the South American Federation of YMCAs and a group of local laymen. The initial organization was managed by a temporary commission, until the YMCA obtained official legal recognition from the Paraguayan government in 1945. One of the first projects of the Asuncion YMCA was to establish a hospital in a suburb of the city to demonstrate the YMCA’s commitment to community service.

Robert Tilford, who had previously served with the Chicago YMCA, was selected as the first General Secretary of the Asuncion YMCA in 1949. Under Tilford’s leadership, the YMCA in Paraguay would continue to expand in membership and held cultural, spiritual, and physical activities in rented buildings in the Paraguayan capital.

In addition to the construction of a camp 50 kilometers outside of Asuncion, the YMCA gained strength and popularity through the purchase of a permanent building in the heart of the city. The property was purchased in 1953 with the help of the International Committee and the Chicago Association, which gave $25,000 for the project. The new building allowed the Asuncion YMCA to grow in popularity and contributed to the development of a strong physical education program.

The Asuncion YMCA was often challenged by limited funds. The poverty of the local population made fundraising a challenge, and the Paraguayan economy was consistently plagued by rising inflation. As a result, the YMCA experienced difficulty in obtaining new equipment, as well as providing adequate salaries for college-educated staff members.

Although the YMCA was successful in garnering the support of the local Paraguayan population, including the Catholic leadership, their mission was strained at times as a result of political turmoil within the nation. At one point in 1953, the president of the board of directors, Dr. Crispin Insaurralde, was arrested as a political prisoner. Furthermore, the political repression of Paraguayan President Alfredo Stroessner was of concern to the YMCA leadership. Aside from police surveillance, however, the Asuncion YMCA was largely left alone during periods of political strife.

Robert Tilford was succeeded as General Secretary by Charles E. Rolfe in 1956. Like Tilford, Rolfe would play an important role in expanding the mission of the YMCA in Paraguay. With the assistance of the Buildings for Brotherhood Program, the YMCA added an outdoor pool in 1960 and an addition to their building in 1965. As the YMCA continued to improve its facilities, the Asuncion YMCA witnessed a sustained growth in its membership.

By 1965, Rolfe, and others in the YMCA leadership, viewed the mission of the International Committee in Paraguay to be complete, and they began to withdraw international staff assistance. In order to become more financially sustainable, the Asuncion YMCA established a primary school with 7 grades in 1965, which was followed by a secondary school in 1971. In addition, the organization began to generate revenue through the operation of two shops within the city.

By the 1970s, the YMCA in Paraguay had expanded its mission to several suburbs of Asuncion, as well as the impoverished city of Trinidad in southern Paraguay. While the YMCA’s board of directors was led almost exclusively by men, the organization itself became staffed primarily by women. During the mid 1970s, the YMCA became focused on combating social problems, such as youth unemployment and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the YMCA held lectures on women’s rights and offered classes on topics ranging from parenting to plumbing at YMCA buildings, as well as in factories and on television.

The following is a list of Individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Paraguay, along with their dates of service:

Robert Claude Tilford (1949-1956)
Charles E. Rolfe (1956-1965)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada(New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth LaTourette, and from the collection.


1.1 Cubic Feet (5 boxes)


Correspondence, reports, and printed material concerning the YMCA in Asuncion, Paraguay, especially concerning finances, fundraising, staffing, and construction efforts.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Biographical information on the secretaries involved in work in Paraguay (see list of individuals in the historical note) is available in the YMCA Biographical Files, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, August 2009, as collection FP046. Material has been minimally processed. Descriptions of box contents are very general.

Catalog Record ID number: 6280171

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area