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Records of YMCA international work in Burma

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-13


Includes correspondence, reports, and printed material, primarily concerning the YMCA in Rangoon, but also including information on other YMCAs in Burma (later known as Myanmar). A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning the finances of the YMCA and community service, primarily boys work, in Burma.


  • 1905-1988


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 first YMCA in Burma was located in Rangoon (Yangon) and was organized early in 1899. Late in 1898 O. H. McCowen, an Irish solicitor, was sent there as a secretary. Within five years three buildings had been occupied successively: a central branch, and what were known as the "Godwin Road branch" and the "Town branch." The first two branches had buildings on sites owned by the YMCA. The "Town branch" was housed on the ground floor of a building belonging to the English National YMCA Council, erected on a site which was also the property of the English National Council. Both this council and the International Committee of the YMCA of the USA and Canada sent out secretaries who developed the work and made the Association an effective force in the life of the city. By 1914 there were six full-time secretaries and four buildings in Burma. In 1930 an earthquake destroyed the fine 4-story central branch building. In spite of this set-back, the Association continued to carry on both its institutional work and its service to the community in general.

The Town branch served mainly Indian members, and was popular on account of its well-regarded work with the entire Indian community in Rangoon. With its extensive lay leadership, it was considered one of the most active branches of the Rangoon YMCA.

The Godwin Road branch was opened as a center for boys' work and in the course of time it became a branch with a mostly Burmese membership, many of whom were students. Before the outbreak of the war, the Association's community service was almost as important as its institutional work. The YMCA pioneered the introduction of physical education in the city and made so great an impression that the government decided to open a physical education department.

Beginning in 1919, Warren Dwight Healy worked with American-trained Burmese Christian David Tin Hla on physical education. They had government endorsement for a program preparing school teachers to conduct physical education for their students. Healy was also very deeply interested in health education. However when the depression hit the North American staff, Healy’s work was discontinued along with the work of Harold John Payne. Payne had arrived as a boys’ work secretary in 1927. One of his major accomplishments was the inauguration of a refuge for homeless street boys, many of whom were becoming criminals. The opening of the Street Boy's Refuge, which consisted of two homes, one for boys under 14 and another for those under 18, was the direct result of the service of the YMCA in this sphere. Boys' work done by the Association opened the eyes of the public to the great needs of the under-privileged children of the city.

After the war in 1945, when Rangoon was liberated, the damage to YMCA property was devastating; all of the buildings and records were destroyed. Undaunted, Payne, joined by David Tin Hla, rebuilt the YMCA in Burma, focusing on the same principals it had focused on before the war.

The associations of Burma belonged to the National Council of India, Burma, and Ceylon until 1945 when the YMCA was reorganized under Burmese leadership. In 1951 a National board was formed, distinct from the former affiliation with India and Ceylon.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Burma, along with their dates of service.

Brooks, Murray Gordon (1938-1940) Lucas, Harold Victor (1958-1963)
Ferguson, Raymond James (1953-1964) Payne, Howard John (1945-1953)
Healy, Warren Dwight (1919-1932) Turner, Eugene Alfred, Jr. (1949-1956)
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 Scott Latourette, and from the collection.


1.8 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)


Correspondence, reports, and printed material, primarily concerning the YMCA's work in Burma (later known as Myanmar), particuarly in Rangoon.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Biographical information on many of the secretaries involved in Burmese work (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 FP052. Material has been minimally processed. Descriptions of box contents are very general.

Catalog Record ID number: 6256158

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

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area