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Records of YMCA international work in Ceylon and Sri Lanka

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-14


Includes correspondence, reports, and printed material, primarily concerning the YMCA in Colombo, but also including information on other YMCAs in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka). A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning the finances of the YMCA, camps, and community service, primarily disaster relief.


  • Creation: 1861-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found in ( 1890-1988).


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

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In 1884, an American missionary, Frank K. Sanders, organized a YMCA at Jaffna College, a private school in Vaddukoddai, Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka), the first in Ceylon from North America. Several YMCAs of British origin, primarily serving Europeans, were already in existence. Colombo is said to have had a YMCA in 1859, and Kandy in 1861, however, these appear to have been short lived. The Association begun by Sanders was only the first of many; the YMCA sprang up in the schools, colleges, and villages in the northern part of the island. By 1885 there were seven. They then organized themselves into a union, which by 1892 had increased to fifteen and by the end of 1897 to twenty, with a membership of over five hundred.

In 1896, Lois Hieb was sent to Ceylon to form an association in Colombo and serve as its secretary. However, he broadened his field to the entire island. In 1899 he stimulated the formation of the Central Committee of the Young Men's Christian Associations of Ceylon. Not long after Hieb's arrival plans were begun for a building for Colombo. A site was obtained, money was raised, and a building erected and completed without debt. In 1905 Hieb retired, but before he left he reported 12 general Associations for Ceylon with 380 active and 342 associate members, and student associations with 316 members, a building in Colombo and the beginning of a building fund for Jaffna.

In 1907, with the consent of the Ceylon Associations, the island was placed under the Indian National Council. However, a subcommittee of the National Council in Ceylon had direct oversight of the associations of the island.

During World War I the government took over the Colombo building. And after the war, in 1922 Murray G. Brooks reorganized the Colombo Association and in 1924, a new building for the Central Branch was completed. R. W. Cammack came as a physical director and Glenn P. Wishard arrived. Both men gave their time primarily to Colombo. Under Cammack several athletic leagues were organized and a playground for poor children was begun.

By the time of the depression, Wishard was the only North American secretary. Then he left, and until 1951, when E. S. Wybourn arrived, there was no representative of the Associations of the United States and Canada in Ceylon. However, the YMCA had not disappeared. Colombo had more than one branch and a 1952-1953 report showed an addition to the physical plant and many kinds of activities, including a Bible study institute, physical education, a library, clubs, and social service. The YMCA in Ceylon was self-governing and self-supporting. In 1953 there were fourteen Associations, eleven of them with purely voluntary leadership.

At the Convention of the National Council of YMCAs of India and Ceylon, in December, 1961, steps were taken to separate the two movements. In June, 1962, the National Council of the YMCAs of Ceylon was duly and constitutionally established, and was then admitted to full membership in the World Alliance. The first National General Secretary was R. O. Buell who was later succeeded by Boyd I. Perera. With funds raised locally and from America, the YMCAs of Amparai, Jaffna and Kandy were given financial assistance to erect new buildings , while Colombo and Galle received grants to add useful extensions to their buildings.

In more recent years, the Sri Lanka YMCA has focused much of its work on disaster relief. This began primarily with the hurricane that struck the island in 1978. In 1976, there were 22 YMCAs, and 2011 there were 38 associations in the country.

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

Adams, Chauncey Allen (1905-1907) Harty, Kevin Thomas 1971-1973
Bracken, Dwight Funk (1926-1929) Hieb, Louis 1896-1905
Brooks, Murray (1910-1925) Johnston, Robert Lee
Brown, William Gordon 1917-1922 Kazimiroff, Boris M. 1959-1965
Cammack, Robert Walker 1916-1926 Meehan, Peter Martin 1973-1975
Crutchfield, William W. 1908-1915 Pringle, Robert I. 1902
Ellis, Kathleen P. 1977-1979 Torrence, Edgar Clifton
Ellis, Michael G. 1977-1979 Wishard, Glenn Porter 1911-1932
Emmons, Orvill Wybourne, E. S.
Harte, Archibald Clinton 1907-1908
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.


3.9 Cubic Feet (11 boxes)


Correspondence, reports, and printed material, primarily concerning the international work of the YMCA in Colombo, but also including information on other YMCAs in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka). A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning the finances of the YMCA, camps, and community service, primarily disaster relief. .

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Biographical information on many of the secretaries involved in work in Ceylon / Sri Lanka (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 FP026. Material has been minimally processed. Descriptions of box contents are very general.

Catalog Record ID number: 6256157

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