Skip to main content

Records of YMCA international work in Africa

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-39


Includes correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, journal and newspaper articles and other records of YMCA work in the continent of Africa. The collection features various countries in Africa as well as general Africa YMCA, Africa Alliance, and Africa-based non-YMCA files. Countries featured in this collection include Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Zaire (the Congo), Zambia and Zimbabwe. Major correspondents in this collection include Moses Perry, Marvin Jay Ludwig, Desta Girma, Steven D. LaVake and Daniel Penick Tyler.

Files on Senegal are the largest section within this collection. The Senegal files largely discuss youth programs, specifically the Youth Vocational Training Program, the Youth Sports Project, the Youth Job Development project sponsored by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and the GOS or Government of Senegal's Urban Vocational Training Program. Also mentioned within youth work was a YMCA/SEPH (State Secretariat for Promotion of Human Resources) Project, also known as the Senegal Rural Youth Training and Placement Program. This program included vocational training in Dakar and a Youth in Government project. Senegal files also discusses relief and environmental work done there and agencies such as UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), USAID and CODEL (Coordination in Development) who assisted in this work. Work specifically discussed within the relief and environmental areas in Senegal includes the assistance to the village of Malik Gueye and an FAO (Integrated Reforestation) Project. The FAO project included a water tank, vegetable garden and reforestation.

Also prominent within this collection is the Sudan. Much of this material relates to refugee work, specifically the YMCA Refugee Service and the World Alliance Refugee and Rehabilitation program. Also in the Sudan files is the discussion of work with women and girls. A Woman Training Program was implemented in the Sudan as well as women's discussion groups.

YMCA work in Zambia and Zimbabwe is also documented. In Zimbabwe, Kenneth B. Turpin is mentioned as an important force within the Zimbabwe YMCA. There is also discussion of Overseas Personnel Programs, a Nhamburiko Vocational Training College Project and the installation of a PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) system, a computer assisted instructional system. Records on Zambia highlight the YMCA World Ambassador Program. Also mentioned is the Zambia YMCA Kamatipa Project that included a poultry house, a men's craft center, a women's craft house and a display center.

Within the Madagascar files there is mention of an AVEAMM (Association pour la Valorization, l'Extension et l'Amenagement de la Moyenne Mania) project which was the first global integrated and indigenous development program in that country. Records on Gambia focus on the Gambia Village Development Project and also mention a Country Development Strategy.

The general YMCA Africa files consist mostly of correspondence discussing, among other things, the aid group Africare as well as a development management training project, the Institutional Development Program and the Mobile Training Program. African Alliance material discusses primarily the African drought crisis. There is discussion of ECOCENTRO, an environmental protection information center and also discussion of various ideas for potential African aid. Non-YMCA Africa files focus on program development, the Africa Task Force of the World Food Program and the severe drought conditions within the Sahel Zone in Africa.


  • Creation: 1916-1991


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 Africa was established in Liberia in 1881. It was only a small group of men and short-lived, but was soon after re-established and popular. North American YMCA work in Africa began with an appeal made in 1889 for men and women to go to Africa as missionaries. The first United States YMCA representatives sailed for Africa in 1890. YMCAs began to spread throughout the African continent, becoming a crux for the development of many communities. Many African Nations' YMCAs became members of the World Alliance of YMCAs.

North American YMCA assistance in Africa took place primarily through the International Committee of the YMCAs of the United States and Canada and in later years through the International Division of the YMCA of the USA. Prominent International Committee members who focused a significant portion of their assistance on Africa included Moses Perry, Desta Girma, Marvin Jay Ludwig, Steve D. LaVake and Daniel Penick Tyler. These men helped to create and secure many developmental programs, procure outside funding and make the needs in Africa well known. Though African YMCA development through North American assistance occurred as early as 1890, it was not prevalent until the 1950s, 1960s and even later, when droughts and war brought worldwide attention to the continent of Africa's ongoing plight. The attention helped the North American YMCA International Committee to gain assistance from United States YMCAs to fund projects, the supply labor and organize the exchange of YMCA members for projects such as camp programs and vocational training.

Programs in Africa sponsored by the YMCA focused primarily on youth, who formed the majority of its population and were seen as representing Africa's future. It was believed that if the youth of Africa was able to gain education in the correct areas they would be able to lead without assistance and secure the future well-being of the continent. YMCA youth development programs in Africa included health education, vocational training, crafting development, small business development, rural development, family planning, refugee assistance and rehabilitation, environmental protection, youth sports projects, youth job development, leadership training, young women training and education and camp programs that included farm training.

Another area of focus for YMCA work in the continent of Africa was the continual problems brought about by war and drought. Many YMCA relief efforts were continuously underway in Africa, and many occasions where the YMCA either asked assistance from outside agencies or simply made them aware of the problems that Africa was facing and suggested that they get involved. Among the agencies that the YMCA worked with were USAID (United States Agency for International Development), Africare, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), the Red Cross and the Peace Corps, to name a few. The Y's Men International was also quite helpful to the relief efforts and the individual YMCAs in Africa. The YMCA's relief work played a significant role in the survival of the African citizens at times, and established the organization as a trusted agency concerned with the well being of Africans.

The African Alliance of YMCAs was founded in 1977 and became the umbrella body for all African YMCA movements. As of 2011 the continent of Africa supported movements in 22 separate African countries and the African Alliance of YMCAs was the leading pan-African youth development network on the African continent. Youth, gender and environmental work have continued as the main interests, with top goals being empowerment through education and leadership development.. The African Alliance of YMCAs also supplied associated African nations membership to the World Alliance of YMCAs. This association has helped the African YMCAs stay aligned with the mission statement of the YMCA itself while remaining true to Africa's needs. A continual dialog with and association to the rest of the World's YMCAs was also secured within this membership.

[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, from "African Alliance of YMCAs" (, and from the collection.]


4.6 Cubic Feet (20 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, journal and newspaper articles and other records of YMCA work in the continent of Africa, featuring various countries in Africa as well as general Africa YMCA, Africa Alliance, and Africa-based non-YMCA files. Primary countries featured in this collection include Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, Gambia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Zaire (the Congo), Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Separate collections of records of YMCA work in a number of African countries, including the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, and Uganda are also available in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, April 2009, as collection FP054. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6414203

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

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area