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Records of YMCA international work in Siam and Thailand

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-43


The collection documenting YMCA work in Thailand (formerly known as Siam) includes material dating from 1909 to 1980. The few documents prior to 1929 include correspondence regarding early attempts to establish YMCA associations in Bangkok. The majority of the collection is composed of the correspondence, administrative reports, financial reports, program reports, and publications of YMCAs in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Material found in the collection was created by YMCA secretaries in Thailand, members of the YMCA International Committee, as well as other YMCA officials in North America and Asia.

The collection also includes maps, photographs, publications written in Thai, newspaper clippings, and building schematics. The records mention special programs concerning physical education, vocational training, rural development, and refugee assistance. The material also includes sparse correspondence detailing the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, communism and the political climate in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and political strife in Thailand during and after the 1976 military coup.


  • 1909-1980, 1998.
  • Majority of material found within ( 1929-1980 )


Language of Materials

English, Thai

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.


Dating from 1893, several attempts were made to organize a YMCA association in Bangkok, Thailand (previously known as Siam). However, the formal establishment of an association with a foreign secretary was not begun until 1929, after John R. Mott answered a request for assistance by a group of churches and missions with a $21 thousand gift from the James Stokes Society. The National Councils of the United States and Canada took responsibility for the project, and Walter A. Zimmerman was placed in charge of the Bangkok Association after a preliminary investigation was conducted by the International Committee.

Zimmerman began to learn the Thai language and established a provisional board of directors with Samuel Benthoon Boon Itt as president in 1932. The son of a Presbyterian missionary, Boon Itt and others had constructed a mission known as the Boon Itt Institute in 1907. The mission transferred its property, equipment and assets to the YMCA to become the Boon Itt Memorial Branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Bangkok. Although three quarters of the Bangkok Association’s board of directors were required to be members of an evangelical church, general membership was granted to "any youth of good moral character, without distinction of nationality, race, or religion."

Membership grew quickly at the Bangkok Association, which offered programs in physical education, Bible study, student groups, and hobby groups. A night school for young men and women was established in 1936. By the 1940s, the Association was overcrowded; however, an Englishwoman named Emily Collins donated her Anglican girls’ school to the YMCA in 1941 – allowing for the continued expansion of the Bangkok Association. Immediately prior to the Japanese occupation of Thailand during World War II, all foreigners on the board of directors resigned. When the Allies gained control of the country, the Association’s property was turned into a military hospital for Indian troops. The rundown building was returned to the YMCA in 1946.

By 1951, the Bangkok Association had a membership of 2,072 men and 351 boys, and it was estimated that another 225,000 people were served through vocational classes, sports, and outdoor excursions, among other programs. The Association continued to develop throughout the 1950s and 1960s via secretarial training and the construction of building additions, student hostels, and camps using money donated from the Buildings for Brotherhood Campaign, as well as local fundraising efforts.

The first YMCA association outside of Bangkok was established in Chiang Mai – the major city of northern Thailand – in 1969 with the assistance of the Bangkok YMCA and the Canadian University Service Overseas. From early on, the Chiang Mai Association was primarily concerned with rural development work. The Association helped to train Thai development leaders, built roads, schools, wells, and educated farmers on improved agricultural techniques. However, the Association’s connection with USAID was controversial among leftist students in the city. Furthermore, the rural development work in the borderlands region of northern Thailand was slowed by political opposition and the danger posed by communist insurgent groups.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the YMCA in Thailand worked to assist the flood of refugees streaming into the country via the Indo-China Refugee Program. In addition, the Bangkok Association shifted its focus to include more humanitarian work. Expansion continued through the construction of new buildings, as well as the establishment of new YMCA centers outside of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Throughout the 1980s, the YMCA of Thailand promoted development work, and the Northern Women's Development Foundation was established in 1989 to encourage Thai women to participate in development projects.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Thailand, along with their dates of service, if known:

Barnhart, Byron Pat (1937-1941) Kindree, Roger M. (1965-1966)
Benne, Karl Heinz (1962-1963) Meyer, Keith B. (1972-1974)
Brauninger, Robert R. (1963-1965) Smargon, Alan Peter (1966-1968)
Faukner, Murray E. (1959-1970) Stange, Karl Henry (1950-1953)
Harvey, Charles Way (1930-1932) Wilcox, Joseph Jr. (1968-1973)
Hines, William Earle (1955) Wilson, Floyd Alva (1946-1957)
Keller, Philip B. (1971-1973) Zimmerman, Walter A. (1930-1956)
[Historical information largely adapted from the collection, as well as 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. Additional information was taken from the website of the Chiang Mai Association (]


4.1 Cubic Feet (12 boxes)


Correspondence, administrative reports, financial reports, program reports, and publications documenting YMCA international work in Siam / Thailand, primarily in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.


Biographical information on most of the secretaries involved in Thai 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, March 2009, as collection FP037. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6417839

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

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area