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Records of YMCA international work in Uganda

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-29


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA movement in Uganda, primarily discussing its various programs and activities in the area, especially at the major YMCA branches in Mbarara, Kampala, and Jinja.. Early correspondence and reports discuss classes in subjects such as the English, French, Luganda, and Swahili languages; shorthand, typing and bookkeeping; architectural design; public speaking, and swimming. Special events such as World Week of Prayer, Easter and Christmas programs, club officers' retreat, a 65 mile safari bicycle race, and the Katwe shopkeepers project are also documented. Early projects focus upon educational classes, special interest groups and clubs for both youth and adults, citizenship training and physical education. Later correspondence and reports focus upon the relief work that the YMCA did in Uganda during and after the wars that took place there, primarily after the Uganda Liberation War in 1978-1979. These projects were included the values education program, vocational training development, YMCA youth farm schemes and the displaced and resettlement people project.

The collection includes many references to Idi Amin and his military coup. Discussion of how the YMCA in Uganda should deal with the devastation left after the Uganda Liberation War is a major topic of the correspondence, as well as the shooting of Charles Muwanga, former secretary general of the Uganda YMCA in 1983. Major correspondents include Moses Lewis Perry, Daniel Penick Tyler, Charles Muwanga, Oliver Smith, and Ernest K. K. Sempebwa, as well as Merlin A Bishop in the earlier years.


  • 1956-1986


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

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In 1959 Merlin A. Bishop suggested opening an association in Uganda. The Uganda YMCA began organization in 1959 but did not open officially until 1961. It opened with 12 contributors and a single fraternal secretary, Daniel P. Tyler. The first membership campaign was conducted in 1962 and within two weeks 653 members were recruited. By 1964 an attendance of over 107,000 people was recorded in YMCA activities, there were three branches; Mbarara, Kampala and Jinja; ten secretaries and program assistants-in-training; and two world service fraternal secretaries, Daniel P. Tyler and Moses Perry. By this time there were forty clubs including youth ten years and up, young men's groups, the young men's assembly, model municipal council, football leagues, and concerts. Classes offered included English, French, Luganda, Swahili, bookkeeping, typing, shorthand, swimming, architectural design and public speaking. Special events were featured that included world week of prayer, a 65-mile safari bicycle race, Easter and Christmas programs and club officers' retreats. The Katwe shopkeepers project, started in 1964, assisted shopkeepers in keeping records, banking money and buying goods. A wholesale depot was also established that handled sugar, soap, milk, and matches in order to reduce cost to the consumer. By 1969 the programs had grown to include additional educational classes and special interest groups and clubs for both youth and adults, citizenship training, physical education including volleyball, basketball, cycling, table tennis, gymnastics and football. The programs also included refugee relief, an overnight hostel, assisting youth in company and government employment and counselling youth on varied personal problems. There was also a program for training lay leaders, club leaders and staff.

In 1971 Idi Amin seized power through military coup. Actions taken by Amin included expelling almost all of Uganda's Asian population and seizing their property as well as nationalizing Ugandan businesses. In 1978 Amin invaded Tanzania. The Uganda National Liberation Army, which opposed Amin, fought alongside Tanzanian forces and ousted Amin in 1979. Uganda was left with thousands of refugees. The town of Mbarara was destroyed and the YMCA branch there lost everything due to looting and property damage. The tennis courts were bombed in Kampala and the windows broken, but the YMCA there and the branch at Jinja were never looted due to their being volunteer organizations. In 1979 a Uganda YMCA rehabilitation and reconstruction program was initiated to assist the associations and their surrounding communities.

The focus of the post-Amin Uganda YMCA was on the rehabilitation needs of the YMCA in Uganda and on the rehabilitation needs of Uganda itself. The Ugandan government and religious leaders stressed the need for the reconstruction of the nation's spiritual and moral values, said to be necessary for the survival of the fragile nation. The YMCA in Uganda was seen as equipped and qualified to conduct services in values education with the assistance of the Ugandan government. In response, the YMCA's programs centered around values education, building repairs for Jinja and Kampala, Mbarara YMCA development, vocational training development, and farm schemes in Buwambo and Masaka.

The vocational training development project was initially focused in Mbarara, where a large portion of the population was involved in a relatively nomadic pastoral life. The goal of this project was to create employment out of an ample supply of material and learned skills. In these areas of Uganda, there were hides and skins which were by-products of cattle slaughterhouses and a saw mill where timber was readily available. It was decided that a tannery, carpentry and cabinetry project would create opportunities for job and skill acquisition for youth who left school programs. They would then still have a trade skill that fit within the framework for their country's development.

The YMCA youth farm scheme was designed to train youth in modern agricultural methods and animal industry. It was designed to demonstrate that sufficient food can be grown on a small acreage for food consumption and/or cash sale. The training focused on the proper techniques of pig, cattle and poultry rearing, dairy production, selection of seed, timely opening and preparation of the land and the timely planting, proper spacing, manuring, thinning, weeding, spraying, harvesting, drainage, storage and marketing of crops. The project was designed to be a solution to problems facing youth of rural areas who had a limited education, were unemployed or underemployed.

Uganda continued experience civil unrest and wars and the YMCA continued to provide essential services to the Ugandan citizens. However, the unrest made planning of the development of the movement or supplying training to its leaders nearly impossible. The YMCA in Uganda in the mid 1980s primarily focused its attention on caring for the displaced; distributing food, clothing , agricultural implements, and seeds to displaced people attempting to resettle back to their former homes. They also supplied medical treatment, nutrition and water to those sick from being on the run for many years due to civil war. This project was called the Uganda Displaced and Resettlement People Project and it focused on the Luwero triangle and the Mbarara district.

In the mid 1980s also the Uganda YMCA and the Pittsburgh YMCA formed a partnership. This allowed for trading of individuals for training purposes in values education and also allowed for some of Uganda's budgetary issues to be covered by Pittsburgh's fundraising efforts.

The Uganda YMCA continued into the 2000s and though it didn't become a member of the Africa Alliance of YMCAs, it remained helpful to its citizens, supplying them with gender, youth and educational departments.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Uganda along with their dates of service:

Evans, Ronald Thomas (1963-1965) Perry, Moses Lewis (1962-1971)
Honold, James Daniel (1964-1965) Taylor, Robert B. (1966-1967)
Kohlenberger, John (1962-1964) Tyler, Daniel Penick (1961-1974)
La Pierre, Eduard (1969-1970)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from the collection and from "YMCA Kampala, 2011" (


1.3 Cubic Feet (5 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA international work in Uganda, primarily discussing its various programs and activities in the area, especially at the major YMCA branches in Mbarara, Kampala, and Jinja.


Biographical information on some of the secretaries involved YMCA work in Uganda (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, February 2009, as collection FP042. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6398580

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