This may come as a surprise to you that, since the beginning of its origins, the YMCA’s main value and therefore mission/vision is; the desire to be socially active and engaged in all community needs.
Many see the YMCA “only as” another gym and place where children take their swimming lessons. The Y’s vision of a healthy living for all has made it easier for people to access their many activities allowing the body, mind and spirit to be healthy.
Recreational volleyball, squash courts martial arts programs etc. have been added to the never-ending list of the many roles the YMCA has taken on in our communities.
Although the YMCA shaped me (literally) to become a healthier, more active individual for my body, it also shaped me to be a socially conscious individual. My history with the YMCA is extensive and I am proud to share my walk with you based on my experience at the Y.
My journey began in 2003 when my parents decided to make Cambridge Ontario our permanent residence after immigrating from Central America. Things were not easy in that first year, the Cross Cultural and Immigrant Services helped my parents find a job at the YMCA which in turn allowed us to begin our lives a lot quicker and adapt faster to our new home in Canada.
Furthermore, the YMCA was my first employer and I learned a great deal from that experience. Without a doubt, the YMCA made adapting to life in Canada much easier for us.
The YMCA not only helped me shape my body, it also helped to shape my mind by allowing us to merge with ease into Canadian Culture. We quickly learned working values, and core Canadian ideals, sharing, caring for one another, extending a helping hand when in need. Things that now make me so proud to call myself a great amalgamation of my mother culture and my adoptive culture. I am not just one but two thanks to the experiences I lived through the YMCA.
The BEST thing I ever got from the YMCA was understanding the necessity to serve not only locally but also internationally! Thanks to this amazing program called Mano a Mano I was able to enjoy my first international experience. This included a 3-week trip to Tijuana Mexico. Its purpose: to learn about US-Canada-Mexico relationships and its handling of illegal immigration within the borders. What an incredibly valuable opportunity that was.
I have never been more enlightened by a situation than I was during this 3-week period. I cried, I learned, my eyes were opened to some things I was completely unaware of. I created new bonds from people all over Canada, Mexico, the United States and Latin America. All young adults from the YMCA in search of ways to be of service to others. I found the Y Service Club thanks to this one experience.
I have served with the organization since I was 15, and I have grown to serve and see the needs of others, in less privileged positions than ours. Were it not for my involvement with the YMCA I would have never found the Y Service Club. I have now attended several International Youth Convocations in where I have proudly represented Canada and the Caribbean Area, and where I served as a Youth Intern.
Why is the YMCA still relevant? Many ask. Despite the view of others that it is only a gym it is more than that. It now serves as a daycare, housing, Immigrant Services etc. and provides endless opportunities for new Canadians and youth to become positive leaders in our communities.
I invite you to visit your local YMCA, within its walls you will find more than a gym, pool and a sauna. Endless possibilities that can make a profound difference in your life, as it did in mine.
S&J Training Solutions
Roxy Galindo works for S&J Training Solutions in Ottawa Ontario. She still volunteers with the Y Service Club. Roxy hopes to continue her post-secondary education in English. Her hobbies include, reading, writing, hiking, playing volleyball and spending time with family.