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YMCA was founded by George Williams – a worker in the drapery trade in London. Concerned about the welfare of his fellow workers, he started a prayer and bible study group. This soon grew and attracted men from across London.
YMCA began to address other concerns of young men working in the cities. Public lectures and education classes were developed. Reading rooms and refreshment areas helped young men to adjust to urban life, and spread outside London and branches were set up in Manchester and Leeds.
Following the links made at The Great Exhibition in London, YMCA spread across the globe and YMCAs were established in the USA and Canada. Seven years after it was established, YMCA was formed in Boston, USA.
The idea of creating a global organisation was pioneered by Henry Dunant, who would later go on to found the International Committee of the Red Cross. He convinced YMCA Paris to organise the first YMCA ‘World Conference’.
The conference produces the ‘Paris Basis’ – an agreement about the aims of YMCA. It also saw the launch of an international committee and headquarters, which would become the World Alliance of YMCAs.
YMCA now has over 58 million members in 119 countries worldwide. Since it was established, YMCA has adapted to the changing needs of young people. Today it works with young men and women regardless of race, religion or culture. In every corner of the world, YMCA is helping young people to build a future.