Imagine that you had a sister or brother that lived overseas, and you had only heard about them and perhaps seen a few pictures through social media of them. And then one day you had the opportunity to meet them, face to face. I’m sure you would have to sort through your emotions of excitement and nervousness.
That is truly like what we at the Y, feel when we get to meet our counterparts from Ireland. I mean we are all on the same team, we believe in the cause and we get to have a glimpse of how they carry out their mission across the sea.
You see, our YMCA has had a sister city relationship for about 20 years with the Lurgan Y in Northern Ireland. Lurgan is located about 30 minutes west of Belfast. And last month, 3 staff from the Lurgan Y traveled to Stark County to visit with us and share many different ideas about youth programs.
Y employees had the privilege of hosting the visitors and showing them the sites and Ys of Stark County. Elaine S. hosted one of the visitors and was excited to share this international experience with her son, which he really enjoyed.
Elaine shared that it is amazing watching and listening to folks from outside your country respond and react to things that we might not give a second thought to. Such as, the fact that we have American flags flying, or the amazement that we have all forms of religions practicing here with no conflict. From a work perspective they were smitten with the types of programs we have that reach all different age brackets and abilities. They were also amazed at the many children in the Y childcare programs (1,200 youth served every day at 20 different locations throughout Stark County).
During their short stay, they went on WHBC radio and talked about the Lurgan Y and their impressions of Stark County!
When asked about if the Ys are different, Katie said, “yes there is a huge difference”
- From the age difference and the buildings, they don’t have pools or gyms.
- They are a safe and shared space in Northern Ireland to help bridge the religious differences.
- But, the biggest difference is the age range they serve is more focused around the 7-20 year olds of children, including children that are at risk.
Katie shared one thing that they would like to bring back is the sense of Community that each Y has. Overall the group was very humbled with how friendly everyone was with them throughout Stark County.
The YMCA is a very international organization having been started in 1844 in London England. The Y is now in over 120 countries around the world. Next year, the Lurgan Y will celebrate their 30year anniversary, while our Y’s here in Stark County will celebrate our 150 year anniversary. We anticipate more visitors from the Lurgan Y will be with us for our sesquicentennial gala celebration slated for April 16, 2016.