25 April 2023

Our General Manager Liam attended his first ever Chief Executive Network meeting. This network is made up of CEOs, General Secretaries, General Managers and equivalents from YMCAs in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It is a platform of shared learning, networking and leadership development. This time the network met in Belfast hosted by Chris and his team from Belfast YMCA.

This is his reflection from this event:

“I think everyone attending here today will remember this trip for the rest of their lives” I think everyone agreed with Andy Drake (CEO of YMCA Essex), it is certainly what I was thinking. Not only was it my first time meeting a group of people who were so welcoming and supportive, it was such a moving trip listening to YMCA leaders and staff who are working in extreme conditions.

YMCAs are federated which means that we are all independent with our own boards, leaders and finances. This is so that each YMCA works for the community in which it is based. This leads to a strange situation were you have a group of people with the same base job and responsibilities. There are different scales, we have a turnover of about £300k where as YMCA St. Pauls group with a turnover of about £25 Million. We have all faced the same challenges and we are all weathering the same storms.

During the first thirty minutes after landing in Belfast and making my way to the convention centre Dean Titterton (CEO of YMCA North Tyneside) gave some advice to the table about corporate fundraising. John Lee (CEO of YMCA Norfolk) remarked said that that advice was worth the plane fare over itself. This was so true and set the tone for the full conference. I learned so much from so many talented and experienced people during that trip that I can bring back to ensure that I can develop to be the best person to lead our YMCA. I also know that when something inevitably goes wrong or doesn’t work, there is a great number of people to get advice from.

Belfast was special for another reason, and that was the people. The people who shared truly horrific, emotional and uplifting stories of their lives and the lives of their families. YMCA Staff and Volunteers who are working in deeply challenging circumstances but do so with humour, faith and a drive to make a difference. I am thankful there are so many dedicated staff working in these areas for those young people. It also drives one to make a difference in our communities.

I’ve taken a bit of Belfast away with me, it is reignited my passion and is a reminder of why we do what we do. Whether you are of faith or not, spare a thought for those communities in North Ireland, many of whom just want the same as the rest of world, a place that is safe. Spare a thought for those YMCA Staff and Volunteers sometimes giving up that safety to help support those communities.

Nobody is alone there is always support out there.

While everyone that I met was incredibly supportive, I’d like to give a thank you to John, Andy and Gillian (CEO of YMCA Derbyshire) for pulling me away from my laptop and getting to network with others. I’m quite a timorous person by nature and that one act made a lifetime of difference.


I hope that in future years, whether I’m still in the movement or not, to give back to others who are like me in the same way.