In the year 2000, the members of the YMCA/YWCA Zurich decided at their general assembly to initiate an international partnership. In the name of solidarity and charity, and as a part of the worldwide YMCA and YWCA, the idea of supporting another YMCA organisation in a foreign country was born.
In cooperation with Horyzon, the international development and aid organisation affiliated with the YMCA Switzerland, many possible options were considered. The Spitak YMCA was selected as a possible partner and suggested at the YMCA/YWCA Zurich's general assembly in 2001. Emile Stricker, director of Horyzon at that time and in charge of the YMCA Europe's field group for Armenia, was instrumental in establishing the partnership.
A few years earlier, Horyzon had already organised camps for adolescents in Armenia. Because of this, they were already in contact with people and familiar with the societal situation in Armenia.
The acceptance of the board's proposal at the general assembly in 2001 is the cornerstone of our partnership with the Spitak YMCA today. That the proposal was accepted unanimously was no doubt to do with the impressive presentation held by Emile Stricker, who related his earlier experiences in the country. Other deciding factors were the deep roots of Christianity within Armenian culture - as in the YMCA/YWCA Zurich - and wanting to continue the tradition of Armenian aid from Switzerland. This tradition began during the years of the Armenian genocide and has continued until the present day.
As easy as the decision itself seemed to be, the practical implementation of the partnership proved to be far more of a challenge. How to start a local-to-local partnership? What expectations are there? What potential? How can we ensure that the partnership is based on equality, implemented on a level playing field?
A first step was made on the Armenian side when the YMCA/YWCA Zurich was formally invited to attend the international "ECHO" festival ("Exploring Christian Heritage Origins"), celebrating 1700 years of Christianity in Armenia. This festival took place in September 2001 at Lake Sevan and offered an ideal opportunity to make contacts and visit our new partner country at the foot of Mount Ararat.
As none of the board members or employees were able to attend the festival, the scope was widened and the suggestion was made to Adrian Künsch, then chairman of the board of the YMCA Altstetten and volunteer at the YMCA/YWCA Zurich.
In September 2001, Adrian travelled to Armenia as the sole representative of the YMCA/YWCA Zurich, in order to take part in the ECHO festival and to get to know this country, its people and various local YMCA groups. In long discussions with Hayk Khachatryan, then in charge of the Spitak YMCA, they clarified mutual expectations, discussed the potential of working together and formulated visions.
As an experienced scouting and Ten Sing leader and training supervisor, Adrian conducted several workshops in Armenia. Soon, the idea of a national training week for leaders of Ten Sing groups in Armenia was born.
In the course of only a few days, a young leader from Spitak was invited to Switzerland to visit the "Ten Sing Seminary 1", where Adrian was an instructor.
So it happened that Adrian was able to welcome then 18-year-old Lusine Poghosian as the first Armenian volunteer to Switzerland, not even ten days after his own arrival back home. Her visit to the "Ten Sing Seminary 1" and later the fall camp of the YMCA Altstetten was a valuable experience for all involved. Less than a month after her visit, the first national Armenian YMCA training week took place, led by Lusine.
Adrian recounted his experiences in Armenia at an information event in November 2001. It came as a surprise to everyone that a few young people with Armenian roots joined the familiar faces at Cevi Zentrum Glockenhof that evening - another reason that our partnership grew so strong so quickly.
Read about all our past events here...