Tuesday, June 13, 2017



Sierra Leone YMCA Partnership develops clean waterproject and proposes a cause-driven, business leadership development model

As we jump into summer and get ready for fall, we are excited about the progress we’ve made on our partnership with the Sierra Leone YMCA in the past year. The University YMCA delegation of student and Y alumni leaders recently traveled to Kemena, Sierra Leone for a partnership "working session" on The Furniture Project and to dig a well for clean water with the Sierra Leone YMCA.

Employment & Entrepreneurship
The Furniture Project will work with instructors and participants in the established Sierra Leone YMCA job training program to create employment opportunities through the creation of a YMCA-operated furniture business. The plan calls for a job training program that will make basic, rugged tables, chairs, desks, benches, and shelves to sell to local schools, churches and other non-profits. Local African wood and imported new and used hand tools will be used to build this furniture.

Clean Water: Kenema Well Project
One of the most pressing needs in Sierra Leone is access to clean drinking water. On their visit to Sierra Leone in May, our delegation visited a YMCA-operated school in Kenema, the country’s 3rd largest city. The Sierra Leone YMCA has achieved a critical goal for the Sierra Leone YMCA is to dig a well in close proximity to provide clean water for students and staff. 

Although the Sierra Leone YMCA has done preliminary work, a major hurdle was the need to raise $7,000 for the project. When Christian Kamara, CEO of the Sierra Leone YMCA, visited campus last summer, University Y Board member Sam Smith helped set up a meeting with the Urbana Rotary to discuss providing a large portion of the funding needed for the project. After reviewing the proposal, the Urbana Rotary’s International Committee voted to support the project; we are happy to report that the well has been dug thanks to that support. 

For more information about the Sierra Leone YMCA partnership, visit: universityymca.org/global/slymca

Monday, June 12, 2017

Press Release/PSA: Community Resource Center Launched the Y

Press Release
For Immediate Release
June 12, 2017

The Three Spinners share about their first week at the
YMCA New American Welcome Center and call for volunteers and donations
[Champaign County, Illinois] Last week, the University YMCA welcomed the Three Spinners as they launched the Community Resource Center as part of the YMCA New American Welcome Center. The Three Spinners are currently seeking donations and volunteer support as the Community Resource Center becomes established.

The Community Resource Center provides clothes, furniture, and household items free of charge to refugees and immigrants struggling in the community.  It also offers one-on-one and small group language conversation hours, computer and software training, interview coaching, and résumé preparation.

The Three Spinners are currently seeking volunteers to provide consistent service during the summer of 2017 on either Mondays, Thursdays, or Fridays from 11am-2pm. If you’d like to donate any furniture, clothes or household items, drop-off sites for donations include the 2nd floor of the School of Social work during the hours of 8:30am-5pm and  from 11am-2pm at the Community Resource Center, which is located downstairs of the University YMCA. For more information or to sign up to volunteer, please visit: threespinners.org/community-resource-center
Since last week’s launching, the Community Resource Center has received several large donations, received volunteer interest, and provided services to three new clients, including one client who called back wanting to volunteer in his free time.
“Champaign is so rich in resources and generosity, we wanted to have a neutral, open space for refugees and newcomers to be able to more easily navigate resources and find needed household items to thrive in our area” said Alexandra van Doren, Director of the Three Spinners. “When we learned that the Y selected our community to be a New American Welcome Center, we were excited to join the work because it aligns closely with our mission.”
In support of our shared cause to strengthen communities, all direct service, referral, and community bridge-building efforts under the YMCA New American Welcome Center are designed to connect new immigrants and the receiving communities and foster an environment that encourages newcomer integration and community cohesion.
“The launching of the Community Resource Center at the Y illustrates another instance of the Champaign-Urbana community stepping up to address local needs and connect with each other in service of others,” said Gloria Yen, New American Program Coordinator for the University YMCA. “Since its opening, the Community Resource Center at the Y has received a lot of positive responses. It really shows that our community values convening and supporting community partners to better serve all in Champaign County.”
For more information about the YMCA New American Welcome Center, visit: universityymca.org/welcome

Monday, May 22, 2017

Welcoming Gloria and Tyler to the YMCA staff!

The University YMCA is pleased to announce two new additions to their staff: Tyler Rotche and Gloria Yen. For contact information and to view the YMCA staff page, visit: universityymca.org/staff

Tyler Rotche is the Student Engagement Program Coordinator, providing consultation and assistance for student groups housed at the YMCA. He most recently worked as Water Policy Specialist at Prairie Rivers Network, focused on coal pollution issues. Tyler received his B.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Gloria Yen is the New American Program Coordinator, working with local leadership from newcomer and receiving communities to curate local resources and coordinating referrals for immigrant and newcomer integration. Gloria received her undergraduate degree in Music History from the University of Illinois before earning a Masters of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Gloria’s commitment to social justice and immigrant services is largely influenced by her experiences as a second generation Taiwanese American.