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First Name

Today we would like to introduce you to our very own Chief Executive Chris Hand as he shares with you a few words of wisdom and reflection on this his 32nd anniversary of working for the YMCA:

If you knew then, what you know now, what difference would it have made?

I had a sobering moment a couple of years ago, when I heard that a long serving YMCA CEO was about to retire, I thought to myself “there goes the last of the dinosaurs” just at that point I caught sight of myself in the mirror and an awful realisation struck me!

What I didn’t know on a cold day, back in February 1986, as I started work, was that I would be able to build a career with the YMCA that shows every sign of taking me all the way to retirement in a few years’ time.  I had arrived, armed with my newly gained degree, to complete a one year placement with the Community Programme, which was a job creation scheme run in the mid 1980s. Events and a fair degree of luck mean that 32 years on I feel safe in saying that I have created a job for myself!

I have been so lucky to meet people from YMCAs all over the world with fascinating and sometimes harrowing tales to tell. I have learnt from YMCA friends in Canada which is one of the older YMCAs in the world and from Kosovo which is the youngest. I have been privileged to mentor young people and to contribute to learning in other YMCAs.

 I have been honoured to be asked to provide leadership to national and international projects. More than everything 

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else I have the absolute joy of looking around our now much larger organisation than it was in 1986 and seeing something like 400 dedicated staff making a huge difference to 40,000 young lives every year. In short, I have over more than 30 years become completely besotted.

So if I knew in 1986 what I know now what difference would it have made?  Three things really:

1.     We should never have bought that second-hand Mercedes minibus in 1994

2.     I should never have allowed those children to persuade me to retrieve the supposedly injured squirrel from that hollow tree trunk without any gloves

3.     I wish I had managed to keep in touch with all the staff from all over the world who have worked at the YMCA over the past 32 years – one day I shall seek them out and that’ll be a great party!

I am inspired being around children and young people almost every day, many of them living chaotic lives in very challenging circumstances, yet with a little support achieving a great deal. I don’t know what the next 30years will hold but our immediate plans are for an expansion of YMCA work across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in order to meet the needs of more children, young people and their families in more communities.  For me, I plan to avoid becoming a dinosaur by being a lifelong learner and if that fails Jurassic Park may have a role for me!


Chris will be joining us every month with a new blog, sharing things that he has learned along his journey; digging into or reflecting on things that he is deeply passionate about, and sharing the YMCA visions.

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