New Year Reflections from our CEO Chris Hand
The Long Hot Summer of 2018
Everyone old enough, and I was 13, remembers 1976 as the “Long Hot Summer” and if you are from Southampton, for the moment when Bobby Stokes popped the ball into the corner of the net past Manchester United’s Alex Stepney to secure the FA Cup. Of course, if you are from Portsmouth you remember that Bobby Stokes was from Paulsgrove, so there’s something in that for everyone! But for me it was also the year that we went to Falmouth on Holiday and the year that I fell in love with the girl staying in the house next to our holiday let – I never spoke to her, didn’t know her name or where she was from, but I was in love!
I reflect on this because 2018 was another long hot summer and in 40 years or so, today’s teenagers will have memories of lost loves and sporting triumphs, but what else? For me this was the year that it become okay to talk about mental health, but sadly not a year when there were enough resources to deal properly with the impact on individuals. It was a year where loneliness and homelessness were on the increase and the year when some woke up to what we are doing to our planet, and of course it was a year when we seemed to speak endlessly about and be divided by Brexit.
2018 was also a year when the communities in Andover, Portsea, Weston and Woolston joined the YMCA and pioneered new ways of working in Community Branches. It was fantastic to see over 700 people come together in Weston, on a beautiful July day, for a party in the park, and a week later outside the YMCA in Andover. Throughout the year there have been countless stories that confirm our thinking; that if everyone is to have an opportunity to lead a healthy and happy life, it will require communities to come together.
I am excited that during 2019 there will be a new YMCA in New Milton and another will start to be built in Eastleigh. I am excited that in August, 200 young people from all around the world will gather at Fairthorne Manor as part of the YMCA’s 175th Birthday celebration. But more than this I am excited that we have found a way for communities to work together that is sustainable, that allows people to thrive, and that we have realised that this is what it’s all about: it’s not about us at all!