Saturday, April 20, 2024

Making the ‘Y’ relevant again

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SEASONED ENGINEER and business executive Antonio Elcock is on a mission. And he is confident that this one will not be impossible.

As the new president of the 135-year-old Barbados Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the managing director of Everson R. Elcock & Co. Ltd. is leading efforts to ensure its revitalisation.

The YMCA here was established in 1880 and is the oldest such association in the Latin America and Caribbean alliance of which it is a member. Once bustling with various activities, some people consider it to be a dying organisation, but for Elcock, whose association with it goes back to his primary school days, this is far from the truth.

He is certain that something positive will happen to ensure the standard bearer for community events and the launch pad for several sporting careers does not fade into oblivion or become another memory in the passage of time.

He, the board members, and the executive staff know they have to work hard to achieve their target of becoming relevant to today’s youth while making it worthwhile for those who want to volunteer.

Last week, while standing on the hardcourt looking towards the playing field, the majestic and modern Supreme Court Building to the left painted a stark contrast to the property that sits on three acres of land at Pinfold Street, The City.

And after a short tour of the aged building that is in a serious state of disrepair, the president spoke to BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY about their plans and shared a bit about how he got involved in what he considered to be a “worthwhile” cause.

Before being elected to head the YMCA in September, he served on its board of directors for five years during which he was able to graps the work necessary to give it new life.

“Only in the last couple of months I realised there was much more of a push required to get us where we needed to go because even at board level we were becoming stagnated in our thinking and what we were doing,” he said.

Hard work is nothing new to Elcock, who has been managing his family’s business since 2002. The former president of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers does not shy away from it either. So, he, past president John Odle and second vice president Emerald Holder form a sub-committee – the rehabilitation committee – which looks mostly at facility and plant.

Then, he, secretary of the board, Veona Maloney, and general secretary David Norgrove are on the committee which deals with strategic planning.

“That’s almost finished, and coming out of that strategic plan we expect to shake out the volunteer programme and other programmes as well as the job descriptions, etc. for the support staff that are required for the YMCA, in order for us to move it forward,” he shared.

They want to get that programme started around the end of February or the beginning of March 2016. Membership stands at 150 and they pay a monthly fee of $6.

Before any consideration can be given to increasing that sum to the 500 people they would like to have, the physical structure and plan have to be improved, and the programmes have to become relevant.

Elcock says they want the five to 16-year-olds to get involved in their education and other programmes and they also want those 18 to 30-year-olds, the young adults, who “have time to come and mentor”, and volunteer to execute those programmes.

What they are also working towards is getting the vocational courses they offered, such as cake icing, plumbing, and upholstery certified by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council. Numbers have fallen over the years.

He is uncertain when the demise started but he is not dwelling on that. He is moving forward.

“The Y lost its relevance and its reach. I don’t think it was able to reach the youngsters in the way in which they needed [it] to.

“One of the ways in which you do that is sport but one of the other ways is to work with whatever is relevant to the youth at that point in time, what that may have been then I’m not sure.

“Right now . . . it is mostly technology and that’s one of the areas we’ll have to look at with a quickness,” he said.

“We have a Facebook page. We have a website under construction with Latin America and the Caribbean YMCA . . . and they have offered us space on their website as well as to get the website built hosted by them.

“We were fortunate enough to have a new service provided for our Internet services through Digicel and they have graciously given us a few months of free service . . . . It allows us to put some free wi-fi around the Y desipte the condition of the buildings.

“We’ll invite the children as well as the users of the playing field to use it,” he said.

Elcock disclosed that while they were looking to construct another floor on the existing building which houses the nursery, they were courting benefactors.

“We have benefactors we are in negotiations with at present and it looks as if they will come through. The board has committed, two meetings ago, up to a maximum figure of the Y’s money that can be spent to getting this part of the building done and then we will go to corporate Barbados and get the balance,” said the president. (Green Bananas Media)

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