The YMCA in the Netherlands was founded on October 23, 1853 making it the oldest youth organization in the Netherlands.

The origin

The first YMCA in the world was established in London in 1844. After the invention of the steam engine, and the growth of steam driven industry throughout Europe, people migrated to the cities in search of work. Briton George Williams, moved to the big city to learn a trade and earn money.
After working hours the boredom struck and with a few other young people they decided to meet regularly. Their conversations included books about what faith meant to them. They were enthusiastic and socially moved, but not religious. They were hardly willing to organize, but welcomed everyone who wanted to mean something to others.


The construction of railways led to many international contacts and the ideas of the YMCA spread rapidly across Europe. In 1855, several Dutch people stood at the cradle of the international YMCA, when it was founded in Paris.
Henri Dunant, the later founder of the Red Cross, was with one of these Dutch founders a year earlier and closely involved in the planning for a worldwide YMCA.

Local clubs and holidays

In the beginning the YMCA consisted only of local associations. Later there were regional links. In 1911 the first summer camp was held in the Netherlands.

World War II

During the occupation the board looked for opportunities to protect youth work. It advised local associations to go into ecclesiastical relationships without breaking the link with the YMCA. In 1941 the Sicherheitspolizei forbade the appearance of association magazine De Jongeman, the forerunner of Inclusief. Activities such as theatre, music, singing and libraries had to be registered at the Kultuurkamer. Because they did not want that, they disappeared.

Young Men?

Until 1958 the YMCA in the Netherlands was exclusively for boys. They sometimes organized activities with girls’ associations, but it was not until 1958 that a merger followed, after which the activities were aimed at both boys and girls. However, the girls’ association did not completely disappear, it is now called YWCA and is also active in the Netherlands.

YMCA innovations

The organization is always looking for new and innovative ways to reach all young people, new methods are tried or even invented. One example is volleyball. William Morgan was a sports director at the YMCA in Massachusetts. He wanted to learn rivalling groups of young people to work together. Each group would have to play on its own half field, which would prevent fighting. Passing the ball over in your own team would make you better able to score. Basketball has also been invented by the YMCA.