When a situation is unfamiliar and potentially overwhelming it helps to have inspiring examples around us of accomplishment in the face of adversity.
The people of Swansea don’t have to look far for such examples.
How many times have you walked past Llewellyn Hall, the YMCA building on the corner of Kingsway and Page Street? While the YMCA has a proud history in Swansea stretching back to the mid-19th century the Association members moved into their current home in 1913, having built it brick by brick. Two years before that, a group of young volunteers in search of a suitable meeting place to promote physical and spiritual wellness had set themselves a target of raising £12,000 in just twelve days. Many of us would consider that a daunting task today. In 1911, it was the equivalent of raising over £1.3 million in modern currency. Remarkably, they did it.
Within months of Llewellyn Hall opening in October 1913, Britain had been pulled into global war. The YMCA’s promise to care for those in need was kept in full as the building was opened up to the Red Cross for use as a military hospital. In much the same way that different venues are being converted to emergency medical centres to cope with the coronavirus pandemic this Spring, the YMCA became a vital resource for those most in need. During that war and throughout the century since, when people have really needed support, this organisation has offered it. Today the YMCA is active in 120 countries, supporting over 64 million people. Thousands of vulnerable young people in Wales are offered the lifeline of supported accommodation every year. The community spirit that’s guiding us through this difficult year is hardly a new invention. It’s a fire that was lit long ago and has warmed us without us even realising it. The YMCA is just one of the organisations that’s showing us the value of resilience, cooperation and plain human decency. We’ll need those qualities when we take our first steps back to normality, and in the meantime anyone faced with a day that looks dark or a task that looks insurmountable should spare a thought for the young people of Swansea who raised the equivalent of £1.3 million in twelve days just over a century ago.
We’re less than a third of the way through 2020 and so far it’s been a challenging and cruel year. Can we get through it and emerge stronger?
Yes we can.