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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sierra Leone YMCA Parnership

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The Sierra Leone YMCA, the University YMCA, YMCA World Service, and the Illinois Alliance of YMCAs are currently in the process of establishing a partnership that focuses on the development of a mutually-beneficial international service-learning exchange program that aligns with the Y's mission of fostering cause-driven leadership. The exploration of this partnership stems from the University YMCA's partnership with the University of Illinois Global Health Initiative in Sierra Leone, initiated with the aim of developing more cause-driven leadership opportunities to youth throughout Sierra Leone and in Illinois.

Today, with a growing number of youth pursuing international service learning experiences as part of their education, the Sierra Leone YMCA partnership aims to give students the tools to develop into culturally competent leaders in global service. This international partnership program seeks to:

  • Foster the growth of the next generation of cause-driven leaders through learning opportunities both in Sierra Leone and in Illinois.
  • Demonstrate the impact of a partnership-based strategy in addressing grand challenges in sustainable community development and to communicate best practices to peer institutions using a social justice lens.

To read about the latest developments in the partnership, visit the YBlog:


In an increasingly globalized society with rapidly changing demographics impacting communities of all sizes, YMCAs across the United States are discovering the need for - and significant advantages of - changing what it means to engage in global work. Since 1918, the University YMCA has hosted programs to foster international understanding and cultural awareness and provide service to international students, faculty, and staff.

Serving 23 communities across the country, the YMCA of Sierra Leone’s programs promote youth and young adult development in the areas of civic education, community health, human rights, prison justice, mental health, job training, and agricultural development. The heart of the Y's youth education efforts lies in developing cause-driven leadership, serving and advocating for low-income communities throughout Sierra Leone. To learn more about the work of the YMCA of Sierra Leone, visit:


In the summer of 2014, the University YMCA and the Sierra Leone YMCA sent delegations to each other's communities to learn more about each other's initiatives and how our work aligns. However, during that summer the Ebola virus surged into a full blown crisis in Sierra Leone and in West Africa, at large.

In response to the growing Ebola crisis, the University YMCA launched the Sierra Leone YMCA Relief From Ebola Campaign, aimed at raising $10,000 to support humanitarian relief efforts undertaken by the Sierra Leone YMCA and an additional $10,000 to fund the development of an education and prevention tool to help stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

"Thanks to YMCA World Service and partners like the University YMCA (Illinois), we reached out to thousands of people with Ebola prevention messages."
-Francess of the Sierra Leone YMCA

Today, the Ebola animations are in the hands of teams at Njala University and the Sierra Leone YMCA or distribution within their country. Currently to date, the University YMCA has raised about $5,000 out of the total $20,000 that was forwarded directly to the Relief from Ebola efforts in Sierra Leone in September 2014. The University YMCA wouldn't have been able to raise those funds without the help of the Y's generous donors and the support of the Illinois Alliance of YMCAs.

With the Ebola virus outbreak now ended in West Africa, the University YMCA, the Illinois Alliance of YMCAs, and the Sierra Leone YMCA are re-exploring the international service-learning partnership with many more community leaders from across the state of Illinois and in Sierra Leone looking to get involved.

Questions? Contact Mike Doyle at or at 217-337-1500.