International Programs | Denver YMCA

International Programs

YMCA of Metropolitan Denver: A Global Center of Excellence!

The YMCA is a diverse organization of people joined together by a shared commitment to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive through the YMCA. The Denver Y has been recognized by Y-USA as a Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation YMCA. Among the nearly 900 YMCAs nationwide, approximately 64 have this designation. As a DIG Innovation Y, the Denver YMCA supports developing and pursuing diversity and inclusion practices and global strategies that help us connect and strengthen our communities.

Part of this commitment involves the Y's Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Strategies (DIG) Committee, which brings together 28 members from every Denver YMCA branch, including YMCA Board Members, staff, trustees, and community leaders who intentionally and continuously strive to promote an inclusive organizational culture that values all dimensions of diversity, strengthens inclusion, and builds global community in the U.S. and abroad. 

DIG Mission Statement

By prioritizing diversity, inclusion, and global strategies, the DIG Committee works to ensure that everyone has equitable access to the Y. We also strive to make sure everybody feels welcome and is fully engaged as participants, members, staff, and volunteers. The Y is a force for building bridges among all people to advance our cause of strengthening community.

The four cornerstones of our work are:  

  • Work with Underserved Communities to respond to changing demographics and newcomer integration
  • Global Leadership Development to help people develop skills to connect with others at home and abroad
  • YMCA Strengthening at Home and Abroad so we are better positioned to respond to key issues in our communities
  • Bridge Building and Philanthropy to bring all people together to promote understanding, collaboration, and a collective spirit of giving.

Examples of work of DIG Committee and YMCA branches

  • Interns from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver partnered with the Denver YMCA to research YMCA demographics and diverse neighborhoods and how the YMCA can best serve them. The study identified areas in which the DIG Committee can support the needs of the branches and connect with changing populations and newcomers. 

  • Friends Abroad. Through this unique international exchange program, YMCA members, program participants, volunteers, and staff who travel abroad can visit and connect with other YMCA “Friends Abroad.” Each program participant receives a YMCA International Pin and Information Card, and is welcomed to exchange ideas and discover common goals with YMCA members all over the globe. 

  • Autism Respite Programis offered at the Schlessman YMCA and provides recreation opportunities for participants diagnosed with autism and support for their families.  

  • Sioux YMCA The Denver YMCA has been a longtime friend of the Sioux YMCA in South Dakota since the early 1970s. We have advanced our understanding about the Sioux YMCA through program exchanges, and we have helped support the Sioux Y for many years through financial and in-kind donations. A major challenge for the Sioux Y is to find and keep program director-level YMCA staff throughout the year. Approximately 20 YMCA associations are forming a cohort to support an 18-month program director position for the Sioux Y. A YMCA-trained program director will be selected from applications from the involved YMCA associations.

  • The DIG Committee has developed a relationship and cultural exchange program with the YMCA of Montevideo, Uruguay, in South America and Jesús Ithurralde, the Y’s Director General.

  • The DIG Committee builds bridges with refugee communities in the Denver Metro Area and is pleased to partner with Aurora Public Schools and the Aurora Welcome Center to welcome Aurora's refugee families to the district in orientation events.

  • The Denver YMCA has a long-standing relationship with the YMCA in Nicaragua and has a Y-to-Y partnership that was established in April 2013. We hope to build on our history of service learning, funding support, and relationship building with our Nicaraguan partner to expand to a model that is truly driven by the needs of communities and the Nicaraguan YMCA.

  • Y-USA has organized 20 Global Centers of ExcellenceYMCAs to bring more cultural sensitivity to the way we cultivate and welcome new members at the Y. A three-year project aims to evaluate our current membership model through the lens of Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Initiatives and execute a relaunch on our process movement-wide. Joe Kovalcheck, Executive Director of the Southwest Family YMCA, serves as our representative and leads the cohort’s Teen Committee.

  • The Denver YMCA utilizes Y-USA staff training opportunities that include Dimensions of Diversity and Cultural Lenses courses, that promote understanding, and that support Diversity, Inclusion and Global Engagement.

Funding for DIG Committee Projects comes from allocations from YMCA branch annual campaigns, individual donations, and “Who Knew” events. For more information on donating to the DIG Committee, or to learn more, please contact:

Additional Information

Sept 2017 DIG Newsletter

Includes visit to the Sioux Y, Poland & Uruguay

March 2017 DIG Newsletter

Includes Opportunities for All at the YMCA

August 2016 DIG Newsletter

Includes Visit to the Nicaraguan YMCA