Metropolitan Young Men's Christian Association (MYMCA)



The Metropolitan Young Men’s Christian Association (MYMCA) is located at 60 Stevens Road. Founded on the same Christian principles as its parent, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Britain, the MYMCA was established in 1946 by Chen Su Lan (Dr) to cater to the Chinese population. Originally known as the Chinese YMCA, it was renamed MYMCA in 1974. Today, it caters to members of all religions and ethnicities through self-help and community outreach programmes.1

Background of YMCA movement
The YMCA was started by George Williams in London in 1844. Poor working conditions were the norm then and there was little opportunity for social and spiritual development.2 The pioneer members met regularly to socialise and study the Bible. The group was then known as a self-help and spiritual group for young industrial workers, but later called itself the YMCA. The concept soon gained a following as other industrial companies and factories started their own groups. Over time, the YMCA grew into a worldwide movement.3

Establishment

The first YMCA in Singapore was founded on 30 June 1903.4 However, its focus was on serving the needs of the British rather than reaching out to the local Chinese majority. In 1924, Chen, who was a philanthropist and social reformer, sponsored an initiative to start a Chinese YMCA to cater specifically to the needs of the local Chinese. However, the existing YMCA in Singapore and the British government’s Secretary of Chinese Affairs strongly opposed a second YMCA. It was ruled that any attempts to extend the reach of the YMCA to the Chinese population should be done in cooperation with the existing YMCA in Singapore.5

The end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945 provided Chen with an opportunity to establish the Chinese YMCA in Singapore, and he managed to secure a property at 107 Selegie Road that had previously housed the Japanese Club.6 Completed in 1948, the Chinese YMCA building at Selegie Road was declared open by wife of then Governor Franklin Gimson (Sir), with its inaugural meeting held on the same day.7 Gimson was present at the opening, even though he had declined to officiate the event. Also present were dignitaries such as Colonial Secretary Patrick McKerron and Edwin Lee, bishop of the Methodist Church.8

Early years
Shortly after the Chinese YMCA’s formation, Tracy Strong (Dr), secretary general of the World Alliance of YMCAs in Geneva, met with Chen while on a tour of Asia. Out of courtesy, Strong invited Chen to observe the World Alliance Conference in Edinburgh as a bystander. Chen misunderstood Strong’s courtesy as a formal invitation to participate in the conference. After returning to Singapore, he declared over the radio that he had been chosen to lead the YMCA movement in Singapore. Strong denied Chen’s claim, and the first YMCA in Singapore insisted that Chen’s organisation come under its purview or assume another name.9 Gimson then intervened to convince the two institutions to discuss potential ideas for cooperation. A joint committee of the two YMCAs was formed as a result. Chaired by Gimson, its first meeting was held on 25 May 1948.10 A second meeting was held in August 1948; but with little progress on proposed areas of cooperation, the joint committee was discontinued in 1949 after two more meetings. The two YMCAs remained as separate entities, but gradually achieved amicable relations with the passage of time.11

From 1954 to 1957, the Chinese YMCA faced financial difficulties as it attempted to expand in the face of poor economic conditions.12 Specifically, it planned to construct a new building on a land parcel at Palmer Road, off Anson Road and Prince Edward Road.13 However, in the midst of raising funds for the building project, the organisation’s president, Homer Cheng, died suddenly of heart attack in 1954. Chen then stepped in to prevent the association from bankruptcy by securing an emergency loan.14 The new clubhouse was eventually completed in 1957, and was opened on 25 November in the same year by then Governor Robert Black (Sir).15

In 1966, a fire broke out at 107 Selegie Road and destroyed the Chinese YMCA building. The government subsequently acquired the property and gave the association a compensation of $543,000.16 It was not until 1970 when the Chinese YMCA purchased another property to build a new headquarters, which was at 60 Stevens Road.17 To finance the building project, then president of the Chinese YMCA, Gwee Ah Leng, sought the help of the association’s patron, Runme Shaw (Tan Sri) (Dr), as well as the Lee Foundation, and received contribution of S$500,000 from each party.18

Key developments

Under Gwee’s leadership, the Chinese YMCA renamed itself MYMCA in 1974.19 The change was to reflect the association’s commitment to serving Singapore’s multi-racial population and the larger international community. Gwee was instrumental in leading the association into a more cosmopolitan phase, collaborating with more social agencies and positioning itself to better serve the needs of the multicultural Singapore population.20 Even prior to the name change, the association was actively involved in reaching out to the lower income segments of the population. In 1973, the organisation reduced its fees by 50 percent for both adult and youth in an effort to make itself more accessible.21

In 1976, the YMCA Amalgamation Coordinating Committee was formed to provide a platform for the YMCA and MYMCA to discuss the possibility of a merger. Gwee was appointed chairman of the committee.22 By then, Gwee was also president of the National Council of YMCAs of Singapore. In 1978, a new National Council of YMCAs was formed under a revised constitution to facilitate the physical merger of the two YMCAs, but disagreements left the issue unresolved.23

In 1978, Gwee officiated the groundbreaking ceremony of the new MYMCA headquarters at 60 Stevens Road (also known as Tanglin Centre).24 In 1980, the association’s headquarters was moved from Palmer Road to Stevens Road, and Tanglin Centre was officially opened by Shaw in 1981. While the lease for the Palmer Road premises had expired in October 1980, the MYMCA was allowed to continue occupying the property on a temporary occupation license (TOL) to be renewed each year. In 1997, the association officially ceased its operations at Palmer Road as a result of an increase in the TOL from S$10,000 to S$81,000.25

In 1979, the MYMCA rented the former Nanyang Tun Cheow School at 43 Lorong 17 Geylang. The building, which came to be known as Sims Centre, served as the base for the association’s community outreach programmes for children, youth and elderly of lower income families.26 In the same year, the MYMCA initiated a mobile recreation centre project to bring recreational activities, as well as art and craft programmes, to children in the Geylang area. The project received seed funding of some S$1,000 from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.27

To expand its facilities, the MYMCA purchased a property next to the Tanglin Centre in 1984. Then in 1991, a decision was made to purchase 22,000 sq ft of land at 58 Stevens Road.28 When completed, the expanded facilities included an auditorium, swimming pool, an additional carpark, increased childcare facilities, as well as hotel standard bedroom suites for rental.29

With the growing demand for childcare, the MYMCA also began to open more childcare centres in residential areas from 1985.30

In 2006, the MYMCA had a total of 205 full members (all baptised Christians), 133 ordinary members (non-Christians) and some 2,600 associate members (programme participants who subsequently signed up as members). Its community outreach projects covered childcare centres, elderly programmes, weekly Christian fellowship gatherings, as well as various educational enrichment courses and physical education programmes.31 While the association organises programmes and activities all over Singapore for participants of all ethnicities, its business arm MY World Preschool Ltd provides infant and childcare services across some 30 centres on the island.32



Author

Cherylyn Tok



References
1.
Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. (2010). Values & Heritage. Retrieved January 4, 2017, from http://www.mymca.org.sg/about/heritage
2.
Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. (2010). Values & Heritage. Retrieved January 4, 2017, from http://www.mymca.org.sg/about/heritage; Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, pp. 14–19. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO)
3.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 12–19. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, pp.19–28. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO)
4.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 FLO); Lyne, R., et al. (1992). The YMCA of Singapore: 90 years of service to the community. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 YMC)
5.
Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO); Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 43–44. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH)
6.
Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO); Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 58, 61. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Untitled (1948, February 12). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Chinese YMCA officially opened. (1948, February 7). Malaya Tribune, p. 6; Inaugural meeting of Chinese YMCA. (1948, February 4). Malaya Tribune, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO)
8.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Chinese YMCA officially opened. (1948, February 7). Malaya Tribune, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO)
10.
Y.M.C.A’s set up joint committee. (1948, May 27). Malaya Tribune, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 44, 58–59. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, pp. 47–52. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO)
12. Chinese YMCA building plan. (1949, October 1). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5; Chinese YMCA is nearly ready. (1955, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 11; Chinese Y.M.C.A. bldg. fund appeal. (1954, July 3). Indian Daily Mail, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 57–64. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO)
13.
Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50th anniversary, 1946–1996. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 57–64. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); 3-storey building for Chinese Y’s. (1950, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 7; Diemer, C. (1955, February 9). New S’pore landmark. Singapore Standard, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Flower, R. (2002). The Y: First 100 years in Singapore, 1902–2002. Singapore: Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore, pp. 47–52. (Call no.: RSING q267.395957 FLO); Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 57–64. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH); Hitch delays million dollar club house. (1954, May 31). The Singapore Free Press, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
Chinese YMCA opening. (1957, October 11). The Straits Times, p. 5; Singapore ‘needs 12 Y.M.C.A.s’. (1957, December 23). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH)
17.
Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50th anniversary, 1946–1996. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET)
18.
Ground-breaking for Met YMCA’s new $4m building. (1978, August 13). The Straits Times, p. 6; YMCA to get new headquarters. (1978, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19.
New name for Chinese YMCA. (1974, April 7). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 64–74. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH)
21. CYMCA halves members fees. (1973, April 29). The Straits Times, p. 7; Survey on poverty by team from CYMCA. (1973, February 12). New Nation, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22.
Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET)
23.
Council to tackle YMCA merger. (1978, June 12). The Straits Times, p. 9; Hitch in plans to merge the two YMCAs. (1976, June 11). The Straits Times, p. 10; YMCA merger ‘still in tangles’. (1979, August 4). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24.
Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Ground-breaking for Met YMCA’s new $4m building. (1978, August 13). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25.
Lee, P. (1997, October 6). YMCA at Palmer Road to close following fee hike. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET)
26.
Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50th anniversary, 1946–1996. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET); Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH)
27.
Ang, Y. (1979, February 17). MYMCA’s mobile recreation. New Nation, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28.
Tan, P. (Ed.). (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50 years in the people business (1946–1996). Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 6–7. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET)
29.
Ng, M. M. (1985, March 6). Suite-living up at the Metropolitan Y. Singapore Monitor, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 109–113. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH)
30.
Bigger premises for the child-care centre. (1985, March 6). Singapore Monitor, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Metropolitan YMCA Singapore (1996). Metropolitan YMCA Singapore: 50th anniversary, 1946–1996. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 MET)
31.
Goh, R. B. H. (2006). Christian ministry and the Asian nation: The Metropolitan YMCA in Singapore, 1946–2006. Singapore: Metropolitan YMCA, pp. 109–121. (Call no.: RSING 267.395957 GOH)
32.
Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. (2010). Retrieved January 4, 2017, from http://www.mymca.org.sg/about/heritage



Further resource
Young Women’s Christian Association. (1995). Young Women’s Christian Association: 1875–1995. Singapore: Young Women’s Ch
ristian Association.
(Call no.: RSING 267.59597 YOU)



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Christianity
Young Men's Christian associations--Singapore
Social work with youth--Singapore
Organisations>>Associations
Christian communities--Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Organisations