Kingston YMCA treading water - COVID-19 punches $10m hole in NGO’s coffers
The Kingston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has been struggling to ride the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic with millions of dollars in revenue wiped out due to containment measures.
When The Gleaner visited the Hope Road, St Andrew, operation yesterday, the usually busy swimming areas were empty, except for a maintenance worker tending to the facility.
Chairman Allan Marsh explained that the non-governmental organisation (NGO) is primarily funded by the revenue from aquatic programmes and membership dues while additional funding comes from corporate donors.
“We have lost close to $10 million in direct revenue,” he revealed. “Our major expenses such as electricity and water have not gone down significantly. Reason being, we have maintained our aquatic facilities despite not having any revenue from aquatics because we closed our facilities in keeping with the country’s COVID-19 response.”
It cost the YMCA just over $1 million monthly to maintain the facilities and although the pools are not being used, they are serviced four times per week.
“If we did not manage our resources in a very conservative way and in a very transparent way with our stakeholders seeing exactly where every single cent is spent, we would not be able to sustain ourselves right now,” Allen said.
The YMCA is acclaimed for transforming the lives of at least 5,000 young men since 1920. It has been the training ground for lifeguards seeking employment locally and overseas and provides internship opportunities for persons pursuing studies in social work.
One hundred and twenty males are currently enrolled in its youth development programme, which is being kept alive through remote learning.
Kingston YMCA operates on an annual budget of $30 million, which is constantly short of roughly $7 million.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, its annual summer camp for hundreds of children across the island, which is a major income earner, has been cancelled. It has also postponed its 100th anniversary celebrations and axed the 20th Burger King/YMCA Prep and Primary Swimming Championship.
With detailed COVID-19 protocols in place, the management is now working on a phased reopening of the pools.
Masters and competitive swimmers may arrange for use of the pool in the coming weeks, but swimming classes remain suspended because it is contact based.
“With what the YMCA has done over the 100 years, we shouldn’t be struggling like this,” said Administrator and General Secretary Sarah Newland Martin. “Almost every other Jamaican you speak to will tell you that they have been here or they have sent somebody here.”
She is appealing to Jamaicans to help the organisation stay afloat and is optimistic that the YMCA will rebound.
“Nothing is impossible. We are going to fight tooth and nail because of the benefits that people get from this place,” she said.
How you can help
You may make a contribution to the Kingston YMCA’s account to help it cover expenses.
Financial Institution: Scotiabank
Branch: Half-Way Tree
Account Number: 0801568