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Breaking Barriers: An American-Peruvian Alliance of YMCAs

YMCA of Peru delegates Take Photo with Summit Area YMCA Staff Credits: Summit Area YMCA
YMCA of Peru delegates present handmade quilt to Summit Area YMCA Credits: Summit Area YMCA
Berkeley Heights Childcare children singing for staff from YMCA of Peru Credits: Summit Area YMCA
Berkeley Heights YMCA Staff Holding Handmade Quilt Gift for YMCA of Peru Credits: Summit Area YMCA
Berkeley Heights YMCA Childcare Children and Staff with Quilt Gift for YMCA of Peru Credits: Summit Area YMCA

The Summit Area YMCA is far more than just what it has within its four walls and three branches. With an expanding world, Y staff are constantly looking for innovative ways to cultivate global citizenship and reach out to those communities beyond its four walls – communities within the Summit/Berkeley Heights townships, within Union county and New Jersey, and well beyond national borders.  The Summit Area YMCA strongly believes that getting to know other communities will broaden its vision and help staff to better understand, appreciate and respect their own diverse population within.

From June 2 through 8, members of the Summit Area Y team will travel more than 3,000 miles to meet and confer with Peruvian colleagues at the YMCA in Peru. They have been invited to speak about Membership Engagement and special programs like Kid Zone and its Afterschool Program.  Moreover, the Summit group will have the opportunity to meet Peru CEOs and Board of Directors, visit Y camps throughout Peru, as well as attend wellness classes. 

Pam Halpin, Senior Director of Strategic Innovation, Membership and Wellness at the Summit YMCA comments on the upcoming trip, “We want to experience first-hand what it’s like to be in a country where you may not be fluent in the language and unfamiliar with the culture. We want to know what it feels like to enter a fitness class for the first time and not know the protocol. From this trip, we’re hoping to takeaway a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the Peruvian community and people and ultimately use that knowledge to enhance our programs back at home in Summit.” 

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A relationship between the Ys began in 2017 when it was discovered that the two organizations, thousands of miles apart, were quite similar despite geographic and cultural differences. Like Summit, the Peru YMCA has a large fitness center, a wide variety of group exercise classes, after school enrichment and summer camp.  The Peru Y also has a well-developed teen program which Summit can learn and benefit from. In fact, Summit Teen Director Chris Miree has been involved in conversations with the Peru Teen Staff to understand more about their teen programs to best interpret them and improve his teen program back at home.

The Summit YMCA’s South American population is one of the fastest growing so it follows that the Summit YMCA would benefit from reaching out to Ys in this area of the world.  Last April, the Peru Executive Staff traveled here to see how Summit ran its Y facility. They were specifically interested in the Healthy Living program which happens to be one of the three pillars (or areas of focus) among the USA Ys. They also wanted to know about the Summit Kids Zone program and met with Kid Zone staff to gain greater insight on how Summit runs its babysitting program.

Summit Area YMCA President & CEO Paul Kieltyka said, “Summit Area Y is incredibly excited to make our first journey to the YMCA of Peru. We were delighted to host them in 2017, and are eager to not only share our YMCA best practices with them but to learn more about the Peruvian culture and YMCA values. We look to this trip as just the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship between our two strong organizations.”

The Summit Area Y, along with Ys nationwide, is made up of people from all walks of life who are joined together by a shared commitment to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Learning about other cultures and communities near and far has always been central to the Y’s mission.

In 2008, Y-USA developed the Global Centers of Excellence (GCE) network as a core strategy to respond to rapidly changing demographics and build local Y capacity to welcome, connect, advocate for, and serve diverse and underserved communities at home and abroad. In line with the Summit Area YMCA's continual commitment to providing meaningful programs and services for our diverse community, the Summit Area YMCA proudly became the first Global Center of Excellence within the State of New Jersey. Later, the network became the Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation Network or, the DIG Innovation Network.  

Throughout the year, the Summit Area Y held many DIG sponsored events bringing communities together to celebrate culture and diversity.  A few of the highlights include: The Lunar New Year Celebration, the Diwali Celebration, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and most recently, the Holi Color Festival.  To learn more about the Summit Area Y’s programs on diversity or to join the conversation go to:

About the Summit Area YMCA 

The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)3 charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, New Providence, Millburn, Springfield, Short Hills, Summit, Gillette, and Stirling. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need. To strengthen your community and provide others with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, make your tax-deductible donation today at

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