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University & College YMCA 20th Anniversary Presents Inspire2gether: International Youth Conference 2023


University & College YMCA 20th Anniversary Presents
Inspire2gether: International Youth Conference 2023
Assemble over a hundred of youths to explore community wellbeing in post pandemic era


To cultivate servant leaders with strong adaptability, creative insights and passion for serving the community, Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong has established University & College YMCAs in eight tertiary institutions since 2003. To celebrate the 20th anniversary milestone, the University & College YMCA Department held the “University & College YMCA International Youth Conference 2023 – Inspire2gether: Community Wellbeing in Post-pandemic Era” from July 21 to 24, 2023. Local and foreign experts were invited to give thematic talks to inspire over a hundred youth worldwide to explore post-pandemic societal needs and create solutions for social good.


The conference ended with a closing ceremony on July 24 at The Cityview. The guests of honour were Mr. Alex Fan, MH, the non-official member of the Youth Development Commission, along with Mr. Răzvan-Victor Sassu, the Head of Policy & Strategy of the World Alliance of YMCAs. They officiated the ceremony together with Dr. Arnold Cheng, the President of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Soo, JP, the Director of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, Dr. Eddie Ho, the Chairman of University & College YMCA Committee, and Mr. Karl Lau, the General Secretary of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong.


Closing ceremony of “Inspire2gether: International Youth Conference 2023”


After four consecutive days of inspiration, groups of youth representatives presented their observations and solutions regarding the challenges faced by youth, the homeless, low-income family and the elderly at the closing ceremony. They summarised their learnings acquired from diverse conference programmes, including thematic talks, community explorations, design thinking workshops and a cultural carnival etc.


Dr. Arnold Cheng, the President of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, stated during the closing ceremony, "The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been profound which makes it crucial to seek responsive strategies and build resilience for the future. Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong is delighted to host a physical international youth conference in Hong Kong this summer. Through this conference, we have discovered new directions, shared experiences, and formed lifelong connections. Each youth representative has demonstrated their unique power in bringing positive impacts to society."


International & local scholars share the post-pandemic social needs at thematic talks


The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated various social challenges and severely affected the general public's physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. A study by the World Health Organization last year found that there was a 25% increase in the incidence of anxiety and depression worldwide due to the pandemic1. Lack of outdoor activities, disrupted sleeping patterns and quality and social distancing policy have all impacted the mental health of young people, leading to social anxiety and a lack of initiative to seek help from family, friends or professionals. The University & College YMCA Department took note of these warning signs and deliberately chose "Inspire2gether: Community Wellbeing in Post Pandemic Era" as their conference theme. Over a hundred of youth representatives from Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong gathered to discuss innovative and practical solutions to address societal needs.


The World Alliance of YMCAs (World YMCA), which has always been concerning about the holistic wellbeing of humanity, announced the "Vision 2030" at the YMCA World Council last year. It outlines four future service development pillars: Community Wellbeing, Meaningful Work, Sustainable Planet and Just World.Cherishing the opportunity of bringing global youth representatives together, the conference was honoured to invite Mr. Răzvan-Victor Sassu, the Head of Policy & Strategy of World Alliance of YMCAs, to Hong Kong. He delivered a thematic talk to all delegates, introducing and explaining the impact of the pandemic on community wellbeing, as well as how World YMCA is addressing these challenges and needs and the roles and responsibilities of youth in this context.


Mr. Sassu introduces how World YMCA addresses the new social needs created under pandemic


In addition to the global perspective on post-pandemic needs, the conference also focused on the local community's physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Last year, Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong conducted a survey on the psychological health of Hong Kong teenagers during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and found that over 30% of the students surveyed experienced severe or moderate emotional distress.3 In echo with this, the conference invited Professor Paul Yip, MH, the Director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention from the University of Hong Kong, to deliver a thematic talk on "Post-Pandemic Era: Mental Health Challenges of Young People and Possible Responses” to the delegates. Moreover, Professor Joyce Ma, JP, Emeritus Professor from the Department of Social Work of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was invited to give a thematic talk on "COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Family Life and Exacerbated Emotional Health". Their sharing examines the effects of the pandemic on Hong Kong teenagers' mental health and family life from different perspectives.


Designing creative solutions after community exploration on post-pandemic challenges


To better understand the community needs and design pain-point solutions, community exploration activities were conducted. Delegates were divided into four groups to explore the challenges of youth’s mental health, the homeless, low-income family, and elderly in the post-pandemic period. The number of registered homeless individuals showed an upward trend during the pandemic.4 Under the "Social Distancing" measures, many homeless individuals not only lacked places to stay but also faced challenges in terms of accessing to epidemic prevention supplies, which greatly affected their physical and mental health. On the other hand, there are signs of deteriorating mental health among teenagers in recent years. In response, various forms of psychological counselling and therapy have emerged to address these issues and provide support. Apart from youths, the elderly also faced many emotional challenges during the pandemic. Elderly individuals with weaker immune systems worried about getting infected. They experienced a reduction in social activities due to social distancing measures, which can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety. Subdivided unit residents were also affected. Their income was reduced, and they needed to bear an additional burden if they were unfortunately infected.5 During the school suspension period, students living in subdivided units face a lack of space and resources for online learning, affecting their physical and mental wellbeing.


Youth Representatives visit the subdivided housing residents in Tsuen Wan


To get to understand the social challenges mentioned above, delegates were provided with opportunities to visit different communities and engage in dialogues with local organisations and some of their service recipients to understand their immediate needs. They visited gathering points of homeless individuals in Sham Shui Po and Yau Ma Tei, talking with them and observing their living environments. They also visited various service units of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, such as the Counselling Unit to experience music therapy; Po Shek Wu Neighbourhood Elderly Centre to participate in an alcohol-ink art workshop; and Tsuen Wan Centre to visit the subdivided unit residents in Tsuen Wan districts.


Furthermore, based on the observations from the community exploration activities, delegates attended two design thinking workshops and learned how to apply a “Human-Centric” approach to analyse social issues, considering the perspective of the service recipients, identifying pain-points, and using creative thinking to design solutions and service models.


Organising international cultural carnival for children and families


Apart from focusing on social issues, University & College YMCA Department also aimed to foster cultural integration and promote global unity by gathering youth participants from different countries to serve the local community. The Conference featured a cultural carnival at Wu Kwai Sha Youth Village on a Sunday afternoon, where overseas and local youth representatives actively participated in setting up cultural booths showcasing their unique cultures. Delegates showcased their culture by wearing traditional attire and introducing food and games through game booths. The carnival attracted around 200 children and parents, allowing delegates to connect with the local community and share their diverse cultures.


Around 200 children and parents join the cultural carnival


Youth representatives set up their own booths to promote their local culture


1COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide (WHO) - 
2Vision 2030 (World YMCA) -
3「復課前後──『香港青少年的心理健康與網絡使用習慣』」調查 (Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong) -「復課前後──『香港青少年的心理健康與網絡使用習慣』」調查
4LCQ9: Measures to assist homeless people (HKSAR Government) -
5疫情下劏房家庭面對「長新冠」的身心處境及應對方法 調查報告(明愛基層組織發展計劃)-




Closing Ceremony & Programme Highlights
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About Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong

Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, established in 1901, is a Christian Service organisation based in Hong Kong as part of the global YMCA movement. The Association is committed to building a civil and compassionate Hong Kong through uniting people with the same spirit to extend the Kingdom of God; fostering youth leadership to shoulder social responsibility with keen concern for the motherland and the world; promoting multiple service programmes based on holistic personal growth, commitment to the underprivileged and reconciliation extending from self to society; and actively integrating ESG principles into social services, leading the industry to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To learn more, please visit



About University & College YMCA Department

Since 2003, the University & College YMCA Department of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong aims to nurture tertiary students into future leaders with strong adaptability, creative insights and passion to serve the community. With the slogan “U-Adventures Begin Here”, we are committed to making the university life fruitful and unforgettable by offering a wide array of distinguished local and overseas programmes, ranging from joint-u activities, service/cultural tours to internships and a lot more. The 1st University YMCA® was established in Hong Kong Baptist University in 2003. After years of development, there are 8 University YMCA® and 1 College YMCA® in Hong Kong with over 7,000 members, accumulating over 700,000 service headcounts. For details, please visit:



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