Though I had gone to the YMCA for many years as a child for swim team, I quickly found out after arriving here in Seattle that I knew next to nothing about the YMCA. Now that I work with the YMCA, my understanding of the organization has completely changed. The first week I was here, I toured many different YMCA’s of the Greater Seattle YMCA association and observed firsthand how each YMCA tailored its services to its surrounding community. It was fascinating to see, for example, how the Matt Griffin YMCA purposefully responded the needs of its large Somali and female Muslim population. Because religious guidelines for modesty created a barrier for the Somali female population to comfortably use the pool, the Matt Griffin YMCA offers private swim sessions for females only, featuring covered windows and all female staff. For me, the YMCA transformed from a basic “swim and gym” to a community center that encourages its members to form long-lasting connections and at the same time, healthy living.

My supervisors Chip Byrne and Tana Graedel have been so accommodating and gracious, and I’m extremely lucky and thankful to be working with these two amazing individuals this summer. I’ve had a great time meeting all the wonderful staff – who are all so welcoming and curious about our work and how they can help us! We’ve been setting up one-on-one interviews recently with local healthcare providers, and it’s really cool to talk to doctors, physical therapists and community health providers and discuss gaps in the current healthcare system that act as a barrier for people to reach an optimal state of health and wellness even after visiting the doctor’s office or going through rehab.

Our ultimate goal after learning about what healthcare providers need to optimally treat their patients is to set up focus groups with doctors and physicians and show what programs the YMCA offers that can make their jobs easier and some of the things that the YMCA can do to become a preferred healthcare provider for services like chronic disease prevention or physical therapy. I’m excited to talk to all these doctors and take a glimpse of healthcare from their perspective. I also think that the YMCA, being such a flexible organization with plenty resources, can play an important in role in improving the overall health of its local community.

I’m slowly getting used to non-profit work. Sometimes work can be slow and be dependent on others or limited by the bureaucracy that exists within the YMCA, but as Chip says, “You just gotta go with the flow.” I’m definitely learning how to be a little more patient and accept my own place in the organization. And I’m definitely excited when it is time to get down to work; after all, I really appreciate the YMCA’s mission to build community and bring it closer together – through promoting youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility – and I want to do as much as I can to make an impact on the Meredith Mathews and Bellevue YMCA’s this summer.

Here’s to another six awesome and fulfilling weeks in Seattle! Cheers! :D

Daniel Li
Class of 2014

Chris Podracky
07/21/2013 7:28pm

Your realization that you knew so little about the organization you had been involved with for years has been reminiscent of my experience. The amount I've learned about what goes on behind the scenes at nonprofits in just 4 weeks dwarfs all that I had learned in my years as a volunteer leading up to this. I think the thing I found most surprising is their business-like nature. I guess in my head I always assumed that because their ultimate goals didn't have anything to do with making money, that they wouldn't be as affected by financial pressures as I now see they are. Is there anything that you've discovered so far that has particularly surprised you, Daniel (or anyone. I'm not too particular)?

Nick Branson
07/21/2013 10:33pm

Some of the social circumstances you have mentioned in your blog are very similar to the challenges I have seen with the Austin Foundation. The youth we work with are primarily African American and come from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Sometimes it is difficult to work with the youth because we are so different. But when Anna and I see improvement or positive growth, it makes all the hard work completely worth it. Do you have any more anecdotes where you feel your work has made a difference or positively influenced a client?


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