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In 1947 the World Alliance of YMCAs gained special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

In 1955 the first black president of the World Alliance of YMCAs, Charles Dunbar Sherman from Liberia, was elected.

In 1880, the YMCA became the first national organization to adopt a strict policy of equal gender representation in committees and national boards, with Norway being the country that first adopted it. The camp, originally located near Orange Lake in New Jersey, moved to Lake Wawayanda in Sussex County the following year, and then to the shore of Lake Champlain near Westport, New York, in 1891.

In 1885, Camp Baldhead (later known as Camp Dudley), the first residential camp in the United States and North America, was established by A. By 1910, the YMCA was an early influence upon scouting, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and German Scouting. Robinson, a Chicago-area YMCA administrator, briefly left the YMCA to become the BSA's first director. Paul became the first Indian national general secretary of India. James Yen, of the YMCA of China, devised the "thousand character system," based on pilot projects in education.

In 1985 the World Council of YMCAs passed a resolution against apartheid, and anti-apartheid campaigns were formed under the leadership of Lee Soo-Min (Korea), the first Asian secretary general of the World Alliance.

They discussed joining together in a federation to enhance cooperation amongst individual YMCA societies.

In 1865 The Fourth World Conference of YMCAs, held in Germany, affirmed the importance of developing the whole individual in body, mind, and spirit.

The concept of physical work through sports, a new concept for the time, was also recognized as part of this "muscular Christianity".

Local YMCAs engage in a wide variety of charitable activities, including providing athletic facilities, holding classes for a wide variety of skills, promoting Christianity, and humanitarian work.

YMCAs continue to be religious organizations; many national or local organizations de-emphasize this aspect, while others choose to prioritize its religious mission above all others.

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