Timeline - 20 Years of Exchanges

Timeline - 20 Years of Exchanges

This timeline was created to recount the history of the YMCA Youth Exchanges program, to celebrate its successes and connections made, and mark its 20th anniversary. It features 14 events, including information about partnerships, specific exchanges, new program components, advisory committees, program research and more.

2000-07-13 11:00:00

Launch of the YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada program

While the YMCA has been offering exchanges since 1976, it wasn’t until 2000 that the program was offered with support from Exchanges Canada. Prior to this partnership, the program averaged about 600 participants a year; afterward the numbers increased to about 2,200 a year.

2000-12-13 11:00:00

Partnership with the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability

From 2000 until 2009, there have been nine exchanges solely for youth with disabilities, and a total of 886 youth and supporting adults have participated.

2003-07-13 11:00:00


In March 2003, the SARS outbreak in Toronto began to have a significant impact on the program. Groups that were travelling to Toronto, or that had to pass through Toronto, began to have concerns about travelling. The health and safety of participants became a major focus of the YMCA, group organizers and families.

2005-07-13 11:00:00

Aichi Japan Exchange

Participants had the unique opportunity to act as Canadian ambassadors at Expo in Japan, and to showcase the diversity of Canada at an international event. The program sent 12 groups, including 162 youth and adult group leader participants, to Japan.

2008-07-13 11:00:00

Learning in action – Youth engagement in the YMCA of Greater Toronto

The YMCA of Greater Toronto partnered with the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, for two years, in order to conduct an investigation of youth engagement in the YMCA’s Youth Exchanges Canada program and the impact of their participation over time

2009-07-13 11:00:00

Introduction of community service projects

In 2009, all groups started planning and participating in a day of community service projects as part of their exchange. Groups planned a wide array of projects, from painting murals to community clean-ups, preparing care kits, building a community garden and hosting a tea for Elders

2009-07-13 11:00:00

Youth Advisory Committee

From 2009 to 2017, the program recruited former youth participants from across Canada to develop a Youth Advisory Committee. Committee members played an essential role in shaping the program and developing resources for youth participants and adult group leaders

2009-07-13 11:00:00

Youth Advisory Committee launches the first Youth Guide

This guide was developed and written by the Youth Advisory Committee for future youth participants. The Youth Guide is one of the biggest legacies of the Youth Advisory Committee. It has been used by thousands of participants since 2009 and continues to shape how participants take part in the program.

2010-07-13 11:00:00

1000 groups and 20,000 participants

The program surpassed the milestone of 1,000 groups and 20,000 participants since the year 2000.

2012-07-13 11:00:00

Research paper published in the Journal of Adolescence

The YMCA participated in a research study that looked at youth engagement and activity involvement as a predictor of future positive outcomes, adding to a body of research.

2018-07-13 11:00:00

Group Leader Advisory Committee

Made up of former group leaders from across Canada, the committee reviewed program materials, such as the Group Leader Workbook, provided feedback and helped develop new resources to support group leaders. Some of the resources developed touch on mental health, youth engagement and common stays

2019-07-13 00:00:00

Theory of Change

With the YMCA of Greater Toronto, the program developed a Theory of Change. A Theory of Change describes the intended outcomes for participants and why and how change happens in the program. The Theory of Change influences how the program conducts evaluations, and contributes to the integrity of the program.

2020-07-13 11:00:00


The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the program. By mid-May, all exchanges through to the fall of 2020 were cancelled or moved to later dates. During that time, the YMCA and Uniglobe worked to support groups, while being flexible and staying up to date with changes happening on a daily basis.

2020-07-13 11:00:00

YMCA Virtual Exchange Program

With COVID-19 putting a pause on in-person travel-based exchanges, YMCA developed a new Virtual Exchange program for youth from across Canada to build connections, explore another community and mostly have fun

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