- Associated Press - Sunday, October 16, 2016

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - The only female executive of the India YMCA came to Greenville during her first visit to the United States.

Shamilla Doris is the general secretary - the equivalent of a president/CEO of a YMCA in the United States - at the Madurai YMCA in southern India.

Her visit here was part of YMCA of Greenville’s connection with YMCA World Alliance.

“For a couple of years, the YMCA of Greenville has provided training for YMCAs in India and is now considering other ways that we can be a helpful resource for their future work, said Scot Baddley, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greenville.”

Doris is among the India YMCA leaders that have benefited from such training provided by Jamie Inman, chief mission advancement officer for YMCA of Greenville.

Inman’s opportunity to do so came after she responded to an email from the YMCA of the USA looking for volunteer consultants to be part of the Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCAs.

She was chosen for southern India, she said, because “they knew there wouldn’t be a language barrier.”

Inman has traveled back and forth to India and led multiple workshops there.

The first, she said, was on the basic concept of fundraising. In the midst of the more than 50 men present was one woman - Doris.

During her second visit to India, Inman led a workshop for the staff of the Madurai YMCA.

“I think Shamilla picked up on things that will translate well from U.S. best practices into the India culture and she’s been successful with those,” Inman said.

The Madurai YMCA works with men, women, and children from poor communities, and has special schools for orphans, children with hearing impairments and deafness, children with mental and physical handicaps, as well as afterschool programs.

Doris is also directly involved in women’s empowerment, hostels, teen programming and career training.

Inman said she was particularly drawn to the Madurai YMCA because of its similarities with the local YMCA in wanting to make it accessible for all people.

“That’s definitely the heart of the mission in India, to make sure that all children have the opportunity to reach their potential, no matter what their situation is,” Inman said.

One practice Doris said she has adopted, courtesy of Inman’s training, is a fundraising department, through which her YMCA started calling people and asking for donations.

Jamie’s training gave us an idea on how to communicate with donors, how to nurture the donors, follow the donors and all these things,” she said. “It was very helpful and we have been successful.”

The Madurai YMCA now raises more than $5,000 a month, she said.

Doris said her visit to the U.S. was a dream come true, thanks to the invitation from both the Seattle and Greenville YMCAs.

In Seattle, Doris was a guest speaker at a women’s symposium.

Because of her position at the Madurai YMCA, “she’s definitely demonstrating being a women in action and in particular, with the type of work she does and the challenges she faces in the India culture and then facilitating the work with the poorest of the poor in her community, is absolutely amazing,” Inman said.

“It’s really trailblazing work, what she does in India, for a woman,” Inman said.

In India, men generally hold such positions and are powerful, even in families, Doris said.

“A woman coming traveling the ladder and having reached this position is not common,” she said. “The woman is always looked upon as a secondary (person) and it’s very hard for the men to accept the leadership of a woman.”

Inman said, from what she could see, Doris appears to have great support among her staff. Even men there seem to respect the work she’s doing.

“I think she’s definitely a role model for more people than she realizes, inside the Y as well as outside the Y,” Inman said. “It’s obvious when I go over, the way people look at her, I can tell (they) adore and admire her in so many ways.”

Doris, in turn, admires the work being done in by the YMCA of Greenville and throughout the USA.

While in Greenville, she visited the Judson YMCA.

She was also met with YMCA volunteers to better understand the culture behind volunteerism here in the U.S., as well as see it in action.

It gave her an opportunity to see “the culture of philanthropy in the U.S. where people do give their time, talent and treasure, which is exactly what she’s trying to facilitate in India in order to facilitate her mission,” Inman said.

Doris was also given access to YMCA staffers, the CEO, the chief financial officer, and branch executives.

Everything she was able to see being done in Greenville, “I feel like having in India,” Doris said.

And, she said, “I really enjoyed the YMCA fellowship. We are all brothers and sisters in the YMCA, whether you are in the YMCA in the USA or the YMCA in India,” Doris said.

“We are one in Christ and that brings us all together and that’s why I am here from a foreign country,” she said.

The YMCA of Greenville was honored to have Shamilla visit and share more details about her vision and life-changing work in Madurai, Baddley said.

“Hosting Shamilla enabled both Y staff and volunteers to hear first-hand about the progress being made and also details regarding the daily challenges her Y faces serving so many under-resourced families,” he said.

Among the takeaways from her time here, Doris said, was being able to see that Greenville not only thinks about the needs of its own community but also the needs of communities “far away from your sight.”

___

Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com

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