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160 years of history

Union Chrétienne de Jeunes Gens de Paris / UCJG-UP was the first youth organization founded in France in 1852 by students who wanted to create a place where all young people, irrespective of their religious denomination, could feel welcome, share and help one another.

As the Paris UCJG was very active within the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Associations) movement, it was there that the official act creating the Universal Union of YMCAs was signed in 1855. This was the first worldwide association, which was to expand in an extraordinary way thanks to its innovative pedagogical approach aimed at promoting young people’s social integration and personal fulfilment in three intertwined fields : body, soul and spirit.

A century ahead of their time, the YMCAs were the first to open gymnasiums, indoor swimming pools, to create football teams, camping and scouting groups, and cultural centers for young people including libraries, music and acting classes, as well as young workers’ institutes. The YMCAs were pioneers in a number of fields: for example basketball was invented in Springfield in 1891, and played for the first time in Paris in 1893.

UCJG, the Paris YMCA particularly involved itself in the field of sports, culture and social work. After occupying several successive locations, it moved into new premises –the rue de Trévise building, inaugurated in 1893, where it still has its headquarters. It was designed by the architect Bénard, a pupil of Gustave Eiffel, and financed thanks to the generosity of donors from all over the world, in particular the American James Stokes who wished to mark his appreciation of General Lafayette’s contribution to his country’s independence. It is a unique complex, now officially classified as a historical monument. It was the first time that so many amenities could be found in a single place : a cooperative restaurant, an indoor gymnasium and swimming-pool, a multi-purpose stage for plays, concerts and conferences, a library, a cafeteria, a bowling alley, a billiard room, a fencing room, a slanted racing track, and of course social and medical services, Bible studies, clubs and societies.

For 160 years, UCJG-UP has gathered in its wake thousands of young people from all social backgrounds and all countries of the world.

Today, in line with its original mission, it hosts students and young workers in a 40-bed residence, and is home to associations and cultural activities.  It is a secular association which does not exclude anyone, but continues to lay emphasis on the Protestant values of its founding members.