El Tiempo Hispano: Keeping communities together

Jesus is a Colombian with less than a month in Delaware and has an important mission to fulfill: opening the doors of Wilmington‘s YMCA to the entire community.

This Bogota native comes to Wilmington with extensive experience working with this organization, which already has more than a century and a half of history of its own. Since being a child, Jesus has been involved; his mother was member of YMCA’s board in Colombia, and that’s where he started as a volunteer. The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) has a presence in 125 countries and assists 58 million people around the world.

When Jesus de las Salas talks, he has a sparkle in his eyes that show his passion for what he is doing, and how he feels about his ability to fulfill the mission of the organization that brought him to Delaware as Senior Executive Director responsible for the Downtown operation Central YMCA and Walnut YMCA in Wilmington.

Managing a budget of more than 18 million and 240 employees is a challenge, but more so is the fact of opening the doors to all the communities of Delaware. “We have a presence in every county in Delaware,” says Jamila Anderson, who is in charge of YMCA ‘s public relations in Delaware. To which De Salas adds: “We want everyone to feel comfortable in our different facilities, regardless of age, gender, color, provenience, language, etc. Everyone is welcome.”

De Salas knows well how the YMCA works since he first came on an exchange program in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from the National University of Colombia, he was offered to travel to the United States again to do training for the YMCA, which he did. He then returned to Colombia where he worked for one year, until 1989 when he was offered to come to work in St. Louis, and from there to various states of the United States.

With a certain mischief Jesus tells that he continued up the management ladder to occupy a position in the USA YMCA as Director of Services, which allowed him to travel to many parts of the world developing programs in the communities, on financial development adapted to their own needs.

For him, no doubt his experience in Jerusalem gave him a first-hand view on how to work with communities that are in conflict among themselves and have different beliefs, often mutually considered as enemies. Knowing that Wilmington in particular faces serious problems, he says “I want to apply that experience to bring people to share -for instance their food- because if we share a meal, we are taking a step to understand each other better.”

As an experienced executive, he wants to deepen YMCA’s work as an association of people of all ages, ethnic groups and religious affiliations that strive to cultivate the human potential, self-esteem, and dignity of all people. This organization exists to develop and practice the Christian principles of love, caring, inclusiveness, justice and peace…and to enrich the emotional, physical and social life of all individuals, families and the community, as can be read in its declaration of principles.

For a couple of years De Salas managed his own consulting company with which he traveled to Hong Kong in the implementation of financial development programs.

Once back in the country, he made the decision to return to work with the YMCA, and he chose Delaware because he thought he could fit in with the magnificent leadership the organization carries out in this state.

In this conversation, his first interview in Delaware, Jesus wants to make himself known, in particular to the Hispanic community and both non-profit organizations and companies that are in Delaware, to work together in what he considers a common goal: to maintain healthy communities. He is full of ideas and has the ambition to make a difference. For example, he says “We have an international exchange program. We will take our boys to London next year where they will have the opportunity to meet young people from all over the world and exchange experiences and ideas about what is happening in their places of origin”.

“I want everybody to know that our doors are open to all, fostering personal responsibility and being able to help others, for example, implementing English or citizenship classes if necessary. I like to get to know the people and organizations with whom we could work, for many reasons”. He also broadens the concept as they offer employment opportunities at different levels, as well as scholarships or financial assistance to qualifying families. In other words, there are many possibilities with the YMCA.

If you wish to contact Jesus De Las Salas, he will surely be happy to meet you. You can send an email to [email protected]

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