Nonsectarian, nonpolitical Christian lay movement that aims to develop high standards of Christian character among its members. It originated in London in 1844 when 12 young men formed a club to improve the spiritual condition of young tradesmen. The first U.S. club was formed in Boston in the 1850s. YMCA programs include sports and physical education, camping, formal and informal education, and citizenship activities. It also runs hotels, residence halls, and cafeterias. National councils are members of the World Alliance of YMCAs (established 1855), headquartered in Geneva. The YMCA was charged with sponsoring educational and recreational facilities in prisoner-of-war camps by the Geneva Convention of 1929. It now operates in dozens of countries. The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) was founded in Britain (1877) to address the needs of women from rural areas who came to the cities to find work; in the U.S. (founded 1906), it has championed racial equality. The Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association (YM-YWHA) developed in the mid-19th century from Jewish men's literary societies in the U.S. and now exists in some 20 other countries worldwide.