February Program Update

Welcome February; our second month of the year, and also a very important time in Guatemala. 

In February, the popular festivals in Guatemala are divided into several dates: February 20 is the day of the Marimba, a musical instrument that is the country’s national symbol. February 26 is the National Cultural Heritage Day. On this same day in 1848, the first official government visited Tikal, a Mayan city of great importance.

Marimba by Panoramas Scholarly Platform

I love learning about cultures and the different traditions that each community has. As the famous quote says “The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.” 

But in addition to sharing a bit about Guatemalan culture today, I also want to share with you the activities we have been focused on during this month 

RACHEL System Now Installed in Las Arrugas

Moving forward with some of the activities related to the Guate Groundswell program, I’d like to start with Las Arrugas World Possible training. On February 10th the community had their first training on the use of the RACHEL system. Remember that in my blog Mundo Possible-Rachel Now in Cotzal I shared with you how this portable, battery-powered, device contains copies of educational websites in an offline format. We had implemented this in Cotzal in November and now it is also available in Las Arrugas. 

Program Officer, Noé Caal receiving Rachel in Las Arruas

I want to start by sharing a testimonial about the importance of this device in Las Arrugas Alta Verapaz. 

Noe Caal, Program Officer said “I observed from teachers an impetus desire to learn about RACHEL… Usage of RACHEL’s router will not only help youth with their homework but will also help teachers. Expanding knowledge is something that has always been sought within the community, unfortunately, this resource was not available before, but now it is, we hope to continue being a role model and pioneer to other communities to be more confident with technological tools, and to make great use of it. 

Hosting Digital Storytelling Workshops 

Furthermore, in the weeks of February 8th to Feb19th, the local team in Cotzal along with SOS Staff worked to arrange the final details for the virtual-based Digital Storytelling workshops between Carleton students and youth mentors from San Felipe Chenla and Ojo de Agua (Cotzal). You can learn more about this program here (link to Jensen’s blog post)

I, as the Guate Groundswell coordinator, hope that these workshops will contribute to the professional and personal development of our youth mentors in Guatemala. I hope they learn not only about the current trends and technologies in storytelling but also wish they make new friends, gain cultural awareness, self-confidence, and the ability to think critically as well as develop problem-solving to community issues such as gender inequality, poverty, and access to quality education.

It’s also a great opportunity for Canadian students to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals. Jensen Arsenault online exchange coordinator said “I hope that the Carleton students are able to gain leadership skills and cultural understanding. This program is a great opportunity for students to develop cultural competencies as they explore narratives from other countries and the principles of ethical storytelling. I hope they have fun getting to know students in Guatemala and cherish the memories they’ve made”

Youth Mentors’ Learning Entrepreneurial Skills

Last but not least, youth mentors from Las Arrugas have had the opportunity to attend local entrepreneurship workshops, led by Francisco Chairman of the Board of Directors Alliance for Community / Tourism and Living Ecotourism Verapaz. As part of the training Mentors had to work on a recorded “Rocket Pitch”. They had to think of a business that best suited the needs of their community, and worked on how to best “sell this idea into the market”. It is worth saying that youth mentors felt ready and confident to work on this project thanks to the podcast workshops between Durham College students and youth mentors in Guatemala.

Podcasting workshops encouraged and allowed students to improve planning skills (to think through the beginnings, middles, and endings for episodes), increase technical skills and technological literacy,  culture awareness, writing skills. Moreover, podcasts teach them how to gain empathy with a selected audience. These same skills are also needed when presenting a business pitch. 

It is nice to see small actions turned into big projects. What began as a cultural exchange, today is being used as a layout to work on an entrepreneurship initiative. Our mentors have dreams, and today more than ever they feel confident to achieve them.

Heidy Mariela Mentor in Las Arrugas

Guate Groundswell is made possible in part through support from the Fund for Innovation and Transformation and its partners: The InterCouncil Network, the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation, and the Government of Canada.

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