In my previous blog, I talked about myself, and the experiences that contributed to my professional training in the field of community outreach. Today I want to share with you a summary of the activities. Both the small and great achievements that we have experienced so far in the Guate Groundswell Program.
If you are not familiar with it, the Guate Groundswell initiative is an initiative designed to empower youth to be mentors and leaders in their community. In each community, mentors (aged 14-20) have been selected and supported with training, scholarships, and access to technology to facilitate weekly ‘learning circle’ sessions for younger students. Through these sessions, they help students academically and socially, in order to achieve educational attainment, gender equality, and sustainable community development. Of great importance to the program is that 60% of our mentors are young girls and women, with a strong focus on gender equality included in all aspects of planning and running the program.
My involvement in the program began in August which I began to meet our Program Officers (POs), Noe, Isabel, and Antonio. Having been born and raised in the communities they are working in, these amazing people work very hard every day so we can design and deliver learning experiences that are relevant to local needs. To deliver the program we also work closely with Seeds of Innovation for Sustainable Development (SIDS), with who SOS has worked since 2012 on a wide range of educational projects.
By August, mentors had begun leading learning circles, which are being delivered in the following regions: near San Juan Cotzal (Quiche), in the communities of Ojo de Agua and San Felipe Chenla; near San Cristobal Verapaz (Alta Verapaz) in the community of Las Arrugas; 2 times per week. There are 25 mentors in each community and they are responsible for supporting the learning of up to 4 mentees, aged 10-12 (grades 5 and 6). Each mentor is provided with a tablet, pre-loaded with various software, one of the most important is Rumie, through which all learning materials (mathematics, biology, social sciences, etc) can be made easily available.
Not only were we beginning to see changes in them but also in their community.
Here are some of their testimonials.
“The program is helping me to get rid of my fear of speaking in public. I am very grateful with SOS, because I have overcome many challenges. Every time I wake up I pray we continue in the program so we can help more children and youth. The money we receive every month is helping my parents and me. My family is very grateful for everything”
“My dream was to be a teacher, thanks to this program I will be able to pursue my dream”
We began working with experts from the local communities to offer extra training workshops to support student’s engagement with topics like Gender Equality, Human Rights, Leadership, Digital Literacy, Economic Empowerment, Health, and Nutrition – all delivered through creative, innovative, and interactive activities.
“The program has inspired me to think more about gender equality and women’s rights since women must know their rights very well and thus be able to demonstrate that we can achieve our goals in life as much as a man does”
We also began to facilitate virtual cross-cultural exchanges. For instance, in the community of Las Arrugas, our youth mentors participated in virtual science workshops alongside SOS volunteers from the University of Windsor. The volunteers prepared fun and very dynamic science experiments and shared them with our Mentors. These experiences along with additional activities allowed them to share their personal experiences, culture, language, and dreams, while also having opportunities to learn in new ways.
Additionally, over the past month, Durham College Journalism students worked with students in Guatemala to help them create podcasts about their community. Some of the SDG’s covered in the podcasting were poverty, gender equality, and water management. Everyone involved had fun and learned more about self-confidence, commitment, and teamwork while developing technology skills. Lidia said “When I heard we had to create podcasting I thought it was impossible just like going to the moon. Now I know everything is possible when there is teamwork, commitment, and confidence”
Not only is the program changing the lives of our youth participants, but it’s also changing mine as well. Being a new immigrant to Canada isn’t easy, with many ups and downs. Yet every time I hear all the incredible testimonies from our mentors I realize that problems are just a matter of vision, like the student who said “the program helped me financially since I lost my father. The scholarship from the program helped me to stay in school and buy school supplies. I am less afraid than before to speak in public”.
It reminds me to channel the famous story about The stone: The distracted person stumbled on it. The violent person used it as a projectile. The entrepreneur used it to build. The tired peasant used it as a seat. The boy used it as a toy. Drummond used it for inspiration. David used it to kill Goliath And Michelangelo, took out of the stone a beautiful sculpture. In all these cases, the difference was not in the stone but in the person.
To our mentors, there is no “stone” in their path that they cannot take advantage of for their own growth.
Guate Groundswell is made possible in part through support from the Fund for Innovation and Transformation and it’s partners: The InterCouncil Network, the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation, and the Government of Canada.