Leaping into SERES, Leading the Way in Uspantán
It’s been a busy and action-packed entry into the SERES youth network for Ema López, an 18-year-old young Maya indigenous woman from San Miguel de Uspantán, El Quiché, Guatemala. Ema became involved with SERES thanks to her older sister, Johana, also a SERES youth ambassador, who invited her to attend a meeting of a group of SERES youth leaders in their community of Uspantán last year. From there, Ema attended SERES’ annual youth sustainability summit in December 2016, which was her first time participating in a SERES program.
The youth summit was an incredible experience that was unlike anything that she had done before, Ema said. After that, she rapidly advanced through the SERES leadership processes, attending an Actívate youth congress, and the Catalyzers program, in February of this year, and then participating in the General Assembly as a newly-minted SERES local ambassador. She volunteered as a co-facilitator at a youth congress, and in May she attended an introduction to permaculture course in the Sustainable Livelihoods series.
“Every time I go to one of these programs, I take away something,” said Ema.
Listen here to Ema’s thoughts from the youth summit:
SERES Uspantán at a Glance
San Miguel de Uspantán, the seat of the municipality of Uspantán in the department of El Quiché, has a population of approximately 2,800. The main languages spoken in the region are Spanish, Uspanteko, K’iche’, and Kaqchikel. Ema and the other SERES leaders of Uspantán are from various smaller communities throughout the municipality, and have focused their efforts on reforestation, environmental education, and healthy stores/food sources.
The group of Uspantán has already done a reforestation project, among other activities, and SERES Uspantán won one of three $500 prizes for youth action plans in the Annual Youth Summit in December. Read more about the group as a whole in this blog post, written by SERES facilitator Glenda Xulú.
Growing Her Leadership, Cultivating a Sustainable Community
In addition to her participation in SERES, Ema is also involved with her youth group at church, where she leads activities and programs. She said that the kinds of dynamic processes and skills which she’s learned in SERES have helped her to know how to animate a group of young people and engage everyone in various activities.
Ema and the SERES Uspantán group have many ideas for their future projects in order to improve the sustainability and well-being of their community. First and foremost, they want to focus on organizing the community to address the challenge of lack of water, a serious issue in Uspantán and throughout many communities like it in Guatemala and El Salvador. She also says that she wants to find a way to reduce and eliminate the use of plastic bags in her community, something which her sister, Johana, has also focused on changing by talking to family and community members. And finally, Ema says she has a dream to establish a clinic for natural medicine in her community.
For Ema, SERES programs are important because they strengthen participants’ connection to their local communities, and empower them to act to start building the future they want to see.
“The programs help them to fight for their community,” said Ema.
Ema is one more youth leader who has grown within the SERES network, and has already contributed to the growth of the community as a whole through her commitment to fighting for a sustainable community.