Youth Leading the Way in Uspantán

Persevering, Creating Change Despite Challenges

Youth leaders from Uspantán in the 7th Annual Youth Summit in December 2016.

Various youth have grand visions, visions that give hope, motivate, and inspire everyone to be part of those changes that we want to see in our communities. Their great hopes for making a better, more resilient, just, equal, and sustainable community are admirable because there are many benefits for everyone in the community and for future generations. Despite the challenges that they have to face day to day, they have a clear and common goal: creating and constructing change.

In this blog, we’ll hear from SERES youth leaders from the municipality of Uspantán, department of El Quiché. We had the opportunity to interview them, and learn a little bit about their process in carrying out their action plans, their participation in distinct programs that SERES offers to youth, and, finally, the challenges they’ve faced in these processes.

Currently, they are continuing to work on their action plans, which include: reforestation work days; environmental awareness workshops in different schools and other establishments on various topics; community cleaning campaigns; and meeting and summits with other youth. They are a unified group, united by love, their passion for maintaining and strengthening the resources that they have, and the objective to make more youth aware so that they join this network in order to create actions and change their community. They won one of three $500-prizes in December 2016 at the annual youth sustainability summit that the Interamerican Foundation and SERES offer to groups of youth leaders every year. With this prize, they’re now working to strengthen their community action plans.

Read on for their reflections on this incredible journey:

How did you feel, participating in the Activate community Congress – the first step to becoming involved in the SERES Uspantán group?

Actívate in Uspantán, August 2016.

“When we were participating in the Actívate, I felt really happy, enthusiastic, and identified because I love nature. From participating in the process, I realized that this is what I want to do, to contribute to caring for what we already have.” – Josselyn García

“Being able to experience everything together, there came a moment when I reflected. It touched my heart to learn about the problems that we face day in and day out, and we don’t do anything to stop it. It was then that I decided to be a part of this. For that reason, I’m here and I am going to continue.”Cristian Us

“It was a unique experience for me, I hadn’t participated in a training like that before, where there were many people there who are motivated to fight to make a change, and the different activities that we did helped us view things in another way. In this training I felt comfortable, like in my house, my family, and I felt like we were the change. That motivated me and now I want to be someone better every day, to be a part of this.” – Salomón Ajcot

Actívate in Uspantán, August 2016.

“For me, the actívate was a change, a big change, because before the actívate I wasn’t thinking about anything, in what our world and society is like, or the problems that we face. The first day I experienced happiness, because it was an activity that motivated me a lot, but the second day I discovered and felt other emotions, among them sadness because I realized and comprehended everything that is happening in the world – my ecological footprint, my actions – and from there began the change. At the beginning it was difficult for me to reduce waste and stop consuming fast food, using plastic bags, etc. But today, I dare to say that I’ve stopped consuming unhealthy food and I’ve reduced my use of plastic bags. Believe me, the actívate changed my life.” – Johana López

“For me it was a great push. We weren’t conscious of what was happening in nature, and being there we felt a great force that pushed us to design our projects. Before, I hadn’t thought in doing an action plan because I didn’t have the initiative to design one and do it until I participated in the activate. I became animated and it was my opportunity to create my action plan. I was directing a group and it was a great experience. To change and to make a great change isn’t easy, but it’s possible. I’ve been able to change.” – Rafael Sic

“It was a great joy for me to be part of the program. It made me sad to learn about the different forms of contamination, and to know more about what is happening made me reflect, and I comprehended that we are able to create change.” – Flor Pacheco

 

What have some of the challenges been in the course of carrying out your action plans?

“In our group I was the one leading, and when we met up to have meetings everyone came. This made me really enthusiastic, but later, bit by bit, they began to drift from the group. That discouraged me because I thought, “We’re just a few people, and we won’t be able to motivate the rest.” But later Johana spoke to me and told that it was like that, that only those who truly were interested in change were going to continue in the group. And so we continued with what we had planned, we did a few small actions, but for us it was a great achievement to be able to do it and move forward.” – Josselyn García

“The challenge that I overcame was when we planned a community cleaning campaign. We had brought together other youth and institutions, but only 10 people showed up. That discouraged me a lot, and I thought: “Why only us?” Later I reflected, and I told myself: I’m not going to let those situations discourage me from doing what I want to do. Another very personal challenge was the use of [plastic] bags. My mom sells food and she was using disposable plates. I got angry with her, and at one point I stopped living in my house for a while, but later she began to change and now I feel very happy because she doesn’t use [plastic bags] anymore.” – Johana López

“When we were doing our action plan, we needed more funds and materials, and we were going to turn in a request in the office of the municipality. For two weeks we were going to the mayor but he wasn’t there, and we returned discouraged. Other times they told that there were a lot of people and that they couldn’t attend us that day. We needed more resources in order to work, to create work days and a team, materials for talks, and I was really discouraged. The municipality didn’t give us their support, but in the face of that we still looked for a way to carry out our action plans.”  Rafael Sic

 

What motivates you to keep working?

“I know that in a certain amount of time the results of the work that we do will be seen. Today we are living in the midst of a lot of issues, and that pushes me to be different, to keep working so that my family, children, and grandchildren can live in a better world.” – Josselyn García

Actívate in Uspantán, August 2016.

“To make a great change to have a better future, because we are confronting water scarcity, contaminated rivers, and rivers that are drying up.” – Flor Pacheco

“I love nature. I’ve learned about a lot of places where there is a lot of deforestation, that have lost a lot of biodiversity, and that pains me to my core. I know that we can’t stop it overnight, it will be bit by bit. It’s necessary to guide people towards the protection of forested areas and conserve all of the resources that we still have available to us, because if we keep following this road, one day not far in the future it will be used up, and that will be the biggest hit. That exact sentiment motivates me to keep working.” – Salomón Ajcot

“The new generations motivate me. I want them to enjoy even more than what we have now.” – Johana López

 

What message do you want to give to other youth leaders in the SERES network?

Actívate in Uspantán, November 2015.

[Entire group]: Keep working, looking ahead to see that it is possible to achieve change. There might be trials on the way, perhaps we’ll get discouraged, but we keep moving forward. In us, the youth, exists the very change we want to see. If we don’t begin today, no one else will do it. Nature is something that we should protect, that is so indispensable in the lives of human beings and also for animals. Encourage one another so that more young people unite. Everything that you do, do it with willpower, with love, with desire, with faith. Each one of us is different, and with those differences we are a great team, each of us strong, brave, and intelligent. 

“Remember that in one person exists change. We can’t wait for it to come from others. It should come from and begin with the most profound part of ourselves in order to carry it into action.” Johana López

How have you felt with the development and implementation of your action plans? Have you thought about how to invest the prize that you won at the youth summit?

[Entire group]: Last year we wanted to do more action plans, but the economic factor and other resources didn’t help us. Truthfully we had many ideas but we weren’t able to achieve everything because the municipal mayor didn’t really help us. We went various times to ask him for his support, but he wasn’t in his office, or another time I found him and he told me that he was going to see if he could help and until now, nothing. For us, the prize that we won at the youth summit is a great help, and we’re committed to producing more work. All of us in the group have been discussing this, and we’ve decided to create our plant nursery and in that way generate more funds. Also, we want to invest it in our training; when there’s a program far away we can use it for transportation since we live farther away. 

We are very happy, because we inspire other youth to make personal changes and create change in their communities. A youth leader should put into action what they dream and desire for their community. When you want a change, you should be the example.

– By Glenda Xulú, SERES Facilitator, Guatemala

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