What I See
Rural communities in Guatemala pursue a concept of development not based on their local worldview and local principles. This is because they grow up believing they lack value and it means poverty.
These beliefs are fueled by: an education characterized by little analysis and ideas to solve problems, the way society treats people from communities and farmers (limiting access to a fair market), and a generation of people that grew up post-conflict with repression, violence, and silence.
All this results in a passive and disempowered generation of young citizens (who represent more than 70% of the population) and who don’t get exposed to the most innovative ideas of the 21st century.
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We focus on youth from marginalized urban and rural communities, indigenous, with potential risk to migrate, working instead of studying to support their families—those at greater risk of violence and gangs, and lacking opportunities for development.
We believe in unleashing their leadership to create a movement of local leaders, leaders with a deep understanding of their needs and a transformational vision for change. There is no one better to transform the communities that the people that make them.
What I’m Proud Of
Our organization has been running for 11 years. We started out as a two person, grassroots “organization” and grew into a more established one.
Over these years, we have been able to create a movement of leaders, training more than 5,500 youth, and 100 multi-lingual trainers with sustainability and leadership competencies.
This movement has created hundreds of community action plans, impacting over 90,000 people, planting more than 36,000 trees, holding 40 community forums, implementing 15 community gardens, and many more actions that mobilize their community for change.
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In 2015, we were recognized by winning the UNESCO-Japan Education for Sustainable Development Prize.
I Feel Happy When
Flor’s story exemplifies our mission. Flor is an indigenous, maya kakchiquel woman from Tecpán Guatemala. She first participated in one of our programs in April 2016.
Within a year, she had attended our entrepreneurship training and our catalyzers leadership training, and she had become an ambassador.
To do this, she had to break a lot of barriers at her house, as before she wasn’t allowed to leave her house for long periods of time and leave her daily responsibilities at home.
In her words: “At that point of time in my life, I had no interaction with society. I rarely left the house. Now that I think about it, I realize that I felt deprived of freedom.”
“During those three days in the program, what struck me most was seeing other young indigenous women just like me running the program and I remember that I told myself: I want to be like them. They inspired me.”
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She is the fellow leading the youth center at Tecpán, coordinating events and workshops with our local partners, coordinating activities with youth for youth, and participating at local governance meetings.
She is showing up with an authentic leadership to create change for herself, her family, and her community.
“I never imagined that I could have had the privilege to develop myself in that way with the full economic and emotional support of my family – especially my father. In that moment, I realized that I was free to fly wherever I want, and I can leave the house without feeling guilty. Now I want the same for my younger sisters – I want to see them capable and confident of being themselves.”
What’s Surprising Is
We live in a region vulnerable to climate change. In 2018, a volcanic eruption shook us and this changed how we were fulfilling our purpose, but not the why in building sustainable communities through local leadership.
Therefore, we need partners and grant-makers that also understand working in an emergent world, where flexibility and trust are key ingredients to achieving greater social impact.
We are currently becoming a teal organization, making sure we are listening constantly to our purpose and being agile enough to adapt when needed.
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Considering our way of communication is key in developing powerful relationships, we want to be present in events and forums, where we are able to showcase and include marginalized voices in the conversations, however, language keeps being a barrier.
We are an organization trying new models, that makes sense to our style of leadership. As we mentioned, we are currently becoming a teal organization.
This makes long term planning a challenge. We have strategic goals for the next three years, but we also need to be able to respond in an emergent world, like, dealing with a pandemic.
A Direct Grant
We accepted an unrestricted direct grant for $10,000 in 2019 from Move92. We spent it on conference travel, staff training, small grants for youth action plans, and general operating expenses like our social media, legal services to establish our subsidiary in El Salvador, and regional travel.
We would like to develop long term partnerships with funders that can allow us to grow and explore together, while creating social impact.
This vision is that impact is not directly related to one single action, but the combination of interventions from different stakeholders, each doing their part.
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In our experience, creating impact and social change requires much more time than you would give a “normal job”, so investing in our team to have a decent salary that covers their rights is essential.
Offering team retreats to have the opportunity to co-learn and co-create together, constantly training our leaders to keep up with innovation worldwide, and allowing us to listen to the needs of our young SERES alumni, involving them in the strategies of what we do is important to us.
This so-called “overhead” is the least they cover and for us it is essential to keep those–who make possible the social impact we are achieving– motivated.
Want to Learn More
Make a Direct Grant?