APIC UTOPÍA: 7 years building dreams

By Rodrigo Barraza García | August 19, 2020 | The Americas | Education, Youth Empowerment

Editor’s note: this post is also available in Spanish.

Utopia is on the horizon.
I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away.
I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away.
As much as I may walk, I’ll never reach it. So what’s the point of utopia?
The point is this: to keep walking.

– Eduardo Galeano


APIC UTOPÍA was legally established seven years ago, but our history begins many years before. It is the story of a lifetime.

In 2000, a group of friends and I traveled to Chiapas, Mexico. We wanted to visit the Zapatista Indigenous communities. To feel inspired with their stories of courage, community organizing, and hope.

We learned so many things …

We learned that if you are willing to listen, many voices appear, big and small, that contribute ideas and dreams to change the world.

We also learned that the voices of girls and boys are echoes of hope that give you strength and point the way when you feel lost. You just have to be willing to be surprised.

We learned that if you work collectively, you never stop learning.

Indigenous girls and boys told us, “You know that you will always be welcome here, but if you want to build a better world, you must start in your community, at home, with yourself. Go and share what you have learned. Your people need you.”

And so we did.

We returned to our home, in the state of Mexico, one of the most violent areas of Mexico, where more than 3 million girls and boys are condemned to poverty. Fighting to survive.

For these children and youth, dreaming is prohibited. Poverty and marginalization are a cycle, an inheritance, a curse. There is no peace, because there is no justice.

Entrance to Chimalhuacán, Mexico. © GFC

We began to ask, to observe, to listen. They told us about Chimalhuacán. Of the boys and girls living among the trash mountains. Working in landfills since the age of 5. Earning less than four dollars a day to support their families. “Here I was born and here I am going to die,” a little girl told us.

We listened to their stories. They realized they had a right to have a story. That they were capable of writing a different story. Made of dreams. Of utopias.

Many people laughed at us. They said, “You are wasting your time.” “They are not going to be able to do anything.” “People do not listen.” “They are dangerous.” “They are suspicious.” Still, we kept walking. We did not let fear paralyze us.

In 2013, we became a nonprofit organization, and we decided to start a long-term project: we wanted to build communities of peace, with children leading the way. We offered educational training and martial arts instruction to promote values, encourage teamwork, and strengthen self-esteem.

Sport inspires and motivates, promotes mental and physical health, enables social inclusion, and connects individuals and communities. It makes you feel powerful. It allows you to dream and build peace. And that was just what we wanted.

We had a meeting with the parents. They were incredulous, nervous. “We have heard that story before,” they told us.

Those who always listened, those who always believed in us, from the very beginning, were the girls and boys.

We set a date, time, and place for our first meeting. We did not have an office or a physical location, so we told them we would met under a huge tree at the entrance to the landfill.

Catastrophe! We still didn’t know the place well, and we got lost. We arrived an hour late. We were upset, frustrated, on the verge of tears.

Something magical happened. I will never forget it.

We arrived, and there they were. Waiting for us. Not the adults, just the children. With smiling faces. Impatient. Wanting to believe. Full of dreams and hopes. As soon as they saw us, they began to shout, “They are here!”

During a sports class, a young girl smiles for the camera. © GFC

I remember that day seven years ago as if it were yesterday. There is still a lump in my throat. At that moment, we knew we were home. That it would all be worth it. That the dream would come true.

Many of those girls and boys who attended that first day are now community promoters, inspiring other young people, contributing their strength and knowledge to make things better for their families and communities. Several of them have obtained scholarships and have managed to finish university. They are building their own history without forgetting where they come from. And now they are agents of change.

Today, we have two community training centers for peace. Moreover, we have received several international awards. Even so, every week we continue to find ourselves by that tree, with the same strength and the same desire. Children are still waiting for us.

We have not walked alone. Global Fund for Children believed in us when we were hardly a dream. With flexible financing and capacity building, they allowed us to turn our utopia into a daily reality. We have grown up together, and now they are part of the APIC UTOPÍA family.

It has been seven years of walking toward utopia, of many frustrations, of feeling alone against the world, of thinking that we are not getting anywhere. But also seven years of strength, of enriching experiences, of meeting people and organizations on the way that fill us with encouragement, of finding in the looks and smiles of children something that cannot be bought or sold: hope.

And here we continue. Eternal apprentices, eternal dreamers. With many steps ahead.

This is just the beginning.

We are UTOPÍA.



Alianza para la Integración Comunitaria UTOPÍA A.C. (APIC UTOPÍA) promotes a healthy childhood for children and youth in and around Mexico City through academic and extracurricular activities that improve participants’ educational attainment, wellbeing, and chances for success.

GFC supports APIC UTOPÍA’s weekly literacy and math workshops for children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and trash-picking communities, as well as complementary sports activities and personal development workshops on topics such as violence, self-esteem, parent-child relationships, and self-improvement.

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