It all started with a simple but powerful question from Global Fund for Children: “Would you like to meet each other?” What followed next is almost impossible to believe.
From Alianza por la Integración Comunitaria Utopía A.C. (APIC Utopía) in Mexico and from Jóvenes por el Cambio in Guatemala, the answer was the same. An answer that changed our lives: “Yes, please!”
The GFC team knew that both of our organizations promoted sports as a tool to build peace, empower youth, and fight gender-based violence. That spark started a fire.
Immediately, we heard each other, we saw each other, and we recognized each other. We realized that we shared the same passion, that we had started with very little, and that we had grown thanks to the enormous commitment of the communities we support and our desire to believe in and support them.
For Jóvenes por el Cambio, it was an opportunity to learn institutional and communication practices and policies that will help us to better carry out our work.
For APIC Utopía, it was an opportunity to strengthen our community strategies and learn about new experiences of youth empowerment.
For all of us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take risks, to challenge the limits and narratives that lead us to compete and isolate ourselves, and to cross borders to embrace (from a safe distance!) and share dreams and energy.
And create something together.
From Mexico City, four of us from APIC Utopía flew to Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas. We reached the Guatemalan border. We decided to cross by foot to learn firsthand about the experience of thousands of young Guatemalans who risk their lives to escape poverty and a lack of opportunities.
Once in Guatemala, we realized that we are more alike than we thought. The green of the roads, the laughter, the difficulties, the desire to get ahead. Very soon, we felt at home.
Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters at Jóvenes por el Cambio were looking forward to receiving us, but with some anxiety and nervousness. Grateful for our effort and long journey, they rewarded us by preparing a schedule full of learning and kindness.
The first day, we visited Jóvenes por el Cambio’s offices. Small, yes, but full of hope, with murals and drawings made by the young people themselves, who already felt that this was their space.
Together, we shared our organizations’ stories and identified our main challenges and opportunities. We spoke about coping strategies and acknowledged that we always need others’ support to practice resilience.
We learned that dialogue and introspection are always great teachers that allow us to get to know ourselves better and identify new ways to grow. They are, and will always be, a beacon in the dark.
We also visited Jóvenes por el Cambio’s community project. The pandemic had forced the staff to move everything outdoors, but it had also prompted the team to add more children and youth to the activities and to generate new sustainable projects, such as community gardens and the teaching of agroecological practices to respect and honor nature.
We talked about the importance of playing, of communicating with children and youth in a creative way, listening to them, and recognizing them as political agents and as our guides and teachers. We remembered that we are here for them.
Although we were very tired, we did not miss the opportunity to play sports. So we put on our boxing gloves and, after receiving a little training, threw a few punches to get rid of the stress.
We discussed how boxing, and sports in general, promote values and allow many young people to discover their abilities, face adversity, and feel powerful.
We remembered the words of Nelson Mandela: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand… It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
The next day, we shared strategies and work methodologies, and we talked about the Guatemalan context. There are still extremely high rates of gender violence in Guatemala that prevent women and girls from leading happy and dignified lives.
At the same time, we began to identify possibilities for collaboration, and we recognized the need to reinforce our advocacy strategies aimed at social change.
We shared our views on how sports can be a political expression because they help to empower young people, promote community engagement, and foster social change.
We also found time to have fun. Recognizing the importance of wellbeing and self-care, we took the opportunity to enjoy Guatemalan delicacies, told each other ghost stories, and even did some karaoke in the van that transported us. We visited Lake Atitlán and spent time with local people, hearing their inspiring stories.
Before the end of the visit, we learned about the wonderful work of organizations in Liberia and Sierra Leone that promote the leadership of girls and young people every day. We read a letter that they dedicated to all the girls in the world and decided to respond to them.
It was our way of saying to them: We are with you, and even without traveling, we will cross borders to embrace you. You are not alone. Now you have new friends and new allies.
We told them:
We the dreamers want to fight together with you to create a better world, where we can live in peace, with great joy, and protect ourselves from everything that could harm us.
We invite you to fight day by day as if it were the last, not to stop, to never lose hope, to make each one of your dreams come true, to stumble with the assurance that you will rise up stronger and wiser.
Study hard, explore, learn new things every day. This world needs you. And never, ever dare to feel alone. We are counting on you!
It was very sad to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye to your family? How do you say goodbye when you have left a part of your heart?
All we could do was hug each other and promise that this would not be just one more activity we would forget in a few months.
No. We promised to keep the fire alive and build hope. We promised not to leave each other alone. To always sustain each other. To not let each other fall.
Where there were borders, only hugs remain.
Located in San Marcos, one of the poorest departments in Guatemala, Jóvenes por el Cambio uses sports as a platform to stimulate the community participation and activism of young people, especially women and girls.
Through boxing, art, and collective reflection, Jóvenes por el Cambio seeks to address gender-based violence and promote dignified migration with rights.
Alianza por la Integración Comunitaria Utopía A.C. promotes a healthy childhood for children and youth in the state of Mexico through academic, sports, and extracurricular activities that improve young people’s educational performance, wellbeing, and opportunities for success.
Get to know them and support them!
Header photo: APIC Utopía and Jovenes por el Cambio facilitating community engagement activities with children in Aldea Champollap, San Pedro Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. © Global Fund for Children
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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