Editor’s note: this post is also available in Spanish.
My name is Veraly; I am 15 years old and I am from the department of San Marcos, in Guatemala.
I come from a hard-working family, a family of farmers. We did not have any luxuries when I was little, but my parents gave me something more important: they taught me to value hard work and commitment. They taught me to love the earth. To be humble and respect people regardless of their origin.
One of the things that I liked the most when I was younger was to accompany my grandparents to the farm. They planted peanuts, tomato, carrots, apples … everything. They spent all day working, from sunrise to sunset. Thanks to them I realized that sometimes things that seem simpler require a lot of effort. That life has to be earned. Because being alive is a privilege.
“Work, help people, and be happy,” my grandfather always used to say.
It was this year that I decided to become a boxer. I thought it was only a men’s sport until I saw women practicing, screaming, fighting. I was fascinated.
So I told my family that I wanted to try and although I´m sure they thought I was crazy, they always supported me.
My dad told me that he had also boxed when he was younger. He told me that it is a sport that demands a lot, that it takes tons of commitment, hard work, and discipline. And I thought “this is for me.”
I wanted to know my body, to improve it. Cultivate it, just as the land is cultivated.
In one of the trainings other young boxers told me about an organization called Jóvenes por el Cambio. They explained to me that it was for young people to get together and know more about their community and its problems. To see how we as young people can organize and contribute to solve them.
The most beautiful thing of all is that by wanting to change others, by wanting to change the world, I ended up changing myself. And the more I participated in Jóvenes, the more I felt how my character was changing. How I was losing the fear of speaking, of expressing myself, of being myself. I learned to have self-esteem and to find strength in collective work.
We boxed and, at the same time, we talked about gender equity. That men and women are equal and that we can do and be what we want. That the body of a woman does not belong to anyone but herself. And that she must defend herself if necessary. Because we always have to defend what we are.
Boxing gave me discipline, and Jóvenes Por El Cambio gave me awareness. Both gave me heart and the desire to be better every day.
And I understood that people are very different, but that is good and that despite our differences we can agree and improve our community. I learned that the people of Guatemala leave everything behind and risk a lot to have a better life, because often they do not have opportunities here, because they are discriminated against, because they feel alone. And I do not want them to feel alone.
So in Jóvenes we do a little bit of everything: we conduct workshops in schools, perform theater plays, create campaigns to collect garbage and raise awareness about pollution, provide scholarships to young people, organize public events like photography shows about migration, interact and dialogue with the authorities, etc. Everything to continue transforming our community and transforming ourselves, so that people migrate for pleasure and for love, not out of fear or out of necessity.
We want to change what happens in our family, in our community, in our country. We want to listen and to be listened to. We want to meet other organizations and other dreams. We also need to feel that we are not alone.
We want you to know us and to support us. People often say that young people are apathetic, that we are criminals, that we do not care about anything. But it is not true. Young people need to be heard. We have a lot to learn, but also a lot to teach.
I tell young people to organize, to fight, to not be discourage by difficulties. That the effort is worth it and that if we organize, we can do amazing things. And that, although sometimes it does not seem like it, there is always someone willing to listen. There is always a light, even in the midst of the greatest darkness.
Thanks to GFC, and to the organizations with whom we work, for making us feel that we are not alone. For helping us to change. Thank you, thank you very much for being around. And for your light.
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 organization of young people, especially women. In addition to participating in Jóvenes’ sports program herself, Veraly now helps the organization lead boxing workshops with younger children and youth.
Through boxing, art, and collective reflection, they seek to confront gender violence and promote dignified and rights-based migration. Know them and support them!
Veraly’s story is part of Global Fund for Children’s Role Model Series, featuring inspiring youth who are standing up for children’s rights around the world.
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.
86-90 Paul Street
London EC2A 4NE