Seattle’s First Ambassador Jozlyn Pelk Visits GV in Guatemala

(Left to right) Aurelio Hernandez (GV Staff), Mario Perez (Mayor), Jozlyn Pelk, Translator  (Front left to right) Patricia (Youth 2013), Claudia (GV staff), Sandra (GV staff)
(Left to right) Aurelio Hernandez (GV Staff), Mario Perez (Mayor), Jozlyn Pelk, Translator
(Front left to right) Patricia (Youth Leader), Claudia (GV staff), Sandra (GV staff)

Last Wednesday, Jozlyn Pelk, the first Seattle Ambassador, visited Global Visonaries during her week-long trip to Guatemala, where she met with the mayor of Santa Maria de Jesus, Mario Perez; recent GV Youth Leader Patricia; as well as GV staff Aurelio, Claudia and Sandra.

Jozlyn is a student at University of Washington Bothell (UWB), double-majoring in Law Economic Public Policy and Global Studies with a minor in Human Rights. She was selected as the Seattle Ambassador in June by the Seattle International Foundation (SIF) and the City of Seattle Office of the Mayor, who ran the program for the first time this year.

Sponsored by the program, she embarked on a trip to Guatemala in fall and visited several Seattle-based nonprofit organizations, seeing firsthand their work in the community. She shares details of her experience by writing on her blog, and will be going on local media outlets and attending events to share what she learned about global poverty with the Seattle community.

Jozlyn visited two different GV project sites in Santa Maria, a town just outside of Antigua at the base of the Volcán de Agua in Guatemala, where she saw kids inside the classrooms built by GV volunteers. Santa Maria is one of several towns in which GV is bringing together Guatemalan youth and Seattle youth through leadership development programs and local service projects with a focus on social and environmental justice.

“I was able to visit two schools built by GV Guatemalan and Seattle youth in the towns Cerro del Niño and Santa Maria de Jesus; both remote, impoverished towns that historically have been difficult to access by car due to steep hills, and do not have enough classrooms for its growing population (Santa Maria has over 600 students!). It was incredible to see the culmination of the hard labor of Guatemalan and Seattle students who have come together to share across cultures and give back to their local and global communities through the construction of these schools.

“Seeing the classrooms filled with children, and new classrooms on the way, was heartwarming. Hundreds of children are able to go to school, and communities are able to thrive because of the commitment of Guatemalan and Seattle youth leaders to create social change,” said Jozlyn.

She then joined GV staff Aurelio, Claudia and Sandra, Youth Leader Patricia, and Don. Mario Perez Pio, mayor of Santa Maria de Jesus, for a dialogue on the biggest issues faced by youth in Guatemala, as well as Global Visionaries’ impact in the community by partnering with local municipalities and bringing education and leadership opportunities to young people. GV is currently working in partnership with Mayor Perez and the local government of Santa Maria to construct new classrooms and provide volunteer opportunities for young people.

Jozlyn recalled the conversation on her blog:

“There are many challenges for young people in Guatemala. Many do not have the resources or the opportunity to study past the 6th grade, and must begin working at a young age to support their families. Others in rural communities are not in close proximity to a school, and therefore never receive a formal education.”

Patricia (Pati), graduate of the 2012 intensive leadership program in Santa Maria, also shared her point of view of the challenges youth in her community face when it comes to education, especially girls.

“Young people are oppressed and cannot speak their minds; girls in particular are told they cannot go to school because you’re a girl,” said Pati.

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Jozlyn wrote about her exchange with Pati and Sandra:

“(They) both emphasized GV’s vital role in creating a safe environment for young women and men to grow, not only by providing opportunities and infrastructure like the classrooms built by Seattle and Guatemalan youth volunteers, but also the space and community to talk about racism and sexism with other youth.

“I was most inspired by Sandra’s story about her personal experience with overcoming discrimination, as an indigenous woman who was expected to support her family rather than continue to go to school (families not recognizing the importance of investing in their child’s education is something I have heard consistently throughout the week). In pursuit of her dream of finishing school, Sandra left for Antigua where she faced racism and sexism in another way – being isolated for wearing indigenous dress. Sandra and Pati both stressed the importance of Global Visionaries’ programs providing the space and community to talk about racism and sexism with other youth.”

For the full story, visit Jozlyn’s blog at http://www.seattleambassador.org/featured/

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