Something to Think About – from Our Offices in Guatemala

English: Guatemala has been seen as a big “finca” (farm) for the last 500 years since the invasion of the Spanish (it is not a conquest), and since then it has been established a system in which only a dome of elitist families who have control of our economy and politics set the rules that runs Guatemala. The new generations not only have the consequences of this system of exploitation, but also we must face the consequences of an internal war that left poverty and a debt that we still continue paying, leaving aside our education and health systems.

We now live in a society where corruption, abuse of power, injustice, suffering and pain are the norm of every day. We live in a country where the governors do business, create policies and undertake projects that only benefit themselves. We live in a country where the environment and life itself are less important than mining, hydroelectric, African palm, oil exploitation, etc. that have destroyed the mountains, valleys, severed and polluted rivers, and above all, displaced communities, denying them their right to work their land.

And yet, a bigger problem is the passive, indifferent, apathetic and silent society.  When people do not take a stand, they can, in a sense, be accomplices. Silence often is no different than taking the side of the oppressor or injustice. Our society has become quiet, submissive and fearful. They make us passive; just waiting for the coming of a messiah.  In other words, waiting for a president who will change it and improve everything.

GV Guatemala understands the importance to be agents of change; to recover historical memory, which allows us to create positive changes to the problems we are facing as a society. We propose and take action by empowering young people from any social and economic context to recover our history and think critically of our present situation in order to build a fair and just future.

GV intends to prepare the young “chapines” (Guatemalans) to understand the role a young person has in our society. We create that platform and tools so that they have opportunities in their schools and social circles to create actions that generate changes from their daily life.

GV believes that it is important that young people have access to programs, in which they can learn how to be empathetic to our cultural diversity – to understand the differences but more important our similarities. Our young participants strive to be cohesive – to be the agent of change that wakes us up to demand justice and not to wait for that messiah (President) to do our work. In addition to understanding how our gringo allies are facing their problems and understand that our struggles are tied and we must collaborate for a better world.

GV breaks the culture of silence, to hear our own voice and more important that the system hears all these voices where we ask for justice and equality for all Guatemalan and human being on this planet.

And as a Latino hero said: “Being young and not being revolutionary, is a contradiction even biologically” -Salvador Allende.

Spanish: Guatemala ha sido vista como una finca por los últimos 500 años desde la invasión de los españoles (no es una conquista), y desde entonces se ha establecido un sistema donde solamente una cúpula de familias elitistas que tienen el control de nuestra economía y política. Las nuevas generaciones no solo debemos afrontar las consecuencias de este sistema de explotación, pero además debemos afrontar las consecuencias de una guerra interna que dejo pobreza y una deuda que aún seguimos pagando, dejando por un lado nuestro sistema educativo y de salud.

Ahora vivimos en una sociedad donde la corrupción, el abuso de poder, las injusticias, el sufrimiento y el dolor son la norma de cada día. Vivimos en un país donde los gobernantes hacen negocios, crean políticas y emprenden proyectos que solo los benefician a ellos mismos. Vivimos en un país donde la naturaleza y la vida es tan poco importante que las mineras, hidroeléctricas, palma africana, explotación petrolera, etc. han destruido las montañas, los valles, secado y contaminado los ríos, y sobre todo, desplazado a las comunidades, negándoles su derecho de trabajar la tierra.

Y es que pienso que no sea estos los problemas más grandes, sino que ante esto los ciudadanos pasivos, indiferentes, apáticos y callados, son igualmente culpables, cómplices, ya que en toda situación no tomar un partido, es realmente tomar el bando del opresor, de la injusticia y la corrupción. Como sociedad se nos ha convertido en callados, sumisos y temerosos. Nos convierten pasivos, solo esperando la venida de un mesías salvador, ósea, un presidente que lo cambie y mejore todo.

Es donde entonces GV Guatemala comprende la importancia como agentes de cambio de recuperar la memoria histórica, que nos permita crear cambios positivos a los problemas que estamos enfrentando. Proponemos y tomamos acción en involucrar jóvenes de cualquier contexto social y económico, para que colectivamente podamos recuperar nuestra historia y pensar críticamente nuestro presente y así poder construir un futuro justo.

GV pretende preparar a los jóvenes chapines a comprender el rol como joven tiene en nuestra sociedad y crear esa plataforma y herramientas para que tengan incidencia desde sus escuelas y círculos sociales y crear acciones que generen cambios positivos desde la vida cotidiana.

GV cree que es importante que los jóvenes chapines deben pasar programas, en el que podamos ser empáticos a nuestra diversidad cultural entender nuestras diferencias pero más importante nuestras similitudes para cohesionar y ser ese monstruo que despierte para reclamar justicia y no esperar más a ese mesías (presidente) que haga nuestro trabajo. Además de comprender como nuestros aliados (gringos) están enfrentando sus problemas y comprender que nuestras luchas están atadas para un mundo mejor.

GV rompe la cultura del silencio, y oímos nuestra propia voz y más importante que escuchen todos estas voces donde pedimos justicia e igualdad para todo guatemalteco y ser humano en este planeta. Y como lo dijo un héroe latino: “Ser joven y no ser revolucionario, es una contradicción hasta biológica” –Salvador Allende.

 

 

 

 

What if our Presidents had participated in Global Visionaries?

A CALL TO ACTION

Our President calls for America First,
And then bans people of a given spiritual faith of particular countries from entering this country–which was founded by the religiously persecuted.
Now, This Land is Your Land, the lyrics of folk singer Woodie Guthrie echoed in international airports in response.

Our President calls for America First…but how do you define “America?”
U.S. participants in GV soon discover that Guatemalans [chapines] think of themselves as “Americans.”
Guatemalans are offended that we as U.S. Americans have co-opted that word, that identity–“American”–as our own.
“American” encompasses North, Central, and South Americas with a rich diversity of ethnicities.

Thus far, the policies being advanced by the current White House Administration are contrary to GV’s mission…

Empowering young people to become global citizens creating a just and sustainable future.

Consider this: What if our Presidents had participated in Global Visionaries?
My wish, my dream, my hope, my vision: all of our elected leaders do so.
Our response to this current reality is this:

As public education is under attack,

We will raise more money for scholarships for low income youth and youth targeted because of their race and ethnicity.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

As a wall between Latin America and the U.S. is proposed,

We will build bridges to strengthen the bonds and understanding between citizens of
Guatemala and the U.S.  Mending and reconciling the violent legacy of a 1954 CIA coup d’état.  We will support families in our GV community and beyond who have undocumented members. And we recognize our privilege as U.S. citizens to be able to fly over such a proposed wall. And the responsibility that comes with that privilege.

As Muslims from select countries are banned from our borders and the Constitution disregarded,

We will provide opportunities for youth to build friendships by breaking down stereotypes about one another, creating a space for deep listening and sharing of their most precious life stories and experiences, leading to life-long friendships they otherwise would not have had.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

As LGBTQI communities are under attack,

We will continue to make GV a safe and sacred place/community where everyone is loved and respected for who they are.

When we are presented with “alternative facts,”

We will increase our participants’ confidence to think critically for themselves
To do their own research; to not scapegoat others.  To see how change begins with oneself and to understand that our existence and survival depends on our recognition that we are all interdependent.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

When brown and black bodies are threatened and incarcerated,

We will provide Anti-Oppression – Pro-Justice trainings, so that every youth participating can gain the skills to become an ALLY when they fall in privileged categories, and learn to overcome internalized oppression when they fall in the targeted categories.

When women’s rights and their right to control their own bodies are at risk,

We empower young people of all genders to raise their voices strongly.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

When our ability to create a sustainable future is jeopardized,

We will plant trees, provide youth the skills and motivation to reduce their ecological footprint, and powerfully voice their opinions on what kind of planet is desperately needed —using an array of platforms to get their message across.

When we are told to keep our mouths shut if we disagree,

We will host free workshops for the community at large to learn how to make one’s voice count in D.C. and locally. (Feb 16, Thursday, 6-8:00 pm is first one and we will lobby on Feb 24, Friday.)

We, this beloved and inspired GV community, have been at this for 20 years now. And, will be for the next 20….

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

Allow me to say before I close: I have just returned to GV after taking three months off to take care of my health. I am deeply grateful to the staff, the Board and the entire GV community for forwarding our collective work.

As I return to work, I am acutely present to the urgency and importance of our mission.
As an Israeli Rabbi whom I sat next to on a flight once told me: “You [U.S.] Americans have a Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. What you need is a statue of responsibility on the West Coast to balance it out.”

This is my call to action and with this, I express my immeasurable gratitude for your support, your action, your investment and the collective responsibility we feel to:
Create a space for youth to lead the way;
Defend everything we stand for in our mission;
Partner with us as we empower youth to critically think, empathically listen and powerfully act.

In solidarity and in peace,

Co-Founder, Chris Fontana

 

Soon, GV will feature commentary and perspectives from the GV Guatemalan staff and Guatemalan youth leaders. Guatemala elected a stand-up comedian for their President a year ago. They have had, sadly, a wealth of experience with “strongmen” as their leaders.

Summer Immersion Update – From Mykal!

This immersion has been a roller coaster for myself as a leader. I have  been up and down and at times I didn’t know if I was up or down or how I felt. At times I felt as if I wasn’t fit for the role of Junior Leader, and during other times, I felt like I knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

I have realized on this immersion that I am too hard on myself, like many others in the United States. I have to learn how to not keep measuring myself against what everyone thinks is perfection. I know that I still have a long way to go as a leader and realize that I am still learning along the way to becoming a great leader. It definitely does not happen overnight. I have learned that I can’t “should” on myself or anyone else because that would mean I am not looking to the future and how to become a better leader. I would still be looking at what I or someone else did or didn’t do. We are only ready to do something when we do it. And I think I am ready to begin a new chapter, or book, if you will, with what I have learned on this immersion and will be taking back with me to Seattle. This day and this immersion has been a gift, a really special one that I didn’t know I needed in my life at this moment. I would especially like to thank Maria Fontana and Dalton for having me realize what a gift this immersion has been as well as my mindset shift in order to grow as a human being. One thing is for sure, it’s not in the genes (jeans, haha).

Con mucho amor,

Christopher Mykal Green

Summer Immersion Update – From Denisse!

What defines a leader?

To me a “leader” signifies one who works side by side with others, one who understands, reflects, and shows empathy. A leader is an equal, a comforting shoulder, and a genuine smile.

This immersion has challenged me in ways I had no idea it would. I went through three different phases: confusion, frustration, and then lasting understanding and confidence in my continuous self-growth. I’ve not only seen myself break down socially constructed barriers, but I’ve also had the honor to be a witness to little changes as well as complete 180 degree turn arounds in others throughout this immersion.

Listening to the participants discuss topics that can be very intimidating in such an open-minded manner is truly inspiring. Not only do they question the “why?” “who?” and “what?” but they also find actual solutions; short term plans as well as long term plans. With this group, encouraging and establishing that everyone and anyone matters is a popular topic. I think change begins when we realize the power we all hold within and the strength in solidarity. One person can make a difference.

I would like to thank the GV Summer 2016 group for teaching me to be patient, in tune with my emotions, and to always dance like no one is watching.

Summer Immersion Update – From Naomi!

Coming into this experience I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or what it would entail, but I feel as though I’m starting to catch on more. Working in the hospital again this year has been incredible. To be honest, I feel as though it has almost been a bit harder this year. For the first two days that we spent in the hospital, I found myself leaving with a sense of panic. I kept on feeling as though I had no time to spend with the patients and the friends I had created last year and also make time to create new connections. Last year I left here with the idea of applying to Youth Board, which provided me with the small sense of hope that I might return. This year, though, I realize that it would be very difficult, if even possible, to return in the coming years and visit my friends in the hospital, which is a terrifying and sad thought.

Things have been really great though overall and I’m still a bit overwhelmed and astonished that I’m actually back here. Leading is definitely more exhausting than I could ever have imagined. I feel like the Junior Leaders have many behind the scenes responsibilities, which are difficult to notice from the outside, so I don’t have a perfect image to replicate. Many of the responsibilities and tasks we have are fairly simple and would be quickly accomplished by one person, but in the effort to foster teamwork, we delegate different parts of the job to different people. It is very important and provides the participants with an opportunity to practice their leadership skills. It is just a much more tiring process when you have to delegate, check in, confirm that the job was completed, and reflect for each individual task. It absolutely pays off, though, when you see someone that was once shy and timid share, open up to the group, and blossom in the work they are doing and people they are interacting with. It really is incredible. I can’t wait to see how other develop as well.

-Naomi Rothenberg (Mercer Island High School Class of 2016, incoming first year student at Willamette University)

Spring Immersion Update: From Richard!

The immersion experience in Guatemala is coming to a close and as I look at the participants around me I feel like my job has been completed. The participants are no longer individuals, but one whole community. They support one another through happiness, through saddness; they have a connection with each other that is special and unique. No one but those around them right now will truly be able to understand what they have gone through these past two weeks. Even participants from the past and the future cannot understand because each group of first-years contains different individuals that make each program one of a kind.

Parents, don’t worry, your children will eventually find words that accurately reflect their emotions, but until then, let them think, let them contemplate all that they have been through. You have watched them grow from crawling unaware toddlers to the proud and confident teenagers they are now; and waiting a few days is nothing compared to that.

I am grateful to have led such an empathetic group of high school students. Everyone has displayed an incredible amount of respect for one another and shared stories that their closest confidants have yet to hear. Looking at the leaders of the future here in Guatemala with me, I have no doubts that the future will be filled with equality, with compassion, with global visionaries.

Richard Wang
2nd Year Junior Leader

Spring Immersion Update: From Megan!

The warm sun beats down upon us. Roosters begin to crow at 4am in the morning. Bright red, yellow, green, blue houses down every street. The lively beats of bachata, reggae-ton, and salsa twirl through the crisp refreshing San Miguel Escobar night.

The GV office in Guatemala, the baroque styled church in San Miguel Park, the participant drop-off routes. Everything is so familiar to me. The 2-hour long weekly meetings since September helped prepare me for these two weeks. The feeling of being back in Guatemala is so surreal to me, and I am still so grateful to have this opportunity. 

Spending two weeks in Guatemala around the same time frame as my first immersion trip least year, I can sense definite similarities. However, distinct differences completely make this experience unique on its own. Obviously, the people I am traveling with are different.   And working in the hospital of Hermano Pedro rather than in the coffee fields is new, as is my role, that of a Junior Leader.

As a Junior Leader, I understand the amount of responsibility I have with technical aspects regarding the energy, the well being, and cultural understanding of the group. I’ve noticed every time my peer Ray and I get home, walk up the stairs and finally close the doors, I feel so tired yet very content at the end of the day. I love watching the epiphanies participants have after compiling the knowledge that they have accrued on this trip with what they previously know. I have seen so much development with leadership skills among the group. 

Work Teams are a crucial component of this two week immersion experience. Working in the hospital allows me to understand another aspect of this society- its healthcare. Every day we visit two wards, attempting to provide love and attention to these patients. I have made so many connections with patients and have become so close with my hospital work team. Personally, when patients smile, laugh or have their fears assuaged, I feel immense joy –  not because I feel I have reached a “goal” but rather the presence of a tacit understanding of a mutual feeling of compassion and love. This is why every time I leave a ward, my heart aches, and why I am giving these last two work days my all. 

In conclusion, these facets of my immersion have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the world and become a better leader. Whether it’s my new found confidence I acquired from the Spanish language classes, or my greater cultural understanding, I am so grateful for all the conversations I have had with my homestay family, the GV Staff, all my Guatemalan friends and everyone I have encountered on the trip. I am so thankful for this experience.

Megan Lee –

2nd Year Junior Leader

Spring Immersion Update: From Ray!

Hey! I am Ray and I am the Junior Leader on the Cafe work team – we are the Coffee work team.  I think that being a Junior Leader has been of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Rewarding because I have seen shy kids change into confident Spanish speakers and loud kids change into careful listeners. I have been able to witness the emotional learning experience that Guatemala brings you on a first hand level and I think that has been amazing. Witnessing the vulnerability and authenticity that is evoked from this experience has helped me grow as a leader, person, and friend. Learning how to feel the complicated range of emotions from a group of teenagers has been a challenge and so with each passing day I strive to give the group the kind of leader they need.

Another challenge that I have faced is being a leader but also being a person, too. Knowing how to balance the intensity of being a 24-hour leader and keeping yourself happy and healthy. I get inspiration from the amazing stories I hear every day, and I am constantly trying to absorb as much passion and learning from the people around me as I can. I hope that as the next few days pass, I can learn and grow as a person –  because that is what I think being a Junior Leader is all about.

To the spring parents, you are so lucky to have such courageous and curious kids and I am thankful; you let them spend these two weeks with me helping both of us grow!

Testimonial from a GV supporter – Bill Ellis

GSLI2015During the nine years that I have been a supporter of Global Visionaries, it has been wonderful to witness its evolution and growth.  Its programs have deepened, with increased opportunities presented for youth to find and bring out their “inner leader”.  You can see their self-confidence build, like an expanding balloon.  Recently, GV has extended its reach with the powerful Global Leadership Summer Institute.  I wanted to call out this less well-known aspect of Global Visionaries since it is an incredible addition to the overall program.

The Global Leadership Summit is a week for educators – with some strong speakers.  Terry Bergeson, the former 12 year Superintendent of Public Instruction of Washington State and GV’s CEO Chris Fontana will be spending 5 days with regional educators, administrators and leaders interested in youth education to grow acumen in the area of bringing democracy to the classroom.  If it is engaged global leaders we want as an outcome, then we need to change the way we are teaching our youth. GV is providing teachers a pathway for they themselves to become global leaders. And this enables teachers to create learning environments in which students take charge of their learning.  I am increasing convinced that, with this full-circle approach to education (providing student and educator learning opportunities), GV is on track to make real changes in the leadership of the future.

This is just one of the reasons I’m looking forward to seeing what the next nine years will bring for GV!

– Bill Ellis
GV Supporter

Enabling young people to become global leaders, creating a just and sustainable future.