On a cool damp day in June, thirty youth from communities in the CRIPDES San Vicente region arrived at the CRIPDES/CORDES offices for the mid-year assembly, to check in, to provide feedback on the scholarship program, and share about their work in their communities, organizing youth and working with community councils. Amilcar, a scholarship recipient himself, energetically ran the meeting and encouraged the youth to voice their opinions as they took turns sharing their impressions.
Before the assembly began, Amilcar asked the group to put their chairs in a circle to be able to see one another and participate collectively—the chairs were set up in rows, facing forward, with chairs formally placed behind the “mesa de honor.” It was a great way to start the meeting, with an emphasis on shared, horizontal leadership, with no one above anyone else in a hierarchical vertical structure. The meeting started with introductions and greetings as we went around the circle and took turns announcing who we were, which community or organization we represented, and why we were there. Soon after the introductions, the young adults took turns explaining what the scholarship meant to them.
“I have nothing negative to say, only positive words. I recognize the value in this program. It covers not only transportation, food, and the cost of education, but $5 can go to something else for the family. Helping our youth to study is so important. If we didn’t have this, the kids would not go to school. We appreciate it so much. Thank you,” expressed a very emotional mother in the group. Many other students and parents expressed very similar sentiments, recognizing that it not only helps the student attending school, but the whole family.
A focus of the assembly was also on the community organizing work youth participate in. Work ranged from the organization of cleaning campaigns and education about river pollution to plans to celebrate a community's anniversary, to an update about a mother’s day event that youth were central in planning in one of the communities. It took a while to warm the room up, but after some encouragement, youth shared more and more about their community organizing work, and about the achievements and struggles they have faced.
One of the greatest difficulties faced by these young leaders was the division of youth in their communities. As they took turns sharing their different experiences, a common thread was felt, and together they started to brainstorm suggestions of what they could do to build solutions. Through their formation and active participation of sharing their experiences, together they were able to begin the process for working through the problems.
Overall the young men and women wanted to make positive remarks and shared criticism to improve the program. The group was very positive and grateful to the scholarships and excited about their participation in their communities.
Amilcar, the visitors from SHARE, and the students all ended the afternoon with a fun, interactive “dynamica.”
In four small groups, youth chose an action, based on a household chore, and a song. Amilcar, standing in the middle of the room, would indicate to each group by raising his left, right or both arms when they should sing, act out their chore, do both, or stop. To the right, students act out the preparation of land before planting season begins with the first rains. The room was soon erupting in giggles as the students had some fun and got to know each other a little better through their actions and songs.
This dinamica also emphasized the importance of organization—if the group didn't have good communication and organization before Amilcar pointed to them, their actions wouldn't be coordinated and their song would be incomprehensible. From this silly activity, we drew an important lesson: only organized can people achieve their goals and salir adelante, move forward.
With a new generation doing things in a different way than in the past, the youth are working to create an atmosphere where it is comfortable to collectively participate and together create sustainable, alternative, democratic development in their communities. They enjoy the work they are doing and recognize its value for their communities. As they grow and develop as leaders, their communities, their region, and their country will benefit from the amazing work they are doing.