Listen and Speak — Participate and Lead

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

A small group of ChildFund staff from Bolivia, Brazil, Panama and the U.S. were in Guatemala last week acting as external consultants. Read part one.

In ChildFund’s quest for quality improvement, our team in Guatemala identified factors that both help and hinder us in our mission. Some factors are within our immediate control (how we communicate with families, communities and partners) and others are societal norms that we must confront and overcome (exclusion based on indigenous identity, history of internal conflict, and male-dominated decision-making in families).

photo of Guatemalan youth

Talking with Guatemala's youth.

In our conversations with partners, parents, staff and even Guatemala’s children and youth, we found two prominent components of ChildFund’s approach that promote quality programming: a strong commitment to rights-based development and an abiding respect for the indigenous people with whom we partner and work. The fact that families and communities perceive these qualities in our program design and implementation is a true measure of success.

However, the challenges remain staggering. Guatemala suffered a tragic civil war with the most recent peace accord not even 10 years old. Much of the fighting happened in the communities and areas where ChildFund is working today. A discordant history presents itself in the lives, attitudes and behaviors of community members. We encounter apprehension and fear as well as frustration and skepticism. Yet, Guatemala’s people have an indomitable pride as well as a spirit of self-reliance and self-respect that provides a rich culture and a vibrant hope for children.

photo 2 of Guatemalan youth

Young people share their ideas.

Our team spoke with youth participating in Mi Chance (My Chance), an employability skills development project, and Mi Quiero, Mi Cuido (I love myself, I take care of myself), a life and interpersonal skills development project. Youth told us that they are now more accomplished in their technical skills (knowing how to cut hair, repair radios, bake bread) as well as in their interpersonal dynamics as a result of ChildFund programs.

In their own words:

  • “I’ve lost my shyness. I am more confident with my friends, family and people in my community.”
  •  “I got accustomed to talking. I liked being heard.”
  •  “This is the first time people are asking how to make things better — and what I want.”
  •  “I see more opportunities in life. I don’t feel left out of decisions.”
  • “I can say what I think and want and need in Spanish and in K’iche.”
  • “If you don’t speak and give opinions, you don’t learn and you get stuck in your path.”
  • “I learn about myself and I learn about others. And, most importantly, I know how to relate to others.
  • “I’ve learned the importance of listening and speaking — of participating and leading.”

Even though the Guatemala Program Quality Consultation has come to an end, ChildFund continues to listen to program participants. This is part of our strategic efforts to constantly evolve programming to address the needs of children, youth and communities.

The Guatemala national office has a five-year strategy that will transition our presence and our programming over the coming years to reach populations that are in rural, indigenous areas, with a keen focus on girls’ participation and empowerment. All of these factors position ChildFund to be a leader for children and youth in Guatemala.

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