Similar to the goals of our local Youth Making a Difference Conferences, ACCESS funded 4 conferences this year through Alianza, a small nonprofit organization which has been working for 10 years in a rural village in Guatemala's Northwestern San Marcos Department. Three members of the local community Guatemala, speaking the Mayan language of Mam, are employed to run the programs.
The vocational aptitude conferences help junior high school students to become inspired and interested in a variety of careers outside the traditional subsistence farming (which is rapidly becoming untenable as the land base shrinks and the population grows). Students compleate aptitude tests, discuss their aspirations, and hear from role models who have gone on to become (for example, nurses, social workers, business people). Similar to YMAD, the conferences also focus on Leadership.
Workshops were held for students receiving bursaries, over a period of 5 days. The themes of these workshops included Self Esteem, Youth Rights and Obligations, Reproductive Health, Youth Social Issues, and Relationships.
These conferences are a way to help students learn more about their own skills, and expose them to a more diverse range of career opportunities in a community with 70% unemployment/underemployment, migratory labour to plantations, and subsistence farming. Debates are also organized so students can practice public speaking and develop critical thinking. The conferences touch on themes of gender equity and healthy lifestyles.
ACCESS is pleased to continue our international education and leadership work by supporting this fellow Canadian grassroots non-profit, founded by a physician from Cambridge, Ontario.
Contributions to ACCESS' local and international projects can be made online here.