Youth Ownership

Things have been very busy in our absence.  It is hard to believe that we have taken such a long hiatus from blogging.  Life and work swept us away for a while.  However, today, I have an amazing insight to share.  I honestly could not be more happy with the direction that this project has taken in Guatemala.  There are many different ways to define success, but when internal sustainability is rising, it is perhaps one of the most relevant indicators of this term.

I left for Austin TX on February 26, 2014.  In the weeks before, I identified three interested youth –  Carmen, Tín (Carlos) and Chema – to take on the role of teaching the new groups of students.  As I watched them teach in the month before my departure, I was both elated and nervous.  How does one let go of what they’ve created without feeling a little of both emotions?  I was elated because I observed these three confidently sharing what they had learned from their own experience.  I saw them not dispensing information, but engaging the new students in participating in creating the learning environment.  They were successfully cultivating the philosophy that underlies our organization.  My nervousness related to whether or not they would be lost without my presence.  This should not have concerned me given how well they adopted their new roles, but I believe such a feeling is natural.  I had no choice to let go because my role now was to take their documentaries to the US and spread the word about our organization.

While in Austin, a smile and ease came to my face on two occasions.  The first weekend I was gone, Chema and Carmen called me on Skype.  We spoke before one of their workshops and they talked with authority about the activities for the day.  They were well organized and it was clear that they were ready to take on this task without me.

The second occasion was the morning before I would return to Austin.  I woke up that morning only to find that Chema had posted photos of the activities that he and Carmen facilitated. He did this on is own accord.  Ownership was shaping up nicely.

I returned to find that Carlos was also taking initiative reflecting what he had learned in the previous session.  He had downloaded and organized all the films and photos from each of the weeks that he taught his group in San Juan.  He also wanted to post photos while I was gone, but did not have the modem to access the internet.  The first day that we were together, I made him an admin on FB and he posted a message on our fan page.  He was hesitant write in Spanish, as all my posts are in English, but I reassured him that this was perfectly fine.

These three youth are taking the reigns of Unlocking Silent Histories with confidence and without asking for permission.  I’m excited to feel the sense that we are building sustainability together.  I’m seeing characteristics of me coming through their teaching and their direction and at the same time, I see elements of their personal identities shaping and reshaping Unlocking Silent Histories – without losing our foundations.  Who could ask for more!

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