The Odyssey
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Latin America Kavitha Dispatch

Juventud por La Paz - Youth for Peace
 
"The thirty-one indigenous pueblos--like Todos Santos--in the area around Huehuetenango were hit hard during the civil war that shook our country for more than thirty-six years. During this ugly time, the death of many relatives and all the violations of basic human rights have left a large scar on the lives of our children and orphans who lack sufficient guidance from their parents." Bladimiro Palacios, a concerned teacher in the Todos Santos area, and founder of Youth for Peace.

Students in class in Todos Santos
Caption
During my two week stay in Todos Santos, I have been struck by the apparent absence of purpose in most teenage youth. Younger children go to grade school and adults marry and tend to their families and homes…but what about those important years in between? What are most kids your age doing in Todos Santos?

Traditional weaving doesn't earn much, but people try to send their kids to school
Caption
Since the end of the civil war, it has become more common for people to actually send their kids to school. If you wanted to go to school in Todos Santos, you would now have the opportunity to attend one year of pre-primaria, followed by six years of primaria. You could even continue on to do three years of basicos, which is pretty much the equivalent of our middle school. But that is as far as you could get here in Todos Santos. If you wanted to continue your education, your parents would have to send you to live and attend school in Huehuetenango (Huehue is the town's nickname), which is three hours away by bus.

Many turn to drinking when they lack other opportunities
Caption
Huehue is a big, modern town. It is a new, shocking, and somewhat frightening experience for most youth who arrive from the smaller and more isolated Todos Santos. Most youth who arrive in Huehue for schooling feel disoriented and easily fall prey to drug and alcohol abuse.

"The youth from the small pueblos--like Todos Santos--that surround Huehue need some kind of guidance and positive direction. They need to realize their worth and know that they have opportunities ahead of them, not just the desperation and alcoholism that they witnessed in the 80's when their homes were torn apart by violence and oppression."

Trivia!!
This is why Bladimiro is working to create Youth for Peace, a non-profit organization to give youth in Huehue a safe, enriching place to learn and to grow into responsible adults. Bladimiro's vision includes an after-school youth center in Huehue and additional smaller centers in each of the pueblos (to give students guidance before they leave for Huehue). These centers would have music, games, and inter-pueblo sports leagues for sports such as basketball and soccer. They would be drug-free places where young people could go for advice, field trips, activities, or just to hang out.

Unfortunately, Bladimiro's vision is still just that a vision. Click here to see how YOU can Make a Difference!

Kavitha  
 

Abeja - No More Small Talk: Stories of the Civil War
Abeja - No More Small Talk: Stories of the Civil War (kids version)
Shawn - Smashed Eggs and Sacrificial Roosters: Shaman Healing in Todos Santos
Abeja - 100% Culture Clash--Handle With Care

 
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