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SERES Youth Leaders Participate in International ESD Conference in Brazil

Ambassadors and facilitators from the SERES team joined youth from all over Latin America and the Caribbean for UNESCO’s World Action for ESD program in Brazil

by Glenda Xulú and Susana Ruiz

From Sept 26 – 28, 10 youth ambassadors and facilitators from the SOMOS SERES network from Guatemala and El Salvador participated in the “Workshop for Youth Leaders about Education for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean,” a program for world action about education for sustainable development (ESD) organized by the regional office for Education for Latin America and the Caribbean OREA C/UNESCO Santiago, together with the UNESCO Brasilia office and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. .  

The program, held in Brasilia, Brazil, was structured with a modality oriented to action using participative methodologies. It was facilitated by the coordinator of Carta de la Tierra Christine Lacayo and Kerstin Frosberg of Planeta Oceáno. This process of interconnection through experiential learning was focused on generating wide  actions  based in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in areas of education at all levels, in order to construct a learning community  based around projects.

This workshop was designed by youth leaders that are working on actions for sustainable development. According to the participants, it was a valuable experience.

Este taller fue diseñado para jóvenes líderes que están trabajando en acciones para el desarrollo sostenible. Según los participantes fue una experiencia valiosa.

“To feel that I’m a part of a movement at the level of UNESCO has confirmed for me that I am doing valuable things. I’m fortunate to belong to this global action movement,” said Antonio Sánchez, SEREs co-founder and facilitator.

In the conference there was an exchange of knowledge and experience that gave the participants the opportunity to build a network of active change agents in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Process

Being in a place where 38 youth representatives from different countries, who brought with them so much energy and diversity of thought, knowledge, experience, culture, and language, made this workshop especially enriching. Together, participants created strong friendships and connections, in which each youth leader shared their passion and thought about making different kinds of changes in their given context. It was a space in which all participants co-created and came to understand that in spite of the distance, they are united in the same vision and quest: To construct a more just, resilient, and sustainable community, country, and world for everyone around the world, and for future generations.

Bastián Acevedo Bustos, a participant from Chile who is representative of the Initiative for development and sustainable investigation (IDIS) and the Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI), highlighted the importance of this international network.

“Let’s make this network of youth the best of all and show the world that together we can achieve great things,” he said. 

His fellow countryman Esteban Vera, a Mapuche youth leader from Chile, delegated by the Mapuche Leufu Pilmaiquen Maihue, and currently in charge of the Office of Mapuche asuntos in the municipality of Comuna de Rio Bueno, agreed.

“The world is awakening and is being protected by its youth, that is the message that I will take to my territory – We are not alone!!,” Vera said.

We are change agents and leaders.  

The workshop took place throughout two days, plus an additional day of a hike through Chapada Imperial, a nature reserve in Brasilia.

On the first day of the workshop, facilitators led participants through several different activities. The activity that had the most impact was the first session, in which each participant introduced themselves and offered an object, sharing the historic value that it had in their life. After this the youth leaders analyzed different topics, such as sustainability, the current state of education versus education for sustainable development, and the challenge of putting sustainability at the heart of education. Later the youth attendees participated in “corners,” an activity in which each youth chose a corner, discussed a certain question with the rest, and responded with debates the question posed by the facilitator. This activity made each person reform their response or decision, and think analytically about each scenario. The rest of the topics and the activities that day were:  systemic thought,, transformation of conflict and leadership styles, and activities designed to strengthen knowledge bases, critical thinking, and teamwork skills.

The second day, there were other activities for working in groups. Each group gathered together according to their area of work that each one does in their country, and from there analyzed and discussed the root issues, the problem, and the consequences of the social, environmental, political, and economic impacts those issues have in each country and region.

The main topic for everyone was sustainability and education for sustainable development, and this was a fairly essential session in order to think about the next steps. Later on in the day, facilitators shared tools for project management, and how to structure a personal or group action plan so that participants can be active youth leaders and replicate ESD workshops in their communities. The following activities that day included talking about workshop and communication facilitation. Participants also held a “World Café” session that helped everyone to propose and establish a network of youth leaders for the Education for Sustainable Development in Latin America with the goal to be active and in contact, to keep sharing experiences, opportunities, resources, and tools that strengthen the work of each one. The last activity was a dialogue about the take-away from the previous two days with an enjoyable dance.

The third and final day, participants had an excursion to one of the natural reserves in Brasilia. The participants got to know a little bit about the history and later in the walk observed, listened, and contemplated the rivers, waterfalls, and all of the biodiversity in the area.

Experience, exchange, and learning as leaders and educators

SERES facilitators and ambassadors that participated in the workshop offered their reflections and comments about the experience. Read more below:

Glenda Xulú, facilitator GT:

“It’s very inspiring to share with youth from different countries, to feel their energy, listen to their knowledge and experiences, and connect with their passion and vision. It made me feel and believe that I’m not the only one, and that it’s not just youth from Guatemala and El Salvador that want to see positive changes and create actions in our communities; rather, there are many more, and although we don’t see them physically they do exist, and they exist when each one takes actions at the personal, family, community, muncipal, and systemic levels. In those moments of learning and dialogue, I remembered all that I value and I told the youth with whom I have this opportunity to be with that through these actions we are contributing to constructing a more just community, country, and world. Each day these actions are made stronger, and each day we make ourselves stronger to keep struggling and working. Being there made me feel that I am part of a network that is much greater and global, and I understand that more than that there is so much work to do. I feel more committed and willing to keep working because it’s necessary. If we want to see positive changes, we should be the example and keep preparing more leaders, because they are the ones who will take on and keep on with the work when we are no longer in this first life.” 

Johanna López, ambassador, GT:

“The workshop for youth leaders about ESD in Latin America and the Caribbean was a very enriching experience, because I learned more about ESD and the SDGs, as well as other techniques and tools that I can use in my daily activities or in carrying out discussions and workshops in my community. I feel very happy and motivated to have shared this experience with other youth and to have learned about the great actions that they are carrying out in their communities according to the necessities present in them and that they find in their surroundings. I loved the form of co-existence and knowing that we are not alone, that there are more youth who are leading the way to have a more just world. As a SERES ambassador, it is significant to have been able to be in this space and form myself academically in order to be a better person each day. I’m convinced that to be a part of this network is interesting and is the platform where we are able to launch our voices, and are able to express our thoughts and act for change.”

Esteban Sacalxot, facilitator GT:

“There’s no doubt that the youth are the force of the present and the foundation of the future, and now is the time to contribute to the transformation processes, from the personal to the community levels, initiating and participating in politics for greater access to decision-making spaces and to strengthen systemic change in our municipalities, departments, and country. Remember that the change begins when we  decide that things should be different.

If the youth don’t take on directing the process of constructing more just communities and a more just future, who will do it for us?”

Marta Arévalo, ambassador, ES:

“To share each one of our experiences in our area of work showed me that we do exist as visionary leaders and lovers of our mother nature. This space lit a flame inside for me, that day to day keeps growing and it made me get outside of my comfort zone. As youth leaders, we should never stop, or conform, until we transform all that we believe is good into something excellent.”

Mary Rivas, ambassador, ES

“As a young woman, and as part of the network of youth leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean supported by the UNESCO, this is one of the experiences that tells me that my work is reaching another level of leadership, of envisioning my capacity farther than what is visible and knowing that all that I dream and aim to do is achievable while I work on it and allow myself to be accompanied by people with the same vision  to grow in order to grow.”

César Recinos, ambassador, ES

“This experience as part of the network of ambassadors at this level with UNESCO made me reflect about all that I am doing. I feel that I have a clear idea of the work that I want to do for youth, and I feel committed to being able to go to this level of action and connection with more people in the network.

I want to take advantage of this network to strengthen my skills and invite more people to challenge themselves and believe that we can push ourselves to make changes that are a little more specific and get out of our comfort zone. Because this made a new click in me, and my invitation is to take the seed of this experience to formal education as part of innovations in education.”

Fátyma Landaverde, ambassador, ES

“My experience in these meetings has been that it has left me with more wisdom, and has strengthened the skills I use for facilitation. It has made me learn to better listen to my surroundings (people, animals and plants). It has been incredible to see how youth from different countries make an effort to work in integrated education about environmental topics. What’s more, I feel proud to go to a space which recognizes the SERES network, this great family that has helped me to grow, that has given me strength and wisdom in order to be able to lead and strengthen the capacities of other people in different communities. I’m happy to be here with everyone who is creating change at different levels.”

Susana Ruiz, facilitator ES

“I’m very fortunate to be part of the network of leaders for ESD, but I also now consider the fact that I have a great responsibility.

For everyone and for always is a sustainability term that is challenging. The SDGS are a goal to be completed by 2030, but time doesn’t stand still and they are a great, significant challenge. We are at a difficult moment in history, and it’s time to contribute our best efforts and raise our flags of struggle and indomitable willpower.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a hope for the future, an agenda with an aim to achieve an environmentally responsible world. It’s an opportunity to do even those things that we think might be insignificant. It’s not enough to pray, we urgently need a transformation of thoughts, actions, and life. Let’s unite our strengths – as youth we need to open our eyes and think outside the box. We will struggle with love for our ‘common home.'”


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