On the afternoon of Sunday, June 3rd, the Volcano of Fire – located just a few km away from Antigua Guatemala – erupted spewing a fast-moving mixture of gas and volcanic material. The community from San Miguel Los Lotes was buried, and the surrounding towns of El Rodeo, La Reina, and others evacuated.
Hundreds of people were evacuated to the Albergues de Transición Unifamiliares – ATUS – located in Escuintla, the south of the country. In the shelter’s families of the communities Los Lotes, El Barrio, La Trinidad, and Las Palmas were located and had to share spaces such as dining rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms.
The Guatemalan government developed a project called “La Dignidad”, one thousand houses were built to allocate the families affected by the eruption. So far the government has delivered – through phases – the deeds and houses to 192 families in the neighborhood.
Since the day of the tragedy, SERES has been in the front lines providing long term support to our young people and their families. We saw a clear need to lead the coordination and management of supplies, donations, and volunteers so that the relief efforts could be targeted effectively and strategically. As we move out of immediate disaster relief, we focused on how we can help to provide dignity and empowerment in these transitional camps.
A year and a half later, SERES is one of the few NGOs that continues to work with young people from the communities offering a different, trustworthy and safe space to discuss the inclusion of young people in the reconstruction of the community,
We are motivated to build and cultivate spaces that promote equality and diversity, that create bonds of trust with young people who were displaced from their communities and have been living in uncertainty.
During August and September, we conducted a baseline research in the ATUS to assess the needs, interests and the community participation level of youth (15 – 30 years) from La Dignidad, that have not yet participated in processes and SERES training.
The results indicated that 29% of young people are interested in participating in the transition dynamics of the community, however, 77% are not actively involved.
This opened an opportunity to hold the first SERES Youth Assembly in the ATUS. From November 6th through November 12th we managed to gather 35 young people from the 4 communities – Los Lotes, El Barrio, La Trinidad, and Las Palmas -. The call to participate was a success thanks to the support of the community leaders. SERES was in charge of building an agenda where both sides shared concerns and possibilities for collaboration.
“We believed that the assembly was necessary because it would allow us to approach young people’s concerns and know their position within the community” – Juan Pablo Sic, SERES facilitator.”
Within the first part of the assembly, we shared the message of how we can achieve goals from unity and teamwork. We carry out activities to co-create a circle of trust, safe and joyful without prejudices where young people can step out of fear and enter a sensitive space where they are heard.
“We managed to complete the activity because we were representing a community and the community must show unity and communication. ” – Young leader.
Take a look at the young leader’s dreams regarding a place that has access to resources and the necessary tools to help rebuild and integrate people into their communities:
“We want to receive advice and guidance to make decisions or problem-solving.”
“We want a space of friendship, solidarity, generosity, tolerance, loyalty, and love.”
“Invite and motivate more young people to participate”
And this confirms our medium-term plans to develop a ConeXpacio – youth center – in La Dignidad. From that space, we will push activities and initiatives led by young people for the benefit of this community.
“The Assembly allowed us to build a bond of trust with young people to share a vision of the community that is being formed” – Victor Mora, SERES Program Manager.
We are excited about what is to come for our young leaders and how in their vulnerability they have found resilience. This is what it is all about.
You can join us through these pathways to resilience and support the young leaders of La Dignidad here.