“Skills, leadership and joy”: this is how Oswaldo Mendia describes his experience of participating in the Regional Local Peace Networks event called the “Practicing Values for Peace” Camporee. The Camporee, which took place in late June, brought together youth from the 12 communities where AFSC has been working for the last few years.

Oswaldo is one of the young leaders from our Local Peace Network (LPN) in La Libertad, zone 3, a settlement just next to Guatemala City’s municipal landfill. He started his training process as an urban leader in 2013, when he accepted AFSC’s invitation to participate in our “Youth Peace Builders” camp.

Oswaldo is only 19 years old, but like many other young people living in the urban areas tagged as “red areas,” he has been exposed to violence, exclusion and lack of opportunities.

According to Oswaldo, it is very important to have youth participating in these events because they promote a safe environment where young people with similar backgrounds—affected by violence and discrimination, but committed to and eager to transform their realities—can share their experiences and work together to promote positive changes in themselves, their families and their communities. “The activities we want to carry out for our communities will rebuild social fabric and that’s our dream, to see our communities live in peace,” says Oswaldo.

Josselyn Chocochic, who is a part of our LPN in San Pedro Ayampuc, just started her training process as a youth leader this year. She has expressed how happy she feels to be part of a LPN, because it has given her the opportunity to grow as person, and to understand better the situation in her community and how vulnerable youth are to violence. Because of that, now she understands the importance of community unity and teamwork.

Almost 100 youth leaders participated in the Regional Local Peace Networks Camporee. The youth showed their talents and skills, putting into practice everything they know about teamwork and having fun. These activities demonstrate to youth leaders that peaceful coexistence is possible, and that there are other young people like them who are trying to become a positive influence in their communities. 

When asked about the Camporee, Josselyn says “It was an unforgettable experience in which AFSC allowed so many young people like me to gather to educate us. I was able to learn about my own skills and capabilities. I now know that there is a lot that I can do for my community, because I have the will to transform my community.”