On this International Day of the Girl we want to share one of our favorite stories from Guatemala this year. It’s the story of 17 year-old Lily who entered the Leaders and Readers Program in 2016 which she says “changed my life completely”. Like many of the teens in our program, Lily hasn’t had an easy life. But even with the challenges she’s faced – which include being bounced around as a child, starting school at the age of 7, dealing with an illness that affected her ability to walk and kept her out of school for a year, and having an alcoholic father – she is in high school studying tourism and working hard to support her family through their tough moments.
This past May, Lily participated in a local competition (Miss Flower of Chaquijya). With great poise and confidence – skills she gained through her participation in our program – Lily answered a question about the contributions of women in social development and was chosen to be the female representative of youth in her community. She then represented her village at the regional competition, competing against 12 other young women. Lily says, “I was really nervous because most of the other girls were much older than me and some were even in college.” To her surprise and delight the mantra she used to calm her nerves, “I know I have the capacity and skills to succeed”, proved correct. Because Lily could so eloquently express her thoughts in both Spanish and Kaqchikel (a local Mayan language and the first language that she learned) she won the title of Female Representative of the Indigenous Youth of Solola.
Our Leaders & Readers Program is designed to help young adults build the skills and confidence to articulate their opinions, lead their communities, and influence change. Lily’s story is one such example. Brenda, the Reading Village Community Facilitator who works directly with Lily, says “she is one of the best reading promoters we’ve ever had in Chaquijya. She co-facilitates with me and helps her peers improve their literacy activities and reading sessions.”
We are overjoyed that after just two years in our program, Lily says she is no longer afraid to speak in public, she is much more independent, and she is able to find solutions to follow her dreams. Her hard work and determination will now take her to national events and competitions to represent her indigenous peers in Solola. Lily reflects, “this is a beautiful experience and so unique in my life. I feel very happy and proud.”
You can help support Lily and others like her to develop their skills as the leaders of tomorrow by donating today.