Delia Landers, a member of the USESSC Board of Dirctors from Philadelphia, PA, writes about her experience on the recent Regional Youth Delegation leading up to the International Sistering and Solidarity Gathering in July.
We started out in San Salvador with the rest of the groups and went to see the site of the martyrs in UCA and Romero’s house. We then went to a meeting with a government organization called INJUVE. They work creating initiatives for youth in El Salvador, such as nationwide competitions in the arts and athletics as well as a yearly trip for youth around the country. They also showed us the clinic in their offices where they perform tattoo removal for youth. I think that this meeting was very important for our delegation because it provided a glimpse into the government’s official position on youth and the ways that they believe it is best to help with the issues they face. I think we were all able to juxtapose this experience with the ways that the youth committees in the communities we visited are tackling the same issues.
After leaving San Salvador we first traveled to Cinquera. While there we went on a hike and swim with scholarship students and got to spend some time getting to know them. Later we met with Don Pablo, an important elder in their community, and heard his incredible story. We took part in a cultural night and some members of our group even performed a dance. There were people from the Basque country in Spain, who is also sistered with Cinquera, staying in the village while we were there. It was a very interesting glimpse into other practices of solidarity. Before leaving Cinquera we were able to see some of the initiatives that the youth are cultivating. We also had a very productive meeting with their directiva and had a very open conversation about the ways we can improve sistering. They expressed a desire to receive more concrete examples of the ways that we raise money and operate our committees. I think that going to a community as wonderfully organized as Cinquera was really an important way to introduce the first time members of our delegation to the ways of Salvadoran organizing.
The place we visited next was Agua Caliente. Although we were only there for one afternoon we were able to see all of the incredible efforts of their youth. They have plans to create tourist locations using their beautiful national resources and very cool plans for creating murals around the town to promote a knowledge of town history. We ended up having some fun together and taking a boat ride in the lake. I think that this delegation was so successful because it was a perfect mix of fun bonding activities and productive meetings.
That evening we stayed in Suchitoto at the Center of Arts for Peace. We met with leaders in the area and were able to have a good conversation about concerns that Salvadorans have with our current model of solidarity. They really want to see more Salvadoran Americans join Sister Cities, and we were able to have a great dialogue about how this is a desire of ours as well. I was really happy that we were able to have this type of dialogue because I feel that these types of concerns often aren't shared. Also while in Suchitoto we were able to meet with a group called EsArtes. They are a performing arts group that does a season of shows in the city as well as educational plays that they perform in schools. Everyone involved in the program is youth. Going to EsArtes for me was one of the most important parts of the trip. The organization has such a strong base and so many really amazing plans, I feel very strongly that Sister Cities needs to build up a relationship with this group as a way to bring in and keep new youth leadership. I am so excited to see where this new connection will take us.
After Suchitoto we spent an afternoon in Marienella. The youth in that community are incredibly motivated and have a number of really successful art-based initiatives. The community has a radio station that is run by the youth and is used both to communicate messages to and entertain the community. They also have an incredible dance team, honestly one of the best dance teams I have ever seen perform. And I believe that we should create stronger ties to them and use these relationships to bring youth leadership in to Sister Cities.
We then went to the community of El Papaturro. This community is unique because the entire directiva is between the ages of 18 and 26. Once again we were able to see the amazing ways that youth in ES organize. In that community they have a committee that goes around once and month and gather all of the wasted plastic to be recycled. I think a tie to environmentalism as it relates to youth would be a really valuable way to reach out to new groups of young people.
We then travelled to the international gathering and we were able to continue the conversations about how important the inclusion and leadership of young people is. Many of the young leaders that we had met during our delegation were also in attendance at the gathering and we continued to strengthen the relationships we have with them.
I think that this delegation was incredibly successful and that we should use this basic model as a way to bring in more young members at the committee and national level. We were able to talk strategically about sistering and about the ways that youth should be reached. The conversations flowed so naturally and enabled people to really express how they felt. I think that having the communication from youth to youth is the best way to create sustainable leadership. This delegation also showed me how many different ways there are to reach out to youth in the US. It inspired me to focus efforts on creating ways for art to be used as way to enhance solidarity. I believe that we can make artistic solidarity a new approach to enhance youth. In general I really think that this delegation was a great starting point for much more youth involvement.