“Change is the world, and the world is us.” Pedro Pío, Youth Leader, Santa María de Jesus
In 2010 in the community of Papaturro, in Suchitoto, El Salvador, a group of young people participated in a forum about their relationship with the planet. They analyzed their ecological footprint in terms of the water, plastic, clothing, food and more that they consume, and they imagined what their community would be like if they lived lives that were healthy for themselves as well as Pachamama – Mother Earth. They developed a vision of possible changes and a plan of action to carry them out. They began a campaign against litter and placed trashcans and wooden signs with messages about trash consciousness. In 2014, they brought a proposal for a community law to the community development association, and it was passed. Today in Papaturro, it is prohibited to sell Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Diana products, certain junk food snacks, and products with packaging that contains nylon or the chemical PET. In Papaturro, you find products in returnable glass bottles and healthy food prepared by women in the community.
In July of this year, the young people organized a parade in the community and invited ten neighboring communities to the event. Afterwards, they organized a forum in which the other communities also committed to taking action to become cleaner and healthier.
The SERES Association, the organization that facilitated the 2010 forum (a Congress for Youth Leading for Pachamama), was born in 2009 from the hopes of a young Australian woman, Corrina Grace, and Antonio Sánchez, an emerging youth leader from El Salvador, who wanted to see Guatemalan and Salvadoran youth take positive action to transform their communities. A year later, 60 youths from Guatemala and El Salvador met to join a global movement, Global Youth Leaders, connecting on the web with another 2,000 young people around the world.
Later, Antonio and Corrina developed the curriculum of SERES’ first program: Youth Leaders for Pachamama, a program that sparks the flame of leadership, innovation, and community organization among youth and makes them agents of change, problem solvers, and creators of a resilient future, leading the transition toward more just, prosperous, and sustainable communities.
Today, SERES has 2,028 members from 356 communities in Guatemala and El Salvador in the Youth Leaders for Pachamama network. The hearts of SERES are the 26 youths accredited as Ambassadors who are active members with a voice and a vote in the SERES Association. To become Ambassadors, the youths must participate in three leadership programs (a Congress of Youth Leading for Pachamama, a Sustainability Summit, and a training workshop to become qualified facilitators) and work with an action plan in their communities, mentoring or leading other young people. The SERES website features profiles of its Ambassadors.
In September, 2015, SERES won the UNESCO-Japan Prize that honors individuals and organizations committed to creating educational curricula that promote sustainable development. The prize is worth $50,000. This money will be dedicated to training by 2018 100 SERES Ambassadors, who will guide the organization and mobilize youth leaders to participate in the transformation of society to build a healthier, more peaceful, and more just world.
SERES’ programs have been rigorously tested over the past six years and are highly effective in enabling people to take action to confront the sustainability crisis we face. You can read more about SERES, its programs, and the achievements of its members at revista.entremundos.org.
“I’m a school teacher, and I’ve used all the tools, knowledge, and facilitation techniques that I learned to work with my children at school. I’ve seen an enormous positive change as a result of this, in them and in myself.” – Veronica Garcia,