A note from Lizz, Marketing & Communications Manager: Now the Youth Development Coordinator in New Hope, Henry started his journey with Common Hope as an affiliated student at 9 or 10 years old. I had the privilege of meeting Henry on my recent trip to Guatemala, and I can honestly say that he is an inspiring young man. His passion for working with youth is apparent and he will make a difference in many lives. A genuinely kind person, Henry is an example of someone we can all look up to.
Could you tell us a little about your experience as an affiliate?
I took advantage of the opportunity to interact with the Vision Teams that came to Guatemala. They brought artistic activities and sports, and also volunteered to teach some English classes—so I always went to these activities after school. In 2010, from September to November, I had the opportunity to intern with Tamalyn. I helped by filing documents, organizing her schedule and planning graduation for Antigua and New Hope sites. I helped by coordinating the ceremony, the set-up and stage, sound, video, the food banquet, as well as preparing a special video to present during the graduation. It was a good learning experience for me—there were definitely challenges with working with others, from the communication to the involvement of everybody.
How did you imagine your life before graduating, and how does that compare to reality?
I didn’t have a clear vision, I imagined myself with a simple job such as selling things at a store. I didn’t have big expectations, sometimes I imagined myself as a businessman. Renato and Tamalyn were my role models, I wanted to be just like them. With everything that I learned from them and Common Hope, I started to have the desire to help others.
What did you do after graduation?
I started working in the capital, doing publicity for a business via email and creating special flyers and promotions. It was a very small beginning job with a terrible salary. Apart from the low salary, it was also all about, “selling selling selling”. I felt that it wasn’t a good fit for me, and that it wasn’t putting my skills to their best use. Also, it took so long to get to work—two hours there and two hours back. So when I decided that I no longer wanted to continue working there, I resigned. Within a couple of weeks, Tamalyn and Mynor contacted me about working with young people in New Hope.
What attracted you to work at Common Hope?
I always had thought that you can make positive changes with young students, if you just spend some time with them. I have always liked community development.
And why work with young people?
I really enjoy working with young students. There are a lot of people who think that youth are just a problem—but really, they’re a solution.
They are also more vulnerable to falling into bad situations when they are young, but when young people are in a safe environment, with healthy activities (both intellectual and physical) they are going to have more opportunities for their jobs and futures as they grow up.
What are some of the changes you’ve made to the youth program at New Hope?
I want to give our youth the tools to help them with their studies and to find jobs and I aim to do this through sports and physical activity, so students are healthier and happier in everything they do. At New Hope, we’re dedicating a lot of time to the students who are about to graduate—we prep them with classes and immersion in the work force so they are able to arrive at a job interview prepared, and that they will have the interpersonal skills they need to succeed. We work to prep them with the tools and skills they need to go out and find a job—using the internet, responding to postings, etc. This year we’re also encouraging more reading activities for youth—just because of the simple fact that if a young person can read, he or she automatically knows much more than a young person who cannot. And finally, we’re dedicating more time to other extracurricular skills—such as skateboarding, dancing, graffiti, etc. We’re doing this so we can focus on the many different talents that our youth have. I’m hoping that with these changes to the program, youth will be able to contribute more to their communities and schools.
What are some of the risks and challenges that the youth face?
For our students, its adapting and understanding a new world, outside of the New Hope community. In the New Hope school, things are run very differently than in the mainstream public school system. The outside world and public schools, especially in Guatemala City, are much more accelerated and move at an extremely fast pace. In New Hope, we try to give the students the opportunity to experience success, in many different ways. Within their own spaces that they feel comfortable in, students find success.
What advice do you give to the youth?
In any moment or situation, one should always look at things as a challenge to be overcome. It’s important to recognize that they are challenges so that you can learn from your mistakes.
What is your hope for the program this year?
That the students can adapt to me! Also that they like the programs and activities that we put on—this will hopefully help boost attendance, which is also a goal for the coming year—higher attendance rates.