In April, more than 200 Common Hope students gathered for the 5th annual Youth Summit at the Antigua site. This year’s summit was extra special, with youth from all four sites (Antigua, New Hope, San Rafael, and San Miguel Milpas Altas) participating in the activities. The main goal of the summit was to have a space for Common Hope youth from different communities come together to share their experiences and build a sense of community as part of one organization.

All of the young people who participate in Common Hope’s youth support programs receive similar forms of assistance, yet they come from very different backgrounds depeneding on what community and region they live in. Some live in urban areas, others in rural communities; some are indigenous and Spanish is their second language, others come from families living in more severe poverty. The space they shared fostered free expression, allowing all of the youth to talk openly about their different life experiences.

There was no discrimination or negative interactions between the different groups of youth. Instead, everyone supported each other during the team activities. The activities, which were planned by the Youth Leadership Group, included volleyball, soccer, basketball, long jump, board games and jewelry making. Sports were a great way for the youth to interact and build relationships. In each game, teams were made up of youth from all four sites compared to past years when there was a lot of separation and resistance to interacting with youth from other sites. This year everyone was very open and willing to participate and get to know one another.

About the day’s activities, Azucena Barrientos, an Antigua Youth Support staff member said,

“I felt really great about the activities because we achieved our goal unifying the youth from all four sites. The Youth Summit worked to break down barriers and helped build one unified Common Hope.”

As the first generation born after a long civil war, the youth of Guatemala have shown us that they are not afraid to move forward, and they are optimistic that all of Guatemala can move forward with them leading the way. The Youth Summit serves as a place for young people to talk about their shared goals and dreams for the future of their families and their country. The Antigua Youth Programs Manager, Rigoberto García reflected saying,

“We are all from the same country, but have very different cultures and experiences. The Youth Summit brought us all together as one organization, one common hope.”

This year’s summit showed that when youth come together, powerful things can happen. United by their ideas and goals, the next generation has the tools, skills, and optimism necessary to build foundations for lasting change.