Project ACJU – Developing Youth as Agents of Change
Mexico is a country which is characterized for having a predominantly young population. This phenomenon is intensified in the slums of large cities in this country, including Chimalhuacan and San Vicente Chicoloapan. These young people, because of the multiple transitions and social, economic and cultural changes that the country has suffered in the past decades, and specially the poor class, are who have less access to personal and professional development.
Above all the economic pressures, the difficult access to employment , educational and recreative opportunities that keep this fringe of the population in a depressive state, of idleness and insecurity that encourages self-destructive behavior patterns such as drugs, alcohol, teenage pregnancy, gangs and crime. Many end up as day laborers in low-paying jobs, others illegally cross the border to the United States in search for better futures. This situation and a lack of vision truncates it’s possibilities of development and the realization of life projects that allow them to live the fullness of their youth.
On the other hand, the actual educational system in many slums, is facing socio-familiar issues, where the children and youth at risk, are not attending schools for economic reasons, lack of interest of the parents and family disintegration among others, generating as a consequence a low educational level, that diminishes the possibilities to improve their future and present life quality.
The challenge of hundred of thousands of youth without vision and work expectatives increases the social issues in slums, since the new generation can easily contribute to violence and insecurity through their recruitment and participation in gangs and drugs. The teenage pregnancies, in turn, leads to more children growing up in broken families, reaffirming the cycle of poverty.
ACJU Project Description
To address this challenge that a number of young people are facing, Transformación Urbana Internacional has launched the project “Youth as Agents of Change” (ACJU). The initiative is working to establish a reproducible youth movement of dozens of youth clubs in schools, in the streets and in the sports ambience trough a football league that empowers and equip youth to become leaders and agents of change in their families and communities. ACJU accomplish their goals through:
- Recreational activities, cultural and youth sports, such as a football league, camps, concerts, and art and cultural workshops (graffiti, composition, music, dance etc.)
- Popular education during weekly youth encounters with values, skills for life and addiction prevention, STDs and early pregnancies which emphasizes youth participation and leadership, especially in the critical reflection of their problems, their families, schools and communities, thus increasing their capacity to rethink their lives, and moving them to action to improve their educational goals, obtain better job opportunities and involve in the development of their communities.
- Education, training and ongoing mentoring of youth leaders and advocates in the subjects of servant leadership, character, citizenship, emotional and psycho-spiritual, sexual-reproductive health and life projects so that they, in turn, may reproduce their new knowledge with others. Our model is based on peer education.
- Promotion of citizen participation: ACJU encourages young people to visualize an improvement in the conditions of their environments, helping to put into action projects for the betterment of their communities.
- Vocational, professional and micro-business training: For those young people who have shown initiative and have proven to be capable leaders, ACJU also helps to link with universities and provides micro-enterprise training, accompanying the most promising young people in creating their own youth micro-enterprise.
- The creation of networks and a social youth movement to promote youth advocacy and the recovery of areas of youth participation in municipal decision making.
- Reproduction: ACJU finally assists faith communities, community-based organizations and schools to adopt its youth leadership development model, accompanying and training them to start their own youth clubs, which exponentially increase our impact.
In these three years ACJU has impacted in a direct way to more than 700 youth, from which 500 participate weekly in youth encounters; encouraging critical reflection and the development of life skills and decrease self-destructive behaviors. ACJU has also trained 40 youth as youth leaders, who have contributed significantly to community projects. Currently, ACJU has a soccer league and works in 4 public schools.
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