Creative’s youth volunteers to join 30,000 at #GenNowFest in San Salvador
By Jillian Slutzker
November 7, 2016
San Salvador’s population will swell as an estimated 30,000 youth from across Central America convene at the 2016 Generation Now Festival, a regional event to celebrate and promote the role of young people as agents of positive change in the region.
Among the participants at the Nov. 11 and 12 event will be more than 500 attendees involved in programs focused on youth crime and violence prevention in El Salvador and Honduras and youth workforce development in Nicaragua. They are implemented by Creative Associates International.
Sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Glasswing International, Istmo Music, Riot.House and MTV Agentes de Cambio, the festival will feature more than 15 musical performances, as well as a youth forum covering pressing topics like crime and violence and careers.
An expo at the two-day event will allow participating organizations to exhibit opportunities they have to offer Central American youth, who make up more than 25 percent of the region’s population, according to the United Nations.
Youth delegates eager to collaborate, bring lessons home
For Creative’s youth delegates—who are activists and volunteers in their own communities working to prevent youth violence, stem teen pregnancy or combat gender inequality—the opportunity to share experiences with their peers from other countries is invaluable.
“It is a unique experience and we are grateful because, as volunteers, we always work in our communities and our Outreach Centers to help others. To share experiences in the forum and get to know others’ success stories will be very important,” says Andres Vanegas, Coordinator at Miranda Outreach Center in Ilobasco, El Salvador.
In his coordinator role at one of more than 120 neighborhood Outreach Center’s in El Salvador’s most crime-affected communities, Vanegas mentors young people affected by and vulnerable to the crime and violence epidemic plaguing his country and region. As part of the USAID-funded and Creative-implemented Crime and Violence Prevention Project, the Outreach Center offers a safe space and hope through alternative pathways forward, including job skills training, tutoring, recreation and mentorship.
Vanegas says at the festival he is particularly looking forward to hearing from Fabian Debora, a former Los Angeles gang member turned renowned artist. Debora now serves as a director at HomeBoy Industries, which provides reintegration support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women.
Hailing from Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, where youth poverty and unemployment run high, 24-year-old Nadiuska Rosales, who will attend the festival’s youth forum, is well-versed in the slate of challenges her peers face. Since age 14, she has been working as an activist to expand opportunity for young people in her area.
She directs a youth-focused radio program tackling topics like teen pregnancy prevention and gender inequality, and volunteers with the Network of Young Entrepreneurs of Bluefields as part of the USAID-funded and Creative-implemented Aprendo y Emprendo youth workforce development project.
Rosales sees the Generation Now Festival as a catalyst to advancing her social change efforts at home.
“I want to share with young people from the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua how they can get involved in social change through this experience. Engaging young volunteers is a very helpful tool to mitigate the risks that young people face [in my region],” she says.
Volunteers step up with “Manos a la Obra!” day
As part of the Generation Now campaign for positive youth-led change leading up to the November festival, more than 5,000 young people across the region took part in a day of volunteerism, known as “Manos a la Obra!” (“Let’s do it!”), on Oct. 29.
The campaign’s social media hashtag #Yomeatrevo (“I dare”) prompted youth in the region to dare to step up to initiate positive change their neighborhoods and countries.
In Honduras’ capital city of Tegucigalpa, for example, 33 youth volunteers from the USAID-funded and Creative-implemented Alianza Joven Honduras program joined efforts with nearly 1,000 other youth to complete small community improvement projects, like park clean-ups and mural paintings at schools and Outreach Centers. They celebrated the day’s accomplishments with a concert featuring local artists.
More than 1,500 volunteers in El Salvador, including 140 from the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project, also took part in the volunteer day to revitalize public spaces and bring positive energy, hope and change to areas hard-hit by crime and violence.
Unlocking the power of youth to lead positive change initiatives like these is the principal aim of Generation Now Festival sponsors, explains Ken Baker, Executive Director of Glasswing International.
“We want to empower young people, make them see their importance to our region to see positive change, and encourage them to dare to believe in a better country,” Baker says.
With reporting by Gretchen Robleto, Emanuel Rodriguez and Rene Urrutia.