Newton Barreno Rosales: Entrepreneur, leader, inspiration

In a small community of Totonicapán, a young man named Newton Barreno Rosales has a big presence. He’s polite, direct and has an air of confidence about him that leaves you inspired and in awe. Barreno believes in himself. He knows that his voice matters and that he can use it to make change.

“Young people have so much potential,” says Barreno. “The only thing lacking is being able to tap into it. Young people must believe in themselves, that they can do it — that here, we can all do it.”

1_193-scaled The absence of economic opportunities for young people is a trigger for conflict in many communities, negatively affecting how young people are viewed by older generations and provoking concerns over youth delinquency.  It also has a negative impact on youth’s feelings of rootedness in Guatemala.

Barreno believes one of the biggest challenges for his peers is migration. He has seen numerous classmates and friends leave Guatemala, opting to make a dangerous journey north to face unknown challenges in search of new opportunities. After he finished high school, a friend even offered to connect Barreno with a coyote — a human smuggler — who would take him to the United States border.

Barreno refused.

“The best choice is to stay in your country, with your people, with your family, looking for opportunities and leveraging the potential you have,” Barreno says.

Unlocking his unique potential and honing his skills

At only 24 years old, Barreno has already begun to unlock his unique potential as an entrepreneur and leader. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, like many Guatemalans, Barreno and his brother lost their jobs. But they were not going to sit around, twiddling their thumbs. Instead, they got creative.

“We knew how to drive a motorcycle and we had one at home, but we never realized that we could capitalize on it,” says Barreno. “Instead of leaving the motorcycle parked during the height of the pandemic, we used it. We got it out on the streets and began delivering products.”

“Te Lo Llevo Express” delivery service was born in 2021 with two brothers, one vision, a motorcycle and a bicycle. They recently had a party to celebrate their two-year anniversary, Barreno proudly shares.

While Barreno’s spirit and drive are his own, many of his opinions and leadership skills have been shaped and honed through participating in the Youth Voices for Peace Network, or Voceros Juveniles in Spanish. Vocero Juveniles is  implemented by the Peacebuilding Project, known as Tejiendo Paz in Spanish, a 6.5-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and carried out by Creative Associates International in partnership with PartnersGlobal and ProPaz. The Peacebuilding Project works to reduce social conflict and build social cohesion in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, prioritizing the inclusion of women, indigenous people, LGBTQI+ individuals and youth in all programming, such as Voceros Juveniles.

Voceros Juveniles brings together diverse youth from the Western Highlands to build capacity, develop confidence, and connect on issues that impact their future. From 15 different municipalities, the 226 young members participate in dialogues and theater performances, while also receiving trainings on conflict transformation, the use of technology for effective communication, cyber-activism, and the risks of irregular migration.

Growing his business and future from the ground up

From there, Barreno expanded his network, collaborating with Red de Redes, another USAID youth project that complimented and built upon his skills — learnings he then applied to his professional life.

“When I joined Red de Redes and Voceros Juveniles, we received training on technology. I adapted this information, and it helped me to create publicity and to use online platforms to advertise our small business,” says Barreno.

It has worked. In less than two and a half years, Barreno and his brother have grown “Te Lo Llevo Express” to six motorcycles and expanded their coverage area to reach more of Totonicapán and some of Quetzaltenango.

While this is exciting for him, Barreno’s ambitions and dreams are bigger and more altruistic. He is hungry for experience, knowledge, and a robust set of skills that will help him become a great leader to his community. A leader who is invested in the wellbeing of their neighbors and who sees and works to fulfill the needs of the community without expecting anything in return.

“One of my personal long-term goals as a community leader is to exercise my position, as they say here ‘El K’axk’ol’ (ad honorem community service), become mayor in my community and then run for the presidency of 48 Cantones to work in benefit of the population of Totonicapán and all of Guatemala,” says Barreno.

For now, Barreno is taking advantage of every opportunity he can to build his skills and make a name for himself. 

“For me, the reason I participate with Voceros Juveniles and Red de Redes is because as young men and young women, we have voices, we should be heard, and we can make change happen,” he says.

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