October 28, 2019 – In September, our CEO, Forest Whitaker, and representatives from the Telmex-Telcel Foundation, the Western Union Foundation, and Ericsson – all WPDI partners – visited our programs in Mexico. The week-long mission to Tijuana and San Cristóbal de las Casas was designed to exchange with young people as well as various stakeholders and assess projects that we support in both places.
The delegation first went to San Cristóbal de las Casas, where they interacted directly with students and youths involved in our programs. There, they began the mission with a visit to the “Healthy Food Production Project,” which two WPDI youth peacemakers – Victor and José – established. The project, which is helping indigenous communities grow organic produce, now supports the livelihoods of 300 families and recently won a prize from the United Nations Development Program for its work to promote food security and the Sustainable Development Goals. The delegation also participated in the inaugural conflict resolution education training session for 300 high school students at the Preparatoria del Estado No. 2, then held a leadership training session for the cohort of 21 youth peacemakers who just completed their year-long training with us. This session proved to be very inspiring, as the youths shared personal stories and dreams with WPDI and our partners. On the next day, the delegation met with the peacemakers again for their official graduation ceremony, where Forest Whitaker told them that “Each of you is a seed that will turn your communities into blossoming trees. While this commitment is a long-term one, you will grow roots, trunks, and branches – becoming something strong and majestic. I have confidence in each of you and know you will do tremendous things.”
After the ceremony, the group traveled to Tijuana, where they continued to meet with hundreds of people who have been impacted by WPDI’s work in the community. They first met with a group of trainees taking the course we offer in conflict resolution education at our Community Learning Center. They then met with the 126 community leaders and some of the 449 students who had successfully completed the same course – a very encouraging sign, testifying to the fact that our program is engaging with the public at a local level. The delegation also met some of the 450 students at the Lazaro Cardenas Elementary school who have taken WPDI’s Conflict Resolution Education course there and attended the joint graduation ceremony for our new cohort of 17 youth peacemakers in Tijuana and 69 graduates of our Business and Entrepreneurship course for students at the Preparatoria Federal Lazaro Cardenas High School. During the ceremony, the youths spoke to how impactful their training had been, with one, Erika, telling the audience that the experience had “helped me truly want to do my part. I now have a desire to push and motivate other people to fulfill their dreams and accomplish their objectives. We young people can be the solution to the problems we encounter.”
Although WPDI has worked in Mexico for a number of years in collaboration with our partners, the September mission marked a key step towards strengthening our programs in Mexico. As Elizabeth Roscoe, the head of corporate brand and purpose, and executive director of the Western Union Foundation noted, “Providing youths with access to the right tools and skills is a foundational building block that is essential for enabling individuals to become leaders within their communities and pursue their interests.” Fausto Cota Chirino, a representative from the Telmex-Telcel Foundation, told us of the foundation’s “excitement in working together on this great project, which has found success in Tijuana and San Cristobal in helping young people become peacemakers.”