Mercy Corps / Empowering youth to build a life at home

A family poses for Mercy CorpsA demonstration plot, a hillside rectangle of soil encircled by tall, brown grass and avocado trees, is where Mercy Corps, a Global Impact partner, is teaching Gabriel (18) and other young people from the nearby town of Panimatzalám how to grow healthier, more bountiful crops.

Despite the hard work, the mood is still light — these youth having been working this land together for almost a year. Still, the idyllic setting conceals a difficult reality: poverty here is virtually inescapable. With limited options, youth flee for a future.

Almost every family in this area makes their living working in agriculture, but for most of them, it’s not nearly enough. Families struggle to meet their basic needs, let alone send their children to school. And income opportunities outside of agriculture are almost nonexistent, especially for young people who can’t afford an education. In fact, Panimatzalám has one of the highest rates of migration in Guatemala. People who don’t see any other option to earn money flee to Guatemala City or the United States, desperate for a better way to provide for their families. But thanks to Mercy Corps, and this small plot Gabrieltends with his friends, now he’s thinking differently.

"I don't have to leave for the States,” he says. “Here in the community I can do things, with a positive attitude and positive ideas.” Mercy Corps provides youth like Gabriel with agricultural training, financial knowledge and life skills, so they have the resources they need to thrive without having to leave their home. And it’s working.

Gabriel was one of the first people to sign up for the training; with his encouragement, 20 youth now participate in the Mercy Corps program activities, which provide the youth with resources and education they’ve never had access to before: the demonstration plot, where they’re taught better farming practices; the savings and loan group, in which they learn how to save and invest; the workshops that boost their life skills and teach them about different possible vocations.

“What we set our minds to, we can achieve,” he says.

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