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Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. is launching #YAPGuatemalaLove, a global social media campaign to raise awareness and funding to address the violence, extreme poverty, drug trafficking and unemployment that cause Guatemalan families to risk family separation and the lives of their children to seek asylum in the U.S. The four-week YAP-employee led campaign launches March 4, with support from Monmouth University Fraternity and Sorority Life students and other YAP partners.
Providing safe, community-based alternatives to youth incarceration and other out-of-home placements, YAP supports and empowers individuals and families who have complex needs and face some of life’s greatest challenges. YAP operates in 100 U.S. communities in 23 states and the District of Columbia and globally in Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Sierra Leone and Guatemala.
“#YAPGuatemalaLove recognizes the urgent need to raise awareness of the threats young people and families in Guatemala are escaping and how our sister agency in the country is addressing those dangers,” said YAP International Programs Director Diana Matteson. “#YAPGuatemalaLove gives everyone an opportunity to help Guatemalan parents who seek what all families want -- peace, safety and the opportunity for their children to thrive.”
Like YAP, its Guatemala sister agency Siembra Bien [Sowing Well] provides holistic community-based intensive mentoring and family, school, business and community supports to reduce crime and family separation with the goal of keeping young people safely home in their communities. For example, using YAP’s innovative Street Soccer leadership training model, Siembra Bien has introduced mediation and peace-building to gang-affiliated and other vulnerable young people in Guatemala City’s notorious Zona 18. In 2018, 550 youth participated in Siembra Bien’s first Violence Prevention Festival. YAP provides ongoing program support to Siembra Bien and sends interns for two-week stints to assist the Guatemala agency’s small staff. Financial support for Siembra Bien comes largely from YAP employees’ Extra Mile payroll donations, which staff members are encouraging co-workers to increase during the #YAPGuatemalaLove campaign.
As part of #YAPGuatemalaLove, YAP will send a Monmouth University School of Social Work graduate student to work with Siembra Bien for ten weeks. Gina Andrade, whose work and research focus on international development, will support Siembra Bien’s leadership team, teach parenting classes, and work directly with young people to expand YAP’s Street Soccer program.
“I immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia, where I grew up in a tough neighborhood. Street soccer was very much a part of my childhood; I’d play without shoes,” Andrade said. “I remember how we’d decide who’d be the goalie, who’d be in the front. Soccer was a good way for us to socialize with our friends and a way to keep us out of trouble. I look forward to using my YAP training to expand a program that is so rooted in positive cultural values to help Siembra Bien empower more youth, families and communities in Guatemala.”
YAP will apply insights and data from Andrade’s experience to enhance its program work with Siembra Bien. “Gina is very forthright, and she makes great observations,” Matteson said. “When she comes back to the U.S., she will be able to give us a fresh perspective of the circumstances families are dealing with. Her view will give us good information on what’s working and what’s not.”
4 Easy Ways to Participate in the Campaign: