Having just returned from my first trip to Guatemala to meet some of the participants of our Leaders & Readers Program and join them for this year's opening ceremonies, I find myself with a heart full of joy. What an inspirational group of youth! Outspoken and curious Lydia in Chuiquel is entering her second year in the program. She grins with excitement as she talks about working with the younger children again this year by providing literacy activities. Lydia, like so many other youth leaders, knows that this is important and special work and feels genuinely honored to do it. Transforming lives through literacy isn’t something anyone in this group of dedicated teens takes lightly.
At the start of each new year, Reading Village youth leaders gather in their communities for a special opening ceremony called the Ceremony of Light. From the flowers, to the candles, to the traditional cloth beneath it all, there is meaning behind every part of the ceremony. The ceremony begins with the groups talking of unity, about how we are all human beings; and, therefore, while we are each unique, we are all connected. And then each person in the circle individually steps into the middle to light their candles, to share how that symbolic “light of literacy” inspires them, and to make a commitment to bring their unique abilities to the group for the year. Some words that echoed often in these commitments were love, respect, trust, support, patience, and peace.
Witnessing Lydia and her fellow youth leaders make their commitments was truly an honor. Love, community and passion filled the circle. These teens are strong, hardworking and determined. And, perhaps most importantly, they are dedicated not only to their own futures, but also to the futures of their communities.
I hope these photos from my trip bring some joy to your heart.
Thank you for the love you bring into the world,
PS: It's not too late to get registered for this April's Learning Journey trip (April 7-14). Join us for this unique deep dive into Mayan culture and for the special opportunity to meet the youth leaders who are working hard to eradicate illiteracy and move their communities out of poverty. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like any additional details.
Ceremony of Light Circle
Lighting a candle and making a promise
Light shining in on the ceremony
Lydia, Marcella and Sandra