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Religious Youth Service

Religious Youth Service Builds New School in Guatemala

 Participants: 85  Nations Represented: 14

Chinautla, Guatemala— 7th Friendship America's Project

Background: This RYS project was the third in Guatemala, it also was the seventh and largest of the Friendship America's Programs (FAP). Friendship America's choose to return to Guatemala as a result of the strong local support it was receiving. Among those desiring that Guatemala host the peace project were Guatemala's former President., Marco Vinicio Cereso, and the mayor of Chinautla, Mr. Pepe Paramo. Mayor Paramo was so inspired that he invited the RYS to his municipality and raised several thousand dollars to help support the school construction project which the RYS would undertake.

Duration: June 30 - July 12, 2000

Work: In Chinaulta, the RYS worked with mayor Paramo and city council to target an area where a new school is most urgently needed. They selected a newly settled community on top of a very hilly area. There the RYS began construction on a school while it also worked to widen the road to allow access by school bus.

Summary: As part of the 7th RYS-Friendship America's Project (FAP) these eighty five interfaith pioneers from the Muslim, Christian and Indigenous faith communities attended education programs and offered their labor and skills in efforts to substantially promote friendship and peace in the America's.

The international participants were also given the opportunity to connect to the original culture of Guatemala for the program concluded in the Mayan community of Santiago Atitlan. At this beautiful volcanic lake area the participants shared cultural programs, gifts and friendship with hundreds of young students and community members. The volunteers efforts were designed to promote healing, trust and reconciliation for Santiago Atitlan is the home of many families which lost relatives in the recent Civil War.

Co-operating Organizations: The Presidential Youth Organization of Guatemala (Conjuve), The Minister of Youth of the Dominican Republic, the Newark, New Jersey International Program, Caracas municipality. Youth directors, churches, high schools and universities in Guatemala and Honduras selected top candidates and were joined by thirty-six participants from the USA including two scholarship winners from the Newark school system.

Education Programs: A full and varied education program was offered which included: Members of the indigenous community sharing accounts of their life and culture,. a series of visits to important cultural, religious and historic sites, were part of the program. A tour to the National Congress where Mr. Carlos Cereso (son of the former President) gave a talk entitled; "The development of democracy in Guatemala". Dr. Armando de la Torre, the Dean of the Social Science at the Francisco Marroquín University presented: "Building global citizens in a pluralistic world." While the editor of the Guatemala edition of the "Tiempos Mundo" spoke on; "The role and responsibility of the media in Central America". Mr. Carlos Enrique Mayorga, of " Conalfa" the nations largest organization in working for literacy shared the realities of the nations education and social situation while stressing the importance of children receiving an academic education in Guatemala.

In addition, Dr. Eliane Condon from Rutgers University held several sessions which dealt with cultural differences and how to bridge them with love while Rev. Gerhard Bessell of the Family Federation for World Peace spoke on the topic: "What can religions do to help".

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