Figure 1: Voces y Manos pipeline
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
The Voces y Manos Community Leaders Scholarship Program is founded on the conviction that young people have limitless potential to transform the health of their communities. We provide training and resources that help youth in the town of Rabinal design and implement community development projects. Each student then receives a scholarship that allows them to fund their high school education. Upon graduating, the youth consistently stay engaged as leaders of their communities.
To achieve our vision of endogenous community development (which originates and grows from within the community), Voces y Manos and partner organization Fundacion Nueva Esperanza (FNE) have sought to create what we call an educational pipeline (figure 1, above) that supports children/young adults all the way from middle school through college, enabling them to obtain jobs that allow them to contribute to their communities’ wellbeing. This pipeline begins when students enter FNE’s bilingual, bicultural middle school. There, students not only build strong literacy and numeracy skills, but also develop a high sense of self-esteem and cultural identity.
Each year, FNE teachers select 10-12 graduating students to participate in Voces y Manos’ youth leadership and scholarship program. This selection is based on three criteria: (1) families’ economic need, (2) students’ interest in community engagement, and (3) students’ academic performance. These students work with Voces y Manos staff and summer volunteers during their last year of middle school in an intensive after-school and weekend leadership training program. The program teaches students how to identify health issues facing their communities, to recognize the assets and resources within their communities, and to organize community members to conduct community projects.
Upon successful completion of their community projects, participating youth are awarded scholarships to study at local high schools. Since most high schools in Rabinal have a vocational orientation, Voces y Manos staff helps students select high schools that align with their interests and strengths. High school in Rabinal lasts three years, and students receive financial assistance from Voces y Manos during this entire period.
Even after providing high school scholarships, Voces y Manos continues the process of leadership development. After graduation, all scholarship recipients join the Youth Leadership Association through which they provide moral support and encouragement to one another, and engage in collective efforts to promote social change.
To help students attend college and get jobs, Voces y Manos’ internship program pairs students with local community development agencies after high school. Internships provide students with work experience and stipends that allow them fund their ongoing college education.
“At first, the idea of doing a community project made me nervous. Now, I feel capable of speaking in front of my community because I’ve learned what it means to be a leader!”–Mardoqueo Osorio Chen, 2011 scholarship recipient.
Mardoqueo and Maynor teamed up with Voces y Manos volunteer and board member Amy Yam to research the effects of deforestation on the health of their community. The two young men were shocked to learn the extent to which deforestation puts communities at risk of mudslide disasters. To address this problem, they successfully rallied 140 community members around their project to plant 1,100 trees!
Each summer, Voces y Manos works with a team of 10 dedicated students from Fundacion Nueva Esperanza’s bilingual community school. Follow the link above to view their biographies.
In 2014, our staff conducted an in-depth evaluation of the impacts of our scholarship program, with a focus on students academic performance.
For $1 a day, you can change the life of a student, and help transform a community! Click here to make a donation to the Voces y Manos Scholarship Program.