To achieve its mission of empowering indigenous youth to advance the health and wellbeing of their communities, Voces y Manos not only provides scholarships, it also supports its students through its Association of Voces y Manos Scholarship Recipients, which the group simply calls “The Association”. Participants’ involvement in the Association lasts three years – the time it takes to graduate diversificado, or upper-secondary school. The Associations meets every two weeks. These meetings are largely participant-led, and focus on community-building, leadership development, and more recently, community-level advocacy.
In 2015, the 30 students in the association sought to improve the quality of life of the entire youth population of Rabinal by recommending that the municipal government increase its funding for a local youth center. Using a variety of research methods including PhotoVoice, focus groups, and surveys, young people identified core issues facing young people in their community. Taking advantage of the fact that 2015 was an election year, the youth then coordinated a community-wide forum to discuss these issues with local mayoral candidates. This work has been featured in a recent UNICEF report on youth participatory action-research, and has been detailed on UC Berkeley’s YPAR Hub website.