Voces y Manos believes that youth have the full potential to transform the health conditions of their community. For this reason, we have made youth-led community health projects a core part of our Community Leaders Scholarship Program. These projects allow students to gain practical research skills while developing their leadership potential. The short-term impact is a well-researched, impactful project, but long-term impact is even more important: the emergence of a generation with confidence and skills to spearhead long-term, systemic change in their communities.
During the summer portion of the scholarship program, teams of 2-3 students from Fundacion Nueva Esperanza are paired with a Voces y Manos summer volunteer. Together, the volunteer and students investigate a health challenge their community is facing and brainstorm on how to address it. Then, after the Voces y Manos summer volunteers leave, the students design and initiate their projects. Thus, the task in front of the students — to figure out how to create a project that will address one of the most pressing community health problems –can appear overwhelming. Yet when faced with these challenges, the students time and again prove themselves undaunted.
Going above and beyond is the rule and not the exception for these outstanding youth. In San Rafael, Selvin and Horacio identified families that might be at risk for malnutrition, then helped support those families by helping them build small vegetable gardens near their homes, and organized talks on childhood nutrition.
In Pacux, Glenda, Benjamin and Juan de Jesus organized a trash collection effort. Finally, in Nimacabaj, Mardoqueo and Maynor rallied 140 community members behind their reforestation project to plant more than 1,000 new tr
Or take the case of Griselda, Estefani, and Dinora from Chiticoy. These three young women had developed a plan to create a community garden to increase access to nutritious foods. However, instead of being content with a single garden, they completed thirteen total gardens throughout their community! Here is a video tour of one of their gardens: