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Our Stories: Saulo Cifuentes

“I have witnessed today's childhoods being unfair, so I decided, if I can invest my money and time in changing that, then I will.” –Saulo Cifuentes

Three years ago a light lit up inside Saulo, a retired Guatemalan with a golden heart, and together with Guatemala Play for Peace leader Andrés Armas - Saulo's lifelong friend - began their efforts to bring Play for Peace to the town of San Felipe Retalhuleu. Unfortunately, they found only closed doors and excuses. Effort and compromise paid off later when they were able to find a space that allowed them to train their first six Guatemalan facilitators. “I have witnessed today’s childhoods being unfair, I have seen young kids lost in alcohol or gang activities and I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be like that. So I decided, if I can invest my money and time in changing that, then I will,” shares Saulo. His motivations behind giving up a comfortable life of retirement and hard-earned, well-deserved rest in exchange for an everyday rollercoaster where his ride mates are today’s Guatemalan youths is humbling and inspiring. “When I was a kid, I had a lot of troubles. I was bullied and teachers were not as patient as they are today. I found myself alone and helpless. I want to help kids who find themselves in the same situation,” Saulo recalls.

To talk about his most memorable or favorite pupils is hard. "There are too many to choose," he says. But he still manages to tell about Imanol, a boy he identified himself with and to whom Play for Peace helped overcome his shyness and uncover a talent for drawing that no one foresaw. He also talks with fraternal love about Briseida, an extremely shy girl who underwent an astounding 10-week transformation thanks to Play for Peace games and ended up full of freedom, laughter, and confidence. The list goes on, boys and girls who began being their best selves thanks to Play for Peace and the unconditional compromise of Saulo. “Sometimes the kids go away with their parents in search of a better life or because they must go back to their places of origin. Sometimes they go when the change is just starting and I’m left feeling a bit sad, always wondering what will the future bring for them," Saulo says. Play for Peace has the best ally in Saulo, who has decided to dedicate his life and resources to Guatemalan youth instead of himself and, on his way there, to give us a life lesson on compassionate and selfless giving.