Once the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization, Guatemala boasts a rich heritage that is still woven throughout its culture. Sadly, the country suffered a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, a conflict that left the country deeply scarred. As a result, Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world and the indigenous population is largely affected by discrimination and lack of access to basic necessities and education. Youth are both victims and perpetrators of violence, and gang life is a daily reality. Violence has affected the population so much that the World Health Organization declared youth violence as a global health problem and has recommended the need for effective prevention programs.
Play for Peace is active in seven different communities, both urban and rural, and the clubs are diverse in population—made up of indigenous groups, a women's collective, and university students. All of the communities where Play for Peace is active struggle with poverty and violence. Youth facilitators there work to build relationships with the children they meet during play sessions, and most children return regularly to participate, learning to cooperate in a group and make new friends. Several children, who started out as participants, are now youth facilitators who bring change and peace to their communities.
The work of youth leaders in Guatemala is growing in number and impact. They will continue to bridge divides between ethnic groups and inspire hope in children and youth in communities affected by conflict.
"The program gives young people the opportunity to interact and participate in meaningful activities. It helps them not only stay away from trouble, but also find the self confidence and courage to stand up against violence and become positive and respected leaders in their communities."
Juan de Dios
Director, Community Youth Program, Palencia, Guatemala
Play for Peace Palencia
Play for Peace Cuyuta
Play for Peace Champel
San Felipe, Guatemala
Play for Peace AMARC
San Raymundo, Guatemala
EPS USAC TS
San Felipe, Guatemala
Jugar Xla Paz Cantel
Last month Play for Peace celebrated International Women’s Day, a day that honors the achievements of women around the world. Within Play for Peace, there are many amazing and admirable women who work tirelessly as peace builders, including Teresa Raguay or Seno Tere, a teacher and youth coordinator for one of our clubs in Guatemala. We sat down with Teresa to learn about how her work helps women in her community.
As part of our most recent Global Games for Interfaith Harmony Week, this week we hosted an exchange between the HOLA club in Los Angeles, California, and the Cantel Club in Guatemala. Our clubs' shared their visions and the work they are doing, and had a blast in the process!
Tomorrow, September 21, is World Peace Day. In honor of this important global celebration, we are excited about the many wonderful efforts happening in the Play for Peace global community—from our clubs’ World Peace Day activities to our annual Fall 5K event.