Helping Local Youth Build Themselves a Better Future
In December 2018, Mexico’s federal government created a program, Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro, to respond to an increasingly high number of unemployed youth in nearly every region of the country. The government program, headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), seeks to create pathways to remove vulnerable youth from antisocial behaviors, and prepare individuals to enter the labor force through skills training and mentorship. Participants, or jóvenes, are awarded AMLO training grants of $3,600 Mexican Pesos per month (approximately $190 USD) in additional to medical insurance with the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). At Playa Viva, participants in the program work alongside our team and under the supervision of our maintenance, kitchen, permaculture, and community specialists.
Playa Viva chose to participate in the program because we are located a couple kilometers down the road from several small towns where there are more young people willing and able to work than there are employment opportunities. Our intention is that by providing training and job experience, and skills and project development opportunities, participants will be one step closer to contracting full-time paid work at the end of the one year program.
In communities like ours, individuals and families are spread thin – working multiple part-time jobs to meet basic needs, traveling long distances for medical or governmental services, and preparing multiple meals a day for families of four and five people. As students, or becarios, at Playa Viva, participants agree to work 25 hours (the minimum permitted in the program), or three full days per week. This leaves rooms for each participant to spend time with their families and tend to projects and responsibilities of their own. In return, we expect the jóvenes to come to work in their respective areas of interest engaged, open-minded, and thinking one-step ahead. Our management team is appreciative of the extra help to see some of their pending projects through, and are also learning alongside the students as they reevaluate and improve their own leadership skills.
“I chose to participate in this program because I need to work to support my family. It is hard to find work close to home. I have my own land, which I farm, and working with the Permaculture Team at Playa Viva is exposing me to alternative ways of growing food. I burn my fields because that is what I have been taught to do. Now I am learning to use the organic material around my other plants to keep nutrients and humidity in the soil.” – Jesus Villa
Curious what the day-to-day of it looks like? Let us explain.. Eleven jóvenes, aged 18 to 29, registered to train at Playa Viva during the open-enrollment period, which was through July 2019. Each joven was invited to select an area of focus – maintenance, permaculture/farm, or kitchen – to apprentice and develop skills for future career objectives. We also invite each joven to spend some of their weekly commitment working in their own communities – Juluchuca, Rancho Nuevo, La Ceiba or Las Placitas, the four impact areas with whom Playa Viva focuses much attention and resources. The majority of the jóvenes elect to spend time developing projects they find important for their community and it’s members, or participating in existing projects such as Juluchuca Limpio.
The jóvenes’ commitment to their communities is a wonderful opportunity to promote social engagement and environmental awareness. Each Wednesday, instead of working at Playa Viva, they can be found in one of the nearby towns leading trash pick-ups, helping with recycling workshops, engaging the schools in environmental education, or working on a new tree nursery and reforestation project. The jovenes also help with special events, such as Earth Day activities in April of this past year and our recent two-day Spay and Neuter Clinic.
The idea behind jóvenes-led reforestation projects in the community is based on creating spaces where these young people can apply the regenerative agriculture theories and practices they are learning on the permaculture farm at Playa Viva. Under the supervision of Amanda Harris, Playa Viva’s Permaculture Specialist, jovenes are expected to: collaboratively create big-picture and detailed designs, engage stakeholders, budget and order materials, organize and complete installations, and manage the maintenance of their designs through the seasons. To date, our new community projects thought up and designed by the jóvenes include reforestation installations at the Kindergarten in Juluchuca and the Primary school in La Ceiba, both barren landscapes. As the soils are improved, and the community is engaged, future program participants can continue the reforestation efforts with fruit and hardwood tree installations.
Through this type of community engagement, the jóvenes are learning to analyze complex social and environmental problems, and to develop solutions that fit the needs of their own community. They are also developing organizational and communication skills that will equip them to become future leaders, mentors and valuable assets to any business able to offer them work. Under close supervision of the management team from Playa Viva and through additional training on site, the jóvenes will continue to develop as local role models, setting an example of how we can all give back to the communities in which we live.
We are four months into this government initiative, Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro, and are committed to both mentoring the participating jóvenes and building capacity within our own team of leaders and mentors at Playa Viva. It is our intention, that as we invest time, energy and resources into the energized youth in our community, the regenerative ethos of Playa Viva will spill beyond the boundaries of our land. Efforts to clean up and reforest the dirt roads and gathering spaces that make up our small space in Mexico are just the beginning of our involvement in this project. With the help and leadership of the jóvenes, we also aim to increase and improve the ways we transmit knowledge, to change the way we exchange goods and services, to develop pathways for making group decisions, and to influence the way we take care of land. Stay tuned on this page to follow our journey in the coming months and years, and if you get the chance, talk about this government program with folks you know in Mexico. It is sure to help shape the lives of young people and communities.