5 pairs of young, bright eyes are enthusiastically following my presentation of our first social project. Their country is indeed haunted by violence, but these youngsters have yet to lose hope of a better Guatemala.
The eyes belong to the youngsters of PPJ, a group of 15 youngsters working for ECPAT, an organization fighting against violence and exploitation. Our joint project is an attempt of creating awareness of bullying and violence in the schools of Guatemala, doing events and using text-messages as the main medium of communication.
1 in every three youngsters in Guatemala experience bullying in some stage of their adolescence. In a country with so much diversity and differences, there are equally as many forms of bullying and violence. Ranging from subtle, but racist, jokes about the indigenous to direct extortion and assaults from hoodlums and gangs, violence is a harsh part of everyday-life for all too many young Guatemalans.
So what can we do about it?
With the help from Plan International, we will send 35,000 text messages to 500 youngsters for 10 weeks in a pilot project. We hope to create awareness about bullying, among victims, perpetrators and bystanders.
With my support, the youngsters of PPJ will write the 70 messages in their way of speaking to reach out to other youths. They will also recruiting at the schools, and they will help evaluate the pilot in the end. This is their project; I am but a facilitator (and then some).
The most important question remains; Will this actually work?
Well, we don't know yet. And we won't know until we tried. The idea is that text messages will provide drops of information for a full 10 weeks about reasons and consequences of violence, and promoting mutual respect. In combination with other activities in the schools, we hope to create reflection which may lead to change of attitudes and behaviors. It remains to see, but at least, we give youngsters increased knowledge of what they are actually doing.
It will certainly not make things worse.