The following post was written by Ronaldo Andres Gomes an IVLP alumnus and recipient of the IVLP Impact Award.
My name is Ronaldo and I am a Maya-Chuj person from a small town called San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala. My passion for life has driven me to provide educational support to disadvantaged young people in rural Guatemala. I believe that education has the power to transform the lives of children, giving them hope and a better future. Currently, I am the chief executive officer of the Ixtatán Foundation. The goal of the Ixtatán Foundation is to help the people of San Mateo find the tools to create solutions to the myriad of problems, from access to clean water to the principles of farming and computer technology.
In 2021, I was nominated to participate in a virtual program called the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). This program involved more than 20 leaders from across the world. Many organizations and speakers from the United States shared their experiences on racism and racial discrimination in the US. The IVLP theme was “The Problem We All Live With: Dismantling Racial and Social Injustice.” The lectures, panels, and discussions with different experts and speakers allowed me to understand how deeply structural and systematic racism and racial discrimination have been against the Afro-American population. The police attack against George Floyd demonstrated the brutal and excessive force used against them. I also had the opportunity to meet with human rights defenders and activists about their work, organizations, specific actions, and fights in favor the social justice. I also benefited from my colleagues who shared their concerns, contributions, and participation in finding possible solutions for these common issues in their home countries. This program allowed me to confirm my commitment to continue working in different areas, fields, and angles, to build a more inclusive and equitable world.
Then, in 2022 I was nominated to participate in an in-person IVLP exchange. I had the opportunity to meet my colleagues, which was exciting for all of us. We spent time together in Washington, DC, and we visited iconic places like Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Most importantly, we continued discussing the historical roots of racial injustice in the United States.
As part of my commitment to building an inclusive and respectful society, I applied for the IVLP Impact Award. My goal was to use the grant to develop educational activities through a reading club project with school-age children and teenagers in San Mateo Ixtatán, located in the highland of Guatemala. As I said above, I believe education is an effective tool to promote community development. I’m facilitating this program through the Community Library program of the Ixtatán Foundation. There are more than 50 participants that benefit from this project. The beneficiaries are divided into four groups, and each group receives a two-hour weekly reading lesson.
The project is focused on two approaches: human rights and environmental care. That means we are using the reading activities to increase participants’ awareness of the importance of human rights protection and environmental care. In addition, they are also developing their reading, leadership, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking skills. To do this properly, we’re providing educational supplies such as notebooks, pens, sheets, crayons, and books according to their ages. These kinds of materials allow for youth to draw their characters or just to develop their imagination.
It is wonderful to work with children and teenagers because they are the best investment institutions, agencies, and organization can make toward our future. I am very grateful for the IVLP Impact Awards because they gave me the resources to continue creating educational opportunities for those young people who have not lost their hope for a better life.