Building a Youth Leadership Association in Rabinal, Guatemala

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Six years ago, as a junior at UC San Diego, Michael Bakal received a student grant to coordinate a health fair in the indigenous community of Rabinal, Guatemala. Since then, Michael has returned to Rabinal 10 times and formed a non-profit organization. Named Voces y Manos, his nonprofit originally sought to improve health through direct provision of medical care. However, feedback from the community enlightened him to the reality that this was just a band-aid solution to a much deeper problem: the community’s lack of control over its own health. This project seeks to address this issue by empowering a group of indigenous teenagers to form their own Youth Leadership Association to design and implement innovative solutions to the community’s most pressing health problems. After receiving extensive training, the Youth Leadership Association will be given total control over a $4,000 budget, which they will have one year to allocate toward developing innovative solutions to the community’s most critical challenges. This will not only incubate sustainable solutions to local health challenges, it will also prepare the next generation of indigenous youth to assume leadership in addressing the most pressing challenges facing their communities.