Peacebuilding en Las Américas

Transforming Power Emerges: Michael Jordan, Guatemalan Youth, Reflects on AVP Workshops

In the educational centers in Amatitlán and Villa Nueva, we focused on Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops with students aged between 13 and 25 years old. These youth have limited economic resources, which has led them to be exposed to domestic violence, conflicts in the educational centers, and integration into criminal gangs.  The schools are located in dangerous areas commonly referred to as a Red Zone due to the crime and mistreatment that some students experience. Family disintegration is a factor affecting many youths and adolescents. Due to all of these reasons, students often arrive at school with a lot of anger. Conflicts are normal in the educational centers because students are not able to solve problems peacefully and they often get into physical fights and altercations.  

Both women and youth are immersed in different types of violence, resulting in violent reactions, low self-esteem, indiscipline, etc. AVP, through its exercises, shares the tools and allows for the transformation in the participants’ lives to begin. It is like a jewel that reveals light to their inner being. AVP becomes like a balm to heal wounds, and allows for people to learn to assert and value themselves as people. People recognize that they can change and improve their lives, that they can be young and transformed and renewed women. – Lorena Escobar, AVP Guatemala Coordinator

Michael Jordán Pérez Batres- 14 years old – February 2019

My name is Michael Jordán Pérez Batres. I am 14 years old and currently studying the first basic degree at the El Pedregal Institute in Amatitlán. I consider myself respectful and studious, but I am very insecure in myself and the people around me. When I was one year and six months old, my mother abandoned me and my older brothers to live with a neighbor. My father, seeing what was happening, decided to take care of us.

Unfortunately, we were not legally recognized by my father, and the state of Guatemala decided to take guardianship of us until he could prove that we really were his biological children and that he would legally recognize us. This process lasted more than ten years because we were not registered in RENAP (National Registry of Persons). This made the process difficult and my father did not have the financial resources to pay for a lawyer. I left the house when I was 11 years old but my guardianship was given to my paternal grandmother, because she had her own house. Sadly, I was physically and verbally mistreated by my relatives. 

This was one of the reasons why a judge took up my case again and decided to grant custody to my father. One of the requirements, however, was that he must attend therapy with a psychologist in order to improve the relationship between father and son and verify that I would be in a stable home without physical or verbal abuse. So, my father moved in with a woman so that she would be like my mother, since she had her own house. This woman my father married had two children, and sadly had emotional problems because she came from a home where she was abused. This affected me a lot in my emotions and my daily life. But, she is the only one who has taken care of me because my dad is hardly ever home, and does not provide us with economic resources for our studies, food, and other needs. This year, the Institute gave me a scholarship to study because my father did not want me to study because he does not want to spend money on my education. 

The AVP workshop helped me think about many things. I really enjoyed experiencing this with my classmates and teachers. I laughed with them, which is something very special that this workshop brings. We lived together, we ate together, we laughed together, and we cried together. I felt how the Transforming Power that the facilitators told us about began to emerge in me. I can say that I started to be a special person, and different. Thank you!