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MAN UP Goes To Guatemala

February 3, 2023

Co-Founder Attended 2022 PeaceJam Global Youth
Summit & Leadership Retreat

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By:  Jatika Hudson

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“There are not many moments in life that will totally take your breath away. Well, God’s beauty is evident when entering Panajachel, Guatemala, the country known as “La tierra de la eterna primavera” or The Land of the Eternal Spring.

Last Fall, MAN UP Mentoring, Inc.’s Co-founder and executive director (ED), Samantha Wallace exited her plane to attend the 2022 PeaceJam Global Youth Summit and The Foundation’s Team Leadership Retreat. While there she took in the lush landscape, celebrated the indigenous culture, and, most of all, inhaled peace and exhaled a crystallized vision.

Every morning, the leadership group walked down to the pier and took a 30–40-minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan to Centro Educativo Pavarotti, the junior high school founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu’. Upon arrival, Menchu’ and her team would greet them with great anticipation of the day’s events. The school served as the host site for the three-day Global Youth Summit where more than 250 youth from Latin America shared thoughtful community service action plans on how to effect change in their native countries.

Wallace was selected to attend the global experience by Brigid Shannon, the Assistant Director for Community Engagement at Florida State University Center for Leadership & Social Change and PeaceJam Southeast’s Community Engagement Coordinator. Shannon wanted to expose the ED of the community-based organization to other thought leaders, youth advocates, and change agents from all over the world.

“It was truly a rich learning experience, to exchange ideas, best practices and build key-relationships with other global affiliates,” Wallace reflected. During the two-day leadership retreat held at The Nature Reserve of Lake Atitlan, the team members participated in workshops rooted in discussing ecosystems, youth engagement, racial equity and marginalized communities, accessibility, a mindset of abundance, and teambuilding activities but made sure to incorporate breaks to explore the hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and connect with Mother Earth.

Yet, behind the serenity and beauty of the country, lies a land still steeped in a dwindling but strong Mayan culture, a country that was once riddled by unrest. Rigoberta Menchu’ Tum, Guatemala’s Nobel Laureate and freedom fighter, lost her parents and brother at the hands of the Guatemalan Military and the country suffered devastation brought on by the United Fruit Company [known today as Chiquita]. In the midst of despair, she arose to the call of peace. As a Nobel Peace Laureate, she continues to fight for the reconciliation of ethnic groups and rights of the country’s indigenous people.

It is apparent that young global leaders are on the rise, and hope is not lost for the next generation. Impressed with their research, passion, and presentations, Menchu’ went on to share, “These students were working together and presenting their community service initiatives and ideas to help solve problems that resonate and highlight issues that affect the youth and the things they love.”

The PeaceJam-Guatemala experience marked a five year-long relationship with MAN UP. Wallace describes the experience as life altering, she shared, “It was just a tremendous blessing and breathed new life into the vision of MAN UP. Your gifts will truly make room for you and bring you before great men.” She closed by saying, “Thanks to Shannon, PeaceJam leaders knew all about the work we’re doing [in Orlando] with marginalized youth and their families. It really inspires us to keep charging forward, people are watching and taking notice.”

About PeaceJam Foundation

PeaceJam has brought 1.3 million youth from over 40 countries and is led by 14 laureates with the purpose to teach and encourage youth to create and spread peace in their communities, cities, and nations.

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