By Sangeetha Ram
Sangeetha is a 17-year-old high school student, and a Y volunteer and staff member. Sangeetha joined the YPALS mentorship program, and soon became a leader and mentor to newcomer youth. She is passionate about helping other young people.
The YMCA of Greater Toronto and the YMCA of Medellin in Colombia have had a strong partnership for the last 28 years. The two associations work together to share knowledge, support a variety of development projects, and find ways to strengthen their communities and empower youth. Through a number of exchanges and programs, staff members from each YMCA have travelled to the other to learn more and share their expertise.
Monica Aguirre and Julian Marin, program coordinators from YMCA of Medellin, recently visited the YMCA of Greater Toronto to share their experiences and knowledge about youth empowerment and peace building. Monica, Coordinator of Youth Civic Engagement and Youth Empowerment, is a passionate social activist and entrepreneur who has over 20 years of experience working with youth. One of her greatest accomplishments is creating Laboratorios Creativos, a model of the YMCA of Medellin that seeks to develop the values of citizens by emphasizing the importance of video, photography, dance, theater, plastic arts, sports, and music.
As the Coordinator of Peace and Memory, Julian is currently working on a project called Memories in Dialogue that supports community initiatives around memory, coexistence, and peacebuilding in Medellin. Julian is an expert on youth issues, local development, public policies, and social research, and has been a researcher with the Observatory of Human Security in Medellin.
While in Toronto, Monica and Julian shared their experiences about memory, coexistence, peacebuilding, and youth empowerment at a variety of forums, including the forum for Truth and Reconciliation and the OCIC Global Citizens Forum. Additionally, they attended events held by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation for International Development Week. At one of the International Development Week events, they joined other international partners from Colombia, Honduras, Kenya, and Tanzania and spoke about addressing different social issues and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“Julian and Monica’s work with the YMCA of Medellin is based on a holistic long-term approach to youth that goes beyond creating awareness about the issues in their communities,” says Esperanza Monsalve, Manager of International Programs at the YMCA of Greater Toronto. “They strive to empower youth to become agents of change so that they can be decision-makers and social entrepreneurs, which transforms not only their own lives but their entire community. Monica and Julian’s biggest goals are to transform communities and the lives of youth around the world so that they have the ability to come together and make an impact.”