In June ACJU Escolar held a training at the organization’s offices for student leaders working on designing and implementing community impact projects. One of the projects that came out of that session proposes to focus on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in Chimalhuacán. In the municipality of Chimalhuacán, 6 out of every 10 women who become pregnant are under 18 years old. As an organization, our NGO, Transformación Urbana, submitted a grant proposal on behalf of the project, entitled “When the Panties Are Off,” to the Mexican Youth Institute (IMJUVE). Out of thousands of proposals submitted on a national level, the grant was approved. The youth were awarded $30,000 pesos ($2,350 U.S.) to carry out the project, which we estimate will impact more than 1,500 youth in the area. The project will be launched in August and ACJU Escolar will provide the project leaders with ongoing technical assistance, supervision and support. The approval of the grant is also one of the first steps these youth are taking towards establishing their own non-profit, youth-led civic organization.
One of the youth actively participating in the IMJUVE-funded project is Miguel. Miguel’s friends invited him to participate in ACJU because they were worried about his physical safety. During the last year, Miguel had been a part of the delinquent gangs, or “porros,” in this neighborhood. However, he is now an enthusiastic participant of ACJU. In fact, he not only a strong leader within the ACJU Escolar project, but he participates actively in other ACJU activities as well. For instance, Miguel was one of the more than 100 youth who took part in ACJU Callejero’s collaborative human trafficking prevention camp with the U.S.-based organization “iEmpathize” at the end of the month.
Urban slums typically do not offer many positive alternatives for youth. For youth caught up in apathy and idleness, it can be difficult to envision a brighter future. Drugs and alcohol may promise a temporary escape from the seeming hopelessness of their situation. Some make easy targets for gangs, traffickers or even organized crime elements. ACJU offers these youth an alternative. In the short-term, participating in the ACJU project provides a positive, healthy place for youth to socialize. However, ACJU also gives slum youth so much more. In ACJU, youth learn that they can do something about the problems they see. That they are powerful. That they are the future.