This Exchange is done in partnership with Breaking the Silence (BTS) and the New Hope Foundation. The program involves Guatemalan youth coming to Canada in June 2017 and First Nations, Métis, Inuit and settler youth going to Guatemala in August 2017. In Canada, KAIROS will work with the Indigenous youth to integrate their perspectives and personal histories into the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE), while in Guatemala the youth will be helped to tell their own colonial history through the same framework.
Read blog posts related to this program.
Photo album of trip to Guatemala.
Delegation biographies: Emilio Wawatie, Hannah Gehrels, Joshua Stribbell, Lilian Marleny Bolvito Gonzalez, Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy, Tyra Cox.
The Exchange will forge new relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and Guatemala. Supporting these relationships is part of our solidarity with Indigenous peoples around the world.
The KBE is an affirmation that history matters. Across Canada we have seen how it empowers people, especially facilitators, and opens their eyes to a key piece of the Canadian story they did not know.
In order to address the systemic issues of discrimination, inequity, injustice and poverty of Indigenous peoples in Canada and Guatemala, it is important that the history of colonization and genocide is understood, felt and recognized as a collective history and responsibility. The participation of KAIROS’ long-time Guatemalan partners in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission national events revealed common elements of colonization in Canada and Guatemala, making Guatemala a natural choice for an exploration of how the KBE can be effective in other countries.
Program in Canada
The Exchange team will meet face-to-face for the first time in Ottawa on May 31 and June 1 for an orientation session, and a chance to learn about each other and our cultures. They will then join the larger Facilitators Gathering and Kitchi Blanket Exercise. This will give the delegates an even deeper understanding of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise while providing an opportunity to share their emerging work with the Canadian facilitator network.
From June 18-23, Lilian, who had been on the Ottawa portion of the tour, Andrés Colocho Chachal, another Guatemalan youth, and Sandra Lopez, Director of the New Hope Foundation, met with the KAIROS and Breaking the Silence networks across Atlantic Canada. Stops included Halifax, Antigonish, Charlottetown and Fredericton.
Program in Guatemala
Under the leadership of KAIROS and Breaking the Silence (BTS), the youth from Canada will be hosted in Guatemala from August 25 to September 3 by the New Hope School and by the Youth Organized in the Defense of Life, which are both described in more detail below.
Telling the Story
Helping the youth tell their stories is an important part of the Exchange. Follow the Team on social media and watch for photos, blogs and videos while they travel together. Upon their return home, and with KAIROS’ support , the youth from Canada will build their facilitation skills by animating the KBE in communities across Canada. They will share their stories and experiences from the Exchange at public events and regional KAIROS gatherings.
In Guatemala, the participants will share what they learned during the Exchange, and with the support of KAIROS, BTS and the New Hope School, continue to develop the Guatemalan Blanket Exercise script, and start using it for education and advocacy.
- The New Hope Foundation/Fundación Nueva Esperanza was founded in 1997 by survivors of the genocide that occurred during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict between 1960 and 1996. Since then, it has been devoted to historical truth and memory, justice, and the preservation of Mayan language and culture. The Foundation is run by local Guatemalans who are passionate about improving the lives of materially impoverished youth in their area. It began by offering scholarships to local students, but opened its own school in 2003.
- The school-the New Hope Community Bilingual Institute– promotes a strong identification with local Maya Achi, and offers high quality bilingual education to over 100 students annually. The school’s goal is to contribute to the construction of an intercultural, just, and vibrant community by supporting youth involvement in municipal politics, and in the pursuit of a better future for the community through justice, historical truth, and participatory democracy. The Foundation considers quality education the only way to combat intolerance and construct real peace in Guatemala.
- Breaking the Silence is a voluntary network of people in the Maritimes who began to organize in 1988 to support the efforts of Guatemalans struggling for political, social, and economic justice.It supports Guatemalans struggling for political, social, economic and cultural justice and recognizes that injustice results from structural inequalities both within and between countries. BTS is committed to supporting structural transformation both in Guatemala and in Canada.BTS works with partner organizations to create relationships and projects based on solidarity, friendship, and human rights advocacy. It takes inspiration from Guatemalans working for peace with justice.
- JODVID (Youth Organized in Defense of Life) began in 2015, to carry on the work and legacy of Topacio Reynoso Pacheco who was murdered on April 13, 2014 in an armed attack thatalso left her father, Alex Reynoso seriously injured. The group based in Mataquescuintla, Japala, uses art and music to create popular education opportunities in communities, sharing the message of protection of the environment and territory. The group’s motto, “Youth aren’t just the future, we are also the present” is a clear message to respect and value the work of youth in their community.
Seeds of Truth Youth Exchange to Guatemala, August 26- Sept 3
with members of the Xinka parliament, including Alexar Arana, president of the Xinka parliament who was part of a Central American delegation and met with us in the KAIROS offices in March this year
with Luis Fernando Garcia who joined us for the facilitators gathering and Kitchi BE and other members of his youth group, JODVID in Mataquescuintla
The original cross that was erected a few days after the massacre
On the boat to Rio Negro
We started before dawn on a walk up the mountains of Rio Negro to Pak'oxom following the path of the 70 women and 107 children were forced by military to take before they were massacred on March 13, 1982. The first station was where the women were forced by the military to dance
New life at New Hope School
Rio Negro, a beauty that hurts
A tour of New Hope School
A shrine at the site of the massacre of 107 children adn 70 women
Hannah in Rio Negro
Don Sebastian, our guide and survivor of the massacre, tells his story
At this station we were told how two women jumped down the mountain with their children on their backs to escape, and survived
Tyra with students at New Hope School
Hannah and Josh playing Marimba at New Hope School
with Lilian Gonzalez who joined us for the facilitators gathering and KItchi BE in June
Piloting the Guatemalan BE, talking circle
Mass Blanket Exercise (Guatemalan script) at New Hope Foundation school
Mayan ceremony at New Hope School
Wednesday morning, student facilitate a mass blanket exercise of their Guatemalan script for the entire school (120 students)
Tuesday afternoon, piloting the New Hope Foundation script of the Guatemalan BE
Monday afternoon doing the KAIROS Blanket Exercise in Spanish at New Hope School
Tyra plays the drum and talks about the Creation story during our cultural presentation
Cultural presentation by students at New Hope School
Monday morning welcome assembly and cultural presentation at New Hope School in Rabinal
Jesus Tecu, survivor of the massacres Rio Negro and author of Memoir of the Rio Negro Massacres, guides us through momuments of the massacre in the cemetary in Rabinal.
At Jesus' s house, Isabelle his wife tells us about her weaving
The delegation with Jesus Tecu in solidarity and strength
Arrival in Guatemala on August 26
Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy
Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy is from the community of Volcantio, San Rafael las Flores, Guatemala. San Rafael las Flores is also where the El Escobal mine is located. The mine is owned by the Canadian-US company Tahoe Resources. Luis and his family are vocal opponents of the mine, and their activism and community leadership has had serious consequences. On April 27, 2013, Luis Fernando, his father and 5 other men were shot by the company’s security guards while peacefully protesting the mine. Luis Fernando was shot several times. Currently there are ongoing cases in Guatemala against the perpetrators and in Canada against Tahoe Resources. Luis Fernando is also a co-founder and representative of JODVID (Youth Organized in the Defense of Life), an organization created by the family and friends of Topacio Reynoso, another youth activist from Mataquescuintla, who was murdered on April 13, 2014 in an armed attack, which also left her father, Alex Reynoso seriously injured. Luis Fernando continues to work for justice in his community and for the closure of the mine.
Lilian Marleny Bolvito Gonzalez
Lilian Marleny Bolvito Gonzalez is Mayan Achi from the village of Chuategua Rabinal Baja in Verapaz, Guatemala. Despite economic hardship that forced her to drop out of school, she and her sister were able to complete their primary education in the New Hope Community Bilingual Institute with support from the New Hope Foundation. Lilian continued her studies at the school and received a diploma in Rural Well-Being and Community Development in 2015. She now works for the local organization, Qachuu Aloom, as part of an agro-ecology team, providing training and accompaniment to the community in the production of native crops and seeds. Lilian is doing what she loves. She says, “the Foundation has helped young people like myself realize our dreams and better our lives and those of the community”. She is also pursuing a degree in Agricultural Engineering at the Rural University of Rabinal.
Joshua StribbellToronto, Ontario
Joshua Stribbell was born and raised in Keswick, Ontario. His family is from Iqaluit, Nunavut. He formerly studied Philosophy at McMaster University and is currently a Youth Worker for Inuit in Toronto. He Co – Founded the first initiative to provide services to Inuit youth in Toronto called Torontomiutaujugut, and is also a founding member of the Toronto Inuit Association. He sits on the Steering Committee for Aboriginal Education at York Region District School Board, as well as the Aboriginal Advisory Committee at Toronto District School Board.
Hannah GehrelsCharlottetown, PEI
Hannah Gehrels lives in Charlottetown, PEI, where she first got involved with the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. She works for Sierra Club Canada Foundation where she runs programs focused on immersing children in nature and developing their connection to the natural world. Hannah has worked with KAIROS by helping to organize and facilitate several Blanket Exercises in the Charlottetown area, as well as through her participation in the PEI Action Group for Migrant Worker Rights.
Emilio WawatieBarrier Lake, Quebec
My name is Emilio Wawatie and I’m an Algonquin Anishnabe from Barrier Lake, Quebec. I’m currently finishing up my college Diploma in Music Performance studies and plan on continuing my education in music in University next fall. I am an activist, musician and a film maker and have been working in the arts on a national and international level for 5 years.
Throughout my life I was raised on the land, on the reserve and in various towns and cities. Being deeply rooted in my culture has played a big role in both my development as a person and as an artist. I do my best to be involved and to keep close ties with all the communities I’ve lived in, both Indigenous and non Indigenous. Being raised by my Grandparents on the land, I was enriched with cultural values, knowledge and practices which were instilled in me as a child. Throughout my teen years I experienced a lot of ups and downs, especially those that came with the urbanization of Indigenous peoples. Discrimination, violence, trauma and addiction have plagued chapters of my life, especially throughout the years I was disconnected from the bush. I was 17 when I left on my own. I began to travel and go back to reconnect with my roots and my family that is spread throughout the territory. It was at this point in my life where the spark was lit; that I realized and knew that I had to help carry on that flame.
Tyra CoxWinnipeg, Manitoba
Tyra Cox is from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is Sahtu Dene/ Anishinaabe, and Mahkwa Dodem (Bear Clan.) Tyra works as project manager for the municipal government, within the Indigenous Relations Division. She’s a coach, social justice advocate, Indigenous knowledge champion, and volunteer to many Indigenous youth initiatives, such as KAIROS Canada. From Indigenous home fires to non-Indigenous, Tyra has facilitated and watched the impact that the KAIROS Blanket Exercise has for the Next 7 generations!