I met Yuri in 2016, when Sueños had been running for just a couple months under the name "Camino a la Escuela" (Road to School), and was 100% volunteer run. We had just been given access to an indoor space in the Palacio de los Capitanes, after spending two years working with students outside in the Central Park of Antigua. She was assigned to do her university graduation project with us by my mentor, Denisse Aleman. We met many times at the beginning of that year with a group of her peers to discuss potential projects they could help us with, and decided on writing a curriculum together. Yuri was deeply interested in Sueños' work and later that year came to Antigua from Guatemala City to see the project in action. She quickly became one of our most dedicated volunteers and would be in class with us every week, despite having to travel 3 hours in each direction to get there.
In 2018 Sueños hired staff for the first time, and one of our first staff members was Yuri. Yuri ran the program Sueños en Acción (Dreams in Action), for teens in 2018 and 2019. The program prepared adolescents ages 12-21 in life skills such as sex education, drug prevention, and self-esteem. She used her experiences with the teens to complete the curriculum for the program for her graduation project, and presented this project to Sueños in 2019. That work was approved by the university this year, in 2021, allowing Yuri to graduate with her Licenciatura, or bachelor's degree. We are so proud of this important achievement and the role that Yuri has played in shaping Sueños. In addition to being a past staff member, Yuri is also a founding member of Asociación Sueños, the legal entity that we operate under, and was part of the team that wrote our very first mission and vision statements.
Her words are below:
As children we have many dreams, and as we travel the road it becomes difficult to reach the expected goal. I came to Sueños as a girl full of illusions; my task: to carry out my professional Graduation Project was Camino a la Escuela (later named Sueños) the means to achieve my "sueños". I am so grateful that this space of pure learning was given to me, where I was able to explore affective and emotional skills, connect with a beautiful community that makes you feel like a family, where the protagonists are definitely the children and the lives we touch. My university (Universidad San Carlos) entrusted me to contribute to the country as a professional during my project, but knowing my country and its diversity there are many needs and it is likely that as an individual I cannot change the reality of the country; but if we get together individuals with vision like Katie Korsyn, the Founder and Director of Sueños, and the entire team, volunteers, community members and all supporters, will have a significant impact. I am sure that soon the fruits of this work that began with volunteers will achieve its vision and mission in a short time and we will be celebrating the achievements of those who are today Pequeños Soñadores (Little Dreamers). There are already excellent results because one of the current facilitators, Belmo, started as a member of the program, Sueños an Acción (Dreams in Action); the program to which I was entrusted to carry out a project to prepare teens for new opportunities. Another reason to celebrate is the fact that today more and more members of the community are joining the Sueños team as staff. I know that Sueños will not stop growing and transforming lives, I plan to be around to celebrate their achievements as they accompanied me on this day, my graduation.
Postscript: my first signature under my new title, which does not transform me as a person but does require me to exercise responsibly, in reality "Seño Yuri" from children is more gratifying every time they remember me.
Licda. Yuri Gabriela Merida.