Alina Valverde was only 15 years only when she learned about Paz y Esperanza. Living in a low-income community in Guayaquil, Ecuador, she told us,“Paz y Esperanza came to my school to give some workshops about intrafamilial violence, which was interesting to me as I wanted to learn about it.”
Although she said that all of her friends cared more about the food provided than the topic, Alina learned a lot from the workshops. “I identified deeply with some of the ideas of the violence that can begin in dating,” she recalled. “It really helped me realize that I was in a toxic relationship. That was a way out for me.” Empowered, Alina told herself, “When I grow up, I’ll volunteer there.”
Now, some six years after those workshops, that dream has come true. Alina is helping with the Healthy Families, Free of Violence program. She joined the project almost a year ago, when Paz y Esperanza Ecuador interviewed two hundred children between the ages of seven and seventeen. Alina, along with the Paz team and half a dozen volunteers, collected information to see if children and adolescents suffered violence and violation of their rights in this pandemic. This information formed the basis for the internationally awarded report “Listening to the voices of children and adolescents during the Covid-19 pandemic in Northwest Guayaquil.”
Alina enjoyed the opportunity to support Paz’s work so much that she continued to volunteer in our workshops focused on children’s rights, preparing icebreakers, and leading small groups. Additionally, she acted as a small group facilitator in the masculinity workshops for young men and sexual and reproductive rights workshops for women. Taking on more responsibility, last month she prepared some boys and girls for a youth forum and a visit to the Guayaquil’s version of a Department of Human Services, where those youth presented the same report for which she helped collect information. Alina met on several occasions with the participating boys and girls via Zoom, giving them advice on how to communicate well and encouraging them to be confident when speaking.
Although she is only 21 years old, she wants to use what she has learned to help others. To all who want to see changes in our world, country, or community, she recommends that they start with themselves. She says, “We can’t just go through life saying ‘Why is society like this?’ or ‘Why not help?’ because we can do it too.” And so Alina is living that out, even in her youth. She actively participates in the Guayaquil youth advisory council, raising her voice and encouraging the younger generations to do the same.
As a Paz y Esperanza team, we are grateful for the support that Alina offers to our work. We are always happy to work with her and see how excited and encouraged she is in helping others.
On your social media or in the comments, answer this question.
- Recognize one or more volunteers at your church or non-profit ministry for the work they are doing, and use the hashtag #NationalVolunteerMonth. How is God using them in your community?