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Raul Scorza blog

Raúl Scorza
Community Outreach and Communications Coordinator

We welcome you once again to Horizons’ bi-weekly blog series on its maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) project, which will transform Indigenous lives in Totonicapán, Guatemala thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada. Our previous post highlighted the opportunity to participate in international knowledge-exchange visits between Canadian and Guatemalan MNCH providers and leaders being organized under this initiative. It’s not too late to attend one of our information sessions covering the exchanges on September 13th in Cobourg and September 20th in Peterborough – RSVP here and here, respectively.

Be mindful that you don’t need to be a specialist to support work that will better the lives of Indigenous women, children and families in Guatemala. In fact, you don’t even have to be out of elementary school to advocate for greater social justice like improved MNCH outcomes for Totonicapán’s Indigenous people. As this post will show, Horizons is striving to engage Ontario’s youth in this important project, and is thrilled to announce an exciting partnership to do so.

Youth are the future leaders of our society, and as such, play an essential role in addressing global issues. The possibility for youth to become catalysts for positive social change comes in no small part from their being subject to the world’s most pressing challenges. This is clear in the case of maternal and child health issues in Guatemala. Half of the country’s women are already married by the age of 20 and 44 percent give birth by the same age. These statistics rise to 54 and 68 percent for Indigenous women and women without formal education, respectively. And in a shocking and recent report (in Spanish), the United Nations Population Fund revealed that one in five Guatemalan adolescents has become a mother before they even turn 17 years old.

MNCH - Guatemalan mother with her baby

Ontario youth will be engaged in a project that will transform Indigenous lives in Guatemala

As if these figures were not alarming enough by their own, they become more so when considering Indigenous women are twice as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth as non-Indigenous women in Guatemala. In Totonicapán, where approximately 94 percent of the population is Indigenous, this translates into almost twice the number of average maternal deaths in the country.

Horizons and its Guatemalan partner, the Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education (PIES de Occidente), will take concrete steps to contribute to the reduction of maternal and child deaths and the improvement of MNCH for Indigenous women, children and families.

But Horizons has also had more than 40 years of experience coordinating public engagement activities in Canada related to international development projects, and has learned that youth in Ontario are highly motivated to help address global issues, such as Totonicapán’s critical MNCH situation. However, youth have pointed to multiple barriers preventing them from becoming agents of social change.

Women Deliver, an international institution advocating for women’s health and women’s rights, found that youth from across the world identify the following as factors that prevent youth from being meaningfully involved in global issues, such as maternal and newborn health:

• A lack of accessible information
• Decision-makers placing low trust in the opinions youth express
• Shortage of spaces and opportunities for international engagement

Horizons is proud to announce that it has partnered with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Kawartha Pine Ridge Local (KPR ETFO) to help Ontario youth overcome these barriers and be meaningfully engaged in a global issue as important as MNCH in Totonicapán.


Horizons is thrilled to have partnered with KPR ETFO to engage Ontario youth

Every year of the project’s duration, Horizons and KPR ETFO will invite three Grade 8 classes, each in a different school in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District, to participate during a school term in a roster of five activities that will raise awareness of MNCH issues in Totonicapán. The roster is designed to build upon an accessible introduction to MNCH and culminate in a review of methods for peer-based youth action on global issues like MNCH. Starting in the Spring of 2017, activities will include presentations, workshops, role-play, and critical reflection exercises, as well as visits by Guatemalan delegations of traditional Mayan midwives and health providers that will grant participants a unique opportunity to meet and learn from project beneficiaries.

Participating students will develop qualities facilitated by social justice education, like empathy for different individuals and groups, the ability to recognize bias and discrimination and critical thinking. This in turn will contribute to the creation of strong and diverse communities – inside and outside the classroom.

Teachers that commit to the roster will have the opportunity to attend a preparatory professional development workshop with Horizons on teaching social justice themes to youth. This will provide a chance to impact the design, selection and integration of roster activities into lesson plans. Further, educators will notice direct links to the Ontario Grade 8 Geography Curriculum. Building on Citizenship Education Framework themes, roster activities will help fulfill Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life expectations, like: addressing factors contributing to global inequalities and quality of life, investigating quality of life issues through a geographic perspective and identifying patterns and trends affecting quality of life and economic development.

Finally, to ensure the voice of Ontario youth is heard, participating students will be continuously asked to evaluate Horizons and KPR ETFO’s program. Their input will not just shape and update activities, but will also be featured in a publication detailing best practices in engaging the public in MNCH issues to be distributed to health providers in Canada and Guatemala.

“This project will provide students and teachers rich learning experiences about issues of justice relevant to all citizens across the globe”, says David Berger, First Vice-President of KPR ETFO. “Partnering with Horizons for this program, an organization ETFO has supported for many years through its Provincial Humanity Fund, will help our youth bridge the gap between the international and the local”.

Horizons reminds non-school youth groups interested in raising awareness of MNCH challenges in Totonicapán that they too can support this project. For more information about this possibility, or to learn more about the youth engagement program, contact Raúl Scorza at rscorza@horizons.ca.


Craig Frayne, Community Outreach Coordinator

This week, Horizons of Friendship visited students at Kingston Frontenac Secondary School. These bright students had some ideas for new directions in Canadian International Development policy. 

Over 50 students in both the Interact Club and the Grade 12 World Issues class learned about different approaches to human development and Horizons' projects in Central America and Mexico. 

We discussed initiatives focused on youth identity and expression, the importance of youth 

Students noted how much is in common between their own hopes, aspirations, and worries and those of youth in other parts of the world. Finding employment, career choices, relationships: they could identify with many issues raised. We also discussed some important differences and what students here can be grateful for: the ability to go to school, prospects for getting paid employment, even the ability to play sports or music is not available to many others their age. involvement in the development process, and case studies of Horizons' projects with youth in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

youth programs

The World Issues class was presented with a Case Study to develop a new International Cooperation Policy. Their ideas were both timely and well informed, and included:

  • Exchange Opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to travel and learn about other parts of the world. To save money and time Skype calls could be used, for example, between students in Canada and those in other countries.
  • Job Training and investment in skills that create opportunity for young people in Canada and those in places where Canada invests abroad. It was mentioned that companies could play a greater role in this. 
  • Fair Wages: increased trade and investment will not translate into growth if wages are low and workers do not receive a living wage.
  • Inequality: trade and investment policies that address inequality within and between countries, as opposed to policies that aggravate inequality.
  • Environment: greater consideration for the environmental impact of trade and development policies, particularly with respect to the resource sector.
  • Youth Inclusion: young people, who form the majority in most countries today, should be included in formation of policies that will most affect them. 

(They plan to draft these points into a letter to send to their local M.P.) 

Thanks to students and staff at Frontenac Secondary School. Your questions and ideas were great and the future of International Cooperation is in good hands!