Kamila Blanco is an adolescent from El Salvador. She participated in the advocacy and campaigns regional workshop and shared her thoughts with us in a diary:
While I am getting ready to go to the office of the Network for Children and Adolescents, I think about how lucky I am. I have been participating in the National Network of Children in El Salvador as a representative for 4 years and tonight I will fly to Panama to participate in an advocacy and campaigns workshop organized by Save the Children.
I am very excited, not only because it is my first time to leave El Salvador, but also because I am going to meet other adolescents who participate in child-led organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean. After saying goodbye to my mom, I check the collage that I created together with Christopher, my friend and partner on this journey. Our collage represents the main issues affecting children in Latin America and the Caribbean: violence, migration, child exploitation, sexual abuse, and social exclusion. When I see it finished, I feel proud because it is unique and the message is clear.
After a while, Christopher and I are sitting on the plane, which starts slowly to move on the track. We are close to taking off and I feel anxious. I fasten my seat belt and turn off my cell phone. The signal to fasten the seat belts is on and in the twinkling of an eye, we are in the sky.
"Children are not the future, they are the present," said Victoria Ward, Save the Children's Regional Director, to start the workshop. I will never forget those words, which still echo in my mind. After her speech, we introduce ourselves through a fun game.
Christopher and I led the introductory game. The entire group formed a circle and passed a pink balloon while everyone said their name, country, and organization.
Later, children and adults were split into different sessions. We worked on an introduction to communication for advocacy techniques. First, we defined concepts such as politics, advocacy, communication, and participation. Then, each adolescent talked about social context and child rights in their countries. After the presentations, we defined together what are the main issues affecting children and adolescents at the regional level: migration, lack of child investment and protection systems, and poor access to educational opportunities, social exclusion, child exploitation, and violence.
Time flew. After lunch, we went to the Panama Canal. There, we saw a video about its history, and then we went upstairs to see how the locks work. After taking some pictures, we continued our tour to the museum, to learn more about its history and operation.
Now, we are on the way to the hotel. We have been stuck in a traffic jam for 40 minutes but my fellows know how to have fun. All are singing and laughing; even I felt encouraged to sing.
On the second day, we reviewed the steps to carry out an advocacy project and identified in which areas we have the power to advocate and in which ones we could not. After that, we worked in groups and presented a drawing about child investment in two minutes. In the afternoon, each group presented a roleplay based on the topics reviewed in the morning. My group chose to present a role play about child investment where the adolescents acted as Save the Children staff, president and journalists and the adults acted as children. When we finished the role plays, we reflected together on the outcomes.
After this session, the adolescents sat in a circle and talked about the communication plan to advocate. We defined objectives, audiences and created messages. Late in the afternoon, we watched the movie "Al Límite", which was directed and produced by members of the regional project Schools Building Peace in Guatemala with Save the Children's help.
Now, we are eating together at a big table, sharing our experiences. I'm very glad to be here.
On the third day, we split ourselves in four groups to analyze Save the Children´s Adolescent Strategy. Each group analyzed the strengths and weaknesses and then we chose topics to prioritize. Eventually, we all agreed on three topics: violence, discrimination, and lack of education. When we presented our work to the adults, they mentioned the match between their discussions and ours. Then, later in the afternoon, representatives of the Advocacy and Participation Global Theme came to listen to us.
We played an introductory game with new participants, which consisted of singing or dancing any traditional song of our countries. After that, we summarized what we did in the previous days and they asked us some questions. Then we saw some videos about advocacy projects with child participation in Africa and I realized that some problems that we identified in Latin America also affect children on other continents.
The workshop finished with a diploma ceremony and some words of farewell. The greatest learning I am taking with me from this workshop is to trust myself and realize what I really am capable of, and although I had already been trained in advocacy actions, I have learnt certain things that I did not know before. I will use and share this knowledge in my network to carry out the activities in which I participate.
I also liked to meet the boys and girls from the other countries in the LAC region and see how they are proud of what they do. As a network, we take pride in the work we do and thank Save the Children for this space for participation because it helps us to empower ourselves.
Finally, I said goodbye stressing how glad I was to meet all. I am sure none of us is going to forget this experience. After all, we remember the places where we have been because of the people we met.