In urban slums, one often finds a culture which promotes using aggression and violence as a primary means for resolving disagreements. Tamara, a young woman of 18, is all too familiar with this world. Tamara lives in Chimalhuacán with her partner, Raúl, and attends hairstyling classes at ACJU’s vocational training center. During the last few months, Tamara confided to ACJU staff that Raúl, a “moto-taxi” driver, had had an ongoing disagreement with someone he works with. The first confrontation led to Raúl being punched in the mouth. As the situation escalated, Raúl’s colleague sent a gang of friends to assault him while he was working and, when that attempt failed, to look for him at home. Raúl’s family members, angry that the other man had assembled a group to attack Raúl, suggested that he put together his own group of friends to go the colleague’s home and beat up his family.
However, Tamara had been sharing with Raúl the things she was learning in the values component of her hairstyling classes. As a result, instead of responding to violence with more violence, Tamara and Raúl made the decision to report the incidents to the municipal authorities. Tamara commented to ACJU staff that she had determined to take no action that would incite violence in any way. As a result of the report, Raúl and his colleague were summoned to a mediation hearing, where the other man ended up apologizing for his actions and agreeing to leave Raúl and his family alone in the future.
Rocio, one of our ACJU participants, explained how being a part of ACJU led to her becoming involved in our youth ministries: “In addition to developing my character, participating in ACJU made me question, ‘What am I missing?’ And I realized that missing piece was spiritual. When I became involved in ACJU 7 years ago, I was going through a very rough time in my life, to the point where I was thinking about suicide. When I became part of ACJU, I realized that things weren’t as bad as I thought they were; that they could be different. That motivated me to change my attitude towards life and how I could be a part of it.”
“As a youth, I found that path by getting involved in Comunidades de Shalom, where I was able to develop a relationship with God even though I am young. I met friends who are true friends, because they are brothers and sisters in Christ. And I feel like my youth can serve as an example for past and future generations, like it says in I Timothy 4:12, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.’ And that has led me to develop the fullness of my character: I have become kinder, stronger, and more decisive, but always humble, not just looking out for myself but rather trying to see how I can benefit those around me.” Rocio, a successful graduate of our vocational training school, is now one of the principal leaders in our Comunidades de Shalom youth Bible study, “Jóvenes en Acción.”
In 2013 ACJU Callejero, our street outreach initiative, launched our first Vocational Training Center offering four-month long courses in electrical installation and hairstyling. These courses are certified by the Industrial Employment Training Center (CECATI) which is accredited by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP). We held two course cycles during the year, helping 50 youth graduate and receive their federally recognized certificate. Participating youth also attended character development workshops and participated for two days in a community service campaign.
ACJU Callejero also dealt with the topic of human trafficking in 2013.
Trafficking has become a severe problem in the Chimalhuacán municipality, affecting youth of both genders. That is why ACJU held a youth camp, in collaboration with the U.S.-based organization iEmpathize, entitled “We Are One.” 111 youth participated in this 3 day event and, through role-plays, workshops and group activities, learned about the importance of having respect for life and received training as Anti-Trafficking Community Promoters.