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Co-Inspiration: Ignite Experience empowers international entrepreneurs and rural community in Elqui Valley

Valle Del Elqui, Chile’s mellow toned, mystical and tranquil gem received 13 international entrepreneurs from Startup Chile. The Ignite Experience was a weekend of exchanging knowledge, inspiring and being inspired by the community and the children of Tierra y Valle. Tierra y Valle is a cultural and sustainability education center  connecting children to nature and fosters leadership, creation of culture, development of the family, neighborhood and society.

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Weaving our superpowers into a collective web! Photo by Evoluzion

My partner Bryan (Untos) and I (Dream Activation), NuMundo and Evoluzion co-designed the very first “Ignite Experience” with the purpose of hosting engaging activities to cross-empower children, community and international entrepreneurs alike.

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Bryan and I sharing the call and response that we would use throughout to refocus attention. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Day 1 – The Intergenecultural Exchange

After a lengthy 10 hour journey to Valle del Elqui, we were all exhausted but ignited with excitement for the action. We filled almost every room in a hostel that overlooked gorgeous mountains and had regenerative systems in place like grey water purification and composting.

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The entrepreneurs just arrived to Elqui Valley and are learning the background and history about the land. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

After a few hours of settling in, resting and practicing for the cultural exchange, we were off to meet the children and give presentations to inspire the kids. For many of them, it was the very first time ever getting to know leaders from India, Philippines or Germany. Laughs, knowledge, wide-eyes and new cultural perspectives were shared.

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Vishwanath, an entrepreneur from India is shares culture with the kids! Photo by Evoluzion

We all skipped over to Tierra y Valle to see that the children were all preparing Churrascas, a traditional Chilean bread as a gift to us! The kids taught some of us how to make Churrascas while other entrepreneurs were receiving a lesson about worm composting from one of the boys. For some of the entrepreneurs it was the first time learning about transforming food waste into soil! Our team scattered about the land taking in their innocent wisdom as we toured their personal little garden plots each of them were tending. The day closed in awe as we said our “hasta mañana’s” to the kids.

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Nessim, an entrepreneur from France learns how to make Churrascas from the kids. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Day 2 – The Superheros

Fresh and ready for our biggest day of the weekend to engage with the kids and community, we gathered to discuss our roles as “superheroes”. Programmed and facilitated both Bryan and myself, we led a 3 hour leadership activation activity that interweaved the entrepreneurs (superheroes). The entrepreneurs represented a team of changemakers who were there to invite the children to “join us”. We helped the kids identify their superpowers, led them on a meditation to vision their community in the future and asked them to draw what they imagined. The entrepreneurs worked one-on-one with the children helping them to come up with ideas for their passions and motivations.

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The children are drawing and entrepreneurs drawing their vision of Pisco Elqui and themselves in 5 years. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Creativity, imagination and sharing were ignited for everyone. We then rolled into a yarn game to interweave a network of each of our superpowers with the kids as a representation  of our gifts, and the purpose was to instill that we are all part of a unique ecosystem that depends on each other. Once everyone shared, we asked the kids to shout out challenges they identified in their community. The answers of these 6-13 year olds were brilliant. They identified, drought, use of pesticides, pollution, garbage and fighting to be the most prominent.

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Merle, sharing her list of the things that she’s passionate about. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

We split into teams based on each of the identified challenges mixed with parents, entrepreneurs and children. To our amazement, we witnessed incredible solutions crafted by the children. During the next 30 minutes, the entrepreneurs guided the kids combining their superpowers and visions for the future to work together on coming up with solutions for these challenges. The entrepreneurs were essential role models who kept everyone having fun while discussing important topics.

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Children drawing a picture of their future vision for the community and themselves. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Finally, each group presented the children’s incredibly insightful solutions. The garbage team, had the idea of building a bottle bricking and recycling center out of bottle-bricks and adobe complete with a campaign to get their town’s people to bring the trash to the site. A 10 year old girl came up with the idea of using plastic bottles cut in half for drip irrigation (an ancient aztec technique). The drought group came up with recycling water using a greywater system and having a tree planting party on the hills to retain water. With the support of Tierra y Valle and Evoluzion, the kids plan on working on these ideas long-term.

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Angela, Bryan and Matias helping the girls to present their ideas of projects they want to do in their community. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

The second half of the day, the entrepreneurs worked in Tierra y Valle helping to make improvements to the site and having a mentorship session with two Tierra y Valle, local eco-hostels, and Arropa.

Day 3 – The Fulfillment

The final day of the Ignite Experience was spent biking down a wavy valley highway to the oldest Pisco distillery in Chile that’s still producing with traditional, organic methods where we sampled their sweet wine and orange trees. We closed out the weekend with a circle under willow trees by a river to share our gratitude, love and feedback about everything. It was apparent that this was a heart-opening and bonding experience for the entrepreneurs after hearing all of their reflections.

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Group photo of most of the entrepreneurs who attended the Ignite Experience! Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

The Ignite Experience was truly a cross-beneficial, rewarding and innovative transformational tourism adventure into the heart of culture, youth and wisdom exchange.  Although this was the first and has room for improvement, this has ignited a new flame within my heart to continue this type of work. It was a beautiful reminder that simple actions like these can have infinite ripple effects on the lives of children.

Co-written by Bryan Arturo

10 Ways to Empower Youth Leadership

According to the Knight Foundation, statistics also show a gap. ‘Often that energy, that desire to contribute or lead, is going unsupported and untapped, they said.’ Teens and young adults don’t always see a place for their voice and their work.’ They feel unwelcome, perhaps a result of negative messages about youth coming from adults and even the media.

We are running out of time to solve the climate crisis. Every day it seems more people are calling out for climate action, but still, every time global leaders meet they fail to reach binding agreements to curb greenhouse gasses.

Youth around the world feel fear and despair when they think about what climate change could mean for their future. While this generation has the most at stake when it comes to preventing climate chaos, many young people don’t know where to start in addressing this huge issue. Many youth are looking for ways to be a part of the solution, but need the training and support to take the next step.

In light of the issue we are facing, here is a list of 10 ways that you can start empowering your children to be positive youth leaders NOW:

1. Give the youth tools to collaborate and problem solve, brainstorm and reflect.

Providing youth with the information and resources necessary for analyzing issues that affect their lives and environments will help them become strong strategizers on ways to act as change agents in their communities.

2. Encourage them to use their passions for good.

Guiding youth to use what their passions and creativity to share positive messages or bring attention to issues they care about will allow them to find purpose within their passion and use the power of their joy to share important messages.

3. Guide them to believe that their voice matters without judging or criticizing their ideas.

Empowering youth to understand that their voice makes a huge difference in this world and that all ideas are worth exploring will only give them more motivation and fuel to continue strengthening their own power for change.

4. Guide them to understand that people will not always want to listen, just because we would like them to but to not take it personally.

Helping youth to understand that not everyone is going to respond the way you hope they would and that some people may not be ready to hear what you want to share will support their confidence. It’s important to let youth know that when someone doesn’t listen to them, allow that to only make them stronger.

5. Help them learn that sometimes even the most fabulous idea may need a bit more logistical planning.

Guiding youth to help them understand that all visions and ideas take time to make sure they are realistic and well thought through. Help them to know that there are different stages to a project and the first stage is having an idea but there are many stages after that. This will help them understand the full process and not get stuck on one idea.

6. Help youth develop habits, that in the end, they can sustain without ‘suggestions’ or prodding.

Good habits produce sustainable leaders. Youth that have good habits for their own well-being and constant personal progression that they enjoy will help them become strong leaders on their own.

7. Give youth a chance for them to fail but help them to learn to succeed.

Let youth know that failing is not a bad thing to happen, it’s actually important to find out what went wrong so they can improve and make it better the next time they try. Often the way to success is through failure.

8. Employ storytelling of successful youth leadership to counteract negative messages about young people.

Encourage youth to speak about to their triumphs often, to share their victories across all media platforms to reinforce the positive change that has occurred. This will empower more positive action to continue and give youth more foundation and support to work from.

9. Invite the youth to launch a project or idea and support their progress.

Support youth in implementing their project once they feel they have come up with a good strategy and support them along the way. Allowing them to carry out their vision with the encouragement and coaching support will be an empowering experience and let them feel supported in their process.

10. Help them become involved with a youth sustainability program.

Rising Youth for a Sustainable Earth (RYSE) is a collective of youth-led groups that envision a greener and healthier earth through empowerment through education and re-creating our relationships with nature. It’s time for each of us to support the leadership of generations to come who will be most affected by the global crisis of climate change.