In Ecuador, adolescents and young people make their dreams come true and promote safe, inclusive, and resilient communities
New generations of Ecuador become agents of social change with the support of UNICEF, UNDP, and local partners
“DreamLAB was an opportunity to have our real, individual and collective needs taken into account”. We strengthened our skill tools to empower ourselves and raise our voice for the benefit of our community ”. These are the words of Viviana Gómez, 17 years old, participant of the DreamLAB, an initiative launched a year ago on the International Youth Day. Nowadays, there are about 250 young participants.
DreamLAB offers them the opportunity to lead their communities by designing and managing their own sustainable development projects.
This is the case of Ruth Caraguay, Andrea Toapanta, and Matteo Vizcaíno, who seek social transformation through youth empowerment. They created ‘Guambra Lidera’, a training school for social change agents and psychological support to make it real.
Together with their community, Karol Echeverría, Melanie Valente, and Cristina Llamatumbi, are running ‘LlactaHuerto’, an agroecological garden that is producing and selling vegetables, medicinal plants, and organic fruits. It also promotes interaction between young and old people who are working in the same place. Besides, this project reduces organic waste and helps to reactivate the local economy.
And ‘Mentes Activas’, lead by Nathaly Farinango, Johana Perugachi, and Ángel Arcentales, will help young people who are living in vulnerable conditions, through workshops on mental health, urban art, dance, leadership, and empowerment of women.
These three projects are just some examples of what DreamLAB is doing to build sustainable development and improve the quality of life of different Ecuadorian cities. In addition to assessment and monitoring, some projects also receive seed capital to boost their performance and results.
How did DreamLAB start?
The COVID-19 pandemic put Ecuador’s health system and its mechanisms to the test. Especially, young people were impacted by the lack of inclusion. Moreover, the country is facing the challenge of welcoming 288,000 Venezuelan migrants who struggle with poverty, xenophobia, and racism.
In response to this context, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held the DreamLAB’s initiative. This innovative proposal, together with eight more from all over the world, was recognized by the UN in an international competition.
91 young people and adolescents (15–24 years old) from three neighborhoods of Quito (Chillogallo, Calderón, and Tumbaco) participated for 6 weeks in virtual training sessions to develop their soft and digital skills and on projects management, among others. They used innovative tools, such as those developed by the UNDP Accelerator Lab, Jane’s Walks, or the ‘Alternative Maps of Our Neighborhoods’.
Likewise, and as a complement to strengthen their skills, some workshops were held based on their own interests, such as communication for development and urban journalism, directed by the GK School and UNDP specialists; and Urban Art, by the illustrator and urban artist, Juan Sebastián Aguirre, known as ‘Apitatán’. And they even shared live artistic talents through the Talent Show Lab on Instagram.
Furthermore, several celebrities left their mark on DreamLAB participating in workshops, interviews, or events. Among them, a UNICEF’s National Goodwill Ambassador, Daniel Betancourth; a reporter of a TV show, “En Corto” of Teleamazonas, Alejandra Boada; another national singer, Sergio Sacoto and an indigenous young activist for Human Rights, Helena Gualinga; who encouraged participants with messages of hope, peace, and solidarity.
DreamLAB is an open initiative to society and forges alliances with public institutions, the private sector, academia, and civil society
After this positive and first experience, new partners were interested in the DreamLab, such as the Office of the Vice President of Ecuador. This was the beginning of new adaptations of the DreamLab.
On the one hand, the initiative will include children and adolescents protected by national institutions, having a different approach, and emphasizing a gender perspective, with the collaboration of Casa Hogar Enríquez Gallo and Danielle Children’s Fund’s Alternative Care Modality Services.
On the other hand, the Lab is currently working in Tulcan, a city located on the northern border of Ecuador, to prevent conflicts and violence, and enhance social cohesion with local partners, LAB XXI and Cristo de la Calle Foundation.
Joaquín González-Alemán, representative of UNICEF stressed that is essential to work on adolescent and youth participation, “because we want to give them a voice” and that “they come to find solutions in their communities.”
Fernando Adames, the Deputy Representative of UNDP, pointed out that young people and adolescents represent the majority of the population in Ecuador and that the barriers that prevent them from realizing their full potential must be broken down. “DreamLAB is proof that they are innovative people, entrepreneurs, promoters of peace in their communities, and committed to equality and sustainable development,” he added.