Words: Georgia Horton | Editor: Mohsin Mohi Ud Din

 

María lives and works in Argentina where she says the culture is changing, but still resistant to youth leaders. “Young people are not seen as protagonists … We tend to think we need to teach young people things, but it’s a changemakers world. We need young people to lead it because they are capable of doing so.” This challenge is what inspires María daily to continue her work as Director of Youth Years in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

When asked about a moment that inspired María from her work, there was no hesitation. Jerónimo was a 19 year old changemaker who was a finalist in a UNESCO competition to revolutionize the way we look at plastic cup waste with a edible cup made of algae, called Soroui. While Jerónimo did not win the competition, it was what came after his involvement that made all of the difference. María exclaims that Jerónimo “saw himself as capable of changing common ways in our day to day” that revolutionized his whole being. Following this opportunity, he was invited by Ashoka and the Argentinian government to present his work to Germany's president, and inspired countless youth to pursue their revolutionary ideas through his new initiative, Henko Maieutics.

This example enforced María’s dedication to teen engagement: Jjust believing in yourself and seeing yourself as a changemaker is what is revolutionary, not necessarily winning a competition or putting your product on the market.” This is what she tries to emulate daily with her work at Ashoka and dedication to Ashoka ideals.  

“I see empathy as fundamentally being in touch with yourself so that you can profoundly connect with another individual’s emotions.” María’s response is a friendly reminder that it is only possible to understand others’ emotions when you are in tune and at peace with your own. That to help others, you must help yourself first.  

 

Check out Comprometidos, a platform for young changemakers from Latin American co-created by Ashoka, Socialab, and UNESCO.

This article was originally published on 8 August 2017

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