A small youth group makes a big impact on the Texas border — and manages to keep going even in difficult times.
I come from a small city near El Paso, Texas, where there is not much recreational fun. It offered me, though, something more valuable. The educational principles of the day-care center I attended as a child were based on the Art of Loving. So I have been trying to put them into practice for more than 70% of my life. Later we started our own youth group in our city called “Teens for Unity” following the same principles.
This small group has remained small, but our impact on the city can be seen. We decided to name our first project “Coloring our City.” Like many other teens around the world, we didn’t literally color the city with crayons and colored pencils, but in order to color the city, we brought joy and fresh energy to it.
One project was planting trees at local bus stations. These trees not only provide more oxygen for the environment, but also shade for local citizens who wait for the bus to arrive.
Other projects have been: gathering school supplies for children in Mexico, sending support letters to victims of the Haiti earthquake, and most recently visiting the senior citizens center to provide them with companionship.
Luckily, we received support from our mayor who gave us permission for our projects showing how he too wants to see a positive change in the city.
A huge activity our youth group got into was the broadcast from a local radio station called Chicos Por la Unidad (Young for Unity), 1110 AM Radio Guadalupana. Even though El Paso has been named the safest city in America for the last three years, because of its location on the border people are continually exposed to violence, injustice and poverty. We wanted to find some way to give the values of peace, brotherhood and love to the young people of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, our “sister city” right across the border and one of the most dangerous towns in Mexico. It took three months to get the approval, but in the end we created an hour-long program called “Teens for Unity — where only love can change the world.”
For more than a year, we crossed the border into Mexico each week to go on air. We shared our initiatives and our personal experiences on how we tried to practice the Art of Loving in our daily lives.
At first the program was dedicated to teens, but as the months went by, we decided to open our message to everyone. We would get feedback from listeners who called in or sent messages on the radio station website. Once we actually hosted a live event. Our youth group went to a restaurant in El Paso, where the radio station was broadcasting live. They gave us an hour of the program. The night consisted of fun games, sharing the word of God and sharing our experiences on how we loved our neighbors.
All of these activities may seem like a lot of fun and you might think, “Wow, I would certainly take my family members or friends.” But it wasn’t always that easy. There was a time when there were basically two friends and my siblings in the group. It was disappointing because we did not get members quickly, but we would not stop. Even though our group became smaller, we still kept the principle of loving one another alive. Eventually, after about half a year we received more members and our events began to grow again!
Our most recent project is called “Teens Got Talent Show.” We thought, why not host a local event, not for monetary gain, but for promoting love, unity and service? We invite young people to share their God-given talents with the community. We have hosted the event three times, twice at a local library, and once in a day care center for the elderly. The young people who perform have amazing talents. We continue to host these events where the performers expect no money, only the applause from the happy crowd.
By Jose Castro