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Amigos de las Américas Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Pioneer in Youth Leadership Development Has Fostered Exchange, Leadership and Diplomacy for Young People Since 1965
HOUSTON, TEXAS – September 18, 2015 – Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS), headquartered in Houston, Texas, is celebrating 50 years of creating a world in which young people realize their full potential as leaders and global citizens. The international youth development organization provides extraordinary opportunities for high school and college participants to design and lead projects in collaboration with partner organizations across the Americas.
In today’s interconnected world, young people need leadership skills more than ever to become successful global citizens. AMIGOS provides these skills, beyond what’s available in the traditional classroom, in order to groom the world’s future workforce and develop tomorrow’s leaders.
Together with US and Latin American peers, program participants work on projects in areas such as health, environment, youth entrepreneurship, children’s rights, creative expression, or sports and fitness. This creates an opportunity for youth to develop character defining skills in leadership and interpersonal growth.
AMIGOS Summer Programs give young people, ages 16 to 25, an opportunity to gain life experience and leadership training over four to nine weeks of living and working with communities across the Americas. Program participants work with US and Latin American peers to design and lead community projects while living with a host family in a community, experiencing day to day life as a local, not a tourist. This sets AMIGOS apart from more traditional “voluntourism” programs. AMIGOS Gap Programs (semester and year) offer high school graduates and college students a four to eight-month internship with a partner community organization. This longer term program provides a greater level of responsibility and independence.
The level of independence and leadership training offered by AMIGOS to its participants is extraordinary and unmatched. The story of AMIGOS is best told by the 26,000 alumni who attribute their success in diplomacy, international development, education, business and many other fields to the intense cultural immersion and responsibility put in their hands as a participant in this program.
AMIGOS was founded on the principle that young people can change the world. In 1965, Guy Bevil, a 29-year-old youth director from Houston’s River Oaks Baptist Church, led a team of teenagers into rural Honduras to fight a growing polio epidemic. Serving communities in remote areas of the country, this group of 181 youth and 36 adults helped protect thousands of people from the crippling disease and established friendships that crossed borders. This service had a bold impact on the lives of these young people and as a result they returned more mature, culturally aware, and inspired to continue serving communities at home and abroad.
Since 1965, AMIGOS programs have evolved to be more responsive to the changing priorities of host communities and inclusive of young people across the Americas and cover a broader array of activities in health and education and focus on building skills in youth in both the United States and Latin America.
Today, AMIGOS is building on its 50 years of experience as a leader in international youth development by expanding programming to provide provide service and leadership opportunities for students from both Latin America and the United States.
Through AMIGOS Summer Programs, Latin American youth are recruited and trained as local participants to collaborate with those from the United States. Two-way exchange is made possible through grant-funded Youth Ambassadors Program and American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP), supported by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Participants receive leadership training abroad, before returning to implement service projects back home. AMIGOS partners with other organizations to provide this leadership opportunity for young people from diverse social and economic backgrounds.
“Over the next five years, our goal is to significantly increase the number of youth we serve and make the strategic changes needed to keep our programs relevant in today’s world,” says Sara Nathan, AMIGOS alumna, President & CEO. “We will transition to year-round programming, expand our program options, offer more financial aid to ensure participant diversity, and further develop our capacity to impact more young people.”
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, AMIGOS will host a “Fiesta de Oro” on Saturday, September 25, 2015, at Bell Tower on 34th Street, Houston, Texas. Featuring guest speaker and AMIGOS alumna Dr. Tessie San Martin, CEO & President of Plan International USA, the evening will honor 50 years of AMIGOS work and partnerships throughout the Americas. http://amigosinternational.org/50thhouston/
About AMIGOS de las Américas
AMIGOS is a leader in international youth development, creating a world in which young people realize their full potential as leaders and global citizens. Since 1965 AMIGOS has provided extraordinary opportunities for youth to design and lead projects in collaboration with US and Latin American peers and partner organizations across the Americas. A strong partner network, built over 50 years, enables authentic engagements in communities across the region. AMIGOS projects are focused on areas such as health, social enterprise, children’s rights, environment, and education in response to priorities identified by host communities and local partner organizations. Program staff work closely with partner organizations to ensure that the experience is beneficial to both the community and participants. AMIGOS works in eleven countries including Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and the United States. For more information, visit www.amigosinternational.org
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