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PeaceJam is developing Guatemala's future leaders: How TPG is giving back and how you can help

Nov. 05, 2022
7 min read
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PeaceJam is an international nonprofit with the mission of inspiring the next generation of local leaders by partnering with Nobel Peace Prize winners. Through their mentorship, these laureates show students how to resolve conflicts and work to improve their communities.

Along with PeaceJam chapters in cities, schools and universities around the world, there are annual PeaceJam conferences where teenagers can come together to develop leadership skills and learn to take on seminal roles in their schools and communities. These students and their mentors gather for workshops, lectures and presentations about their ongoing community service projects at these annual conferences in one of four countries: Liberia, Ghana, South Africa and Guatemala.

TPG began a partnership with PeaceJam in 2014. In addition to providing donations, TPG has sponsored a school in Guatemala along with annual PeaceJam conferences, and provided mentorships and scholarships to students in all four countries. Most recently, I joined other members of the TPG team to attend the annual PeaceJam conference in Guatemala in September and learn more about the organization and TPG's involvement.

TPG and PeaceJam in Guatemala

While the Nobel Peace Prize winners who attend PeaceJam conferences vary by year, the featured mentor for this year's Guatemala conference was Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú. Guatemala's sole Nobel laureate, Menchú fought for the rights of Indigenous people and for peace during her country's brutal decadeslong civil war between 1960 and 1996.

Through her foundation, the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation, Menchú continues to assist Indigenous communities in a number of ways, including through a local junior high school for students ages 12 to 16 called the Centro Educativo Pavarotti, which she personally manages. Along with students from the Pavarotti school, pupils of primarily Mayan descent from three other junior high schools participate in PeaceJam and traveled to this year's conference to learn, share and collaborate.

The 2022 PeaceJam conference in Guatemala brought together more than 100 youth, plus school administrators and PeaceJam mentors, including several TPG staffers. During the conference, students presented their community service projects. Guatemalan participants primarily focused on protecting the environment through initiatives like teaching fishing communities about sustainable practices and working on cleanup projects with Indigenous residents to help them protect sources of drinking water.

"Something special about PeaceJam in Guatemala is that it delivers programming to rural schools that don’t have access to leadership enrichment programming and peace education," said PeaceJam programs director Lauren Coffaro. "Many of these areas are heavily impacted by issues like poverty and migration. PeaceJam Guatemala creates a space where young people celebrate Indigenous traditions and claim pride in their heritage."

The culminating event at each PeaceJam conference is a candle-lighting ceremony. The featured Nobel laureate shares a message of inspiration and then lights a candle, which serves as a symbol of the ongoing peace all the participants are striving for. Once the candle is lit, students and staff share their own sources of inspiration.


Many of the messages were profound and personal. They included stories of overcoming numerous obstacles, such as living in impoverished areas and needing to make long, arduous journeys to attend school. Other individuals recognized the sacrifices made by family members to allow their studies to continue, all in the hope of a better life for them and future generations.

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The Global Impact Youth Fellowship

Beyond sponsoring the PeaceJam conference in Guatemala, TPG supports students pursuing higher education in Ghana, Guatemala and South Africa through the Global Impact Youth Fellowship. This program provides full scholarships to four students in each of these countries that cover all their educational expenses for high school or college. Additionally, each student is matched with a TPG employee from whom they can get advice and guidance as they complete their studies.

TPG staff meet the TPG Fellows in Guatemala. ZACH GOLDMAN/THE POINTS GUY

For these students, receiving a full scholarship is what allows them to attend school, as tuition would otherwise be too expensive. During our three days together at PeaceJam, the TPG fellows recounted stories about working long hours on family farms or about grandparents working well into their later years so they could help pay for tuition and necessary school books. Without their TPG fellowships combined with those efforts, attending a university simply wouldn't be realistic.

Keybin, one of the TPG fellows in Guatemala, is in his first year of university studying radiology. During our days together, Keybin told us that attending university wasn't a consideration for his family until he heard about the Global Impact Youth Fellowship.

“This fellowship has given me an opportunity to support people," he said. "In the world, we are like a chain, we help each other mutually."

Ines, a fourth-year university student studying legal and social sciences, agreed, adding that this fellowship has not only enabled her pursuit of higher education, but also deepened her sense of responsibility to succeed thanks to those who have supported her along the way.

“Being responsible with my actions and the things I commit myself to has made me even more determined to excel academically," she said.

Key takeaways

While some of us at TPG visited Guatemala to help the Indigenous students attending PeaceJam, the student participants weren't the only ones to benefit from the conference. We also gained a great deal from the experience ourselves.

To better understand the community, those of us new to volunteering with PeaceJam attended an introduction to the local Mayan culture, which touched upon topics such as the Mayan cosmovision, a worldview that focuses on the centrality of nature to our lives and that underpins the community service projects the students presented during the conference. By learning about the values of those we were hoping to assist, we could better understand their needs and how to best tackle the challenges they face when it comes to pursuing an education.


Those of us who attended this year's PeaceJam conference left feeling moved by the experience. Seeing the lengths students and their families go to in order to pursue their education was truly awe-inspiring and made us appreciative of what we have as Americans with easy access to schools.

The experience also challenged us to do better. Just because we have what we need or may be content with our lives doesn't mean there isn't work that we can take on. Each life PeaceJam changes leads to opportunities to better the lives of still more people, and we all can do a small part to improve communities around the world so everyone has a chance to thrive in life.

How you can help

If you would like to support the PeaceJam Foundation, you can sponsor a participating young person or school at or by emailing

If you'd like to make a donation, you have a few options. You can give an unrestricted donation, which permits PeaceJam to use it where funds are most needed, or one that's earmarked for certain projects or destinations you can choose. Just indicate your preference when filling out the form in the link above.

In the past, TPG has also partnered with United Airlines' Miles on a Mission program, which allows consumers to donate unused frequent flyer miles that are then dispersed to various charities. These miles can provide flights for Nobel laureates to attend PeaceJam conferences, such as bringing Tawakkol Karman to Accra, Ghana, for the PeaceJam Ghana conference in July 2022.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.