Seeing the World through the Eyes of the Youth

An Interview with Simon-Pierre
Escudero, Founder of 
Asociación Tierra de
Jóvenes
in El Salvador
The IIMA Human Rights Office conducted an interview
with Mr. Simon-Pierre Escudero, founder of Asociación
de Tierra de Jóvenes
in El Salvador. On September 22nd, Mr.
Escudero sat on the Panel Discussion on Youth and Human Rights during the 33rd
session of the Human Rights Council. Tierra
de Jóvenes
was founded in February of 2014 to protect the rights of street
children and youth ages 4-25 in El Salvador. Gang activity in this country is
particularly pervasive and street children are most often the victims of
recruitment. To address the cycles of violence that are present amongst this vulnerable
population, Tierra de Jóvenes works
to bring street children’s concerns to the forefront of governmental and
international conversations. Tierra de
Jóvenes
connects street children with medical, social and administrative
assistance. However, more than anything, Tierra
de Jóvenes
focuses on building friendships with these children and youth
and provides a listening ear when one is needed.
As a former intern of the IIMA Human Rights Office and
being 25 years of age, we asked Mr. Escudero to share the story of his personal
empowerment and how this led to the launch of Asociación de Tierra de Jóvenes
  
IIMA: In few
words, how would you describe the work of Tierra
de Jóvenes
?
Simon-Pierre Escudero: The clear goal of
our association is not just the protection, but also the promotion of the
rights of children working and living on the street. We promote their rights to
influence governments and the United Nations. We speak of these children so
they may exist and we try to change society through the mechanism of the United
Nations. I can work as an educator, but I would only change the reality of one
child. Why are these children here? There are very global phenomena behind that
question and these phenomena can be changed here in the United Nations.
IIMA: How did you
have the idea to start Tierra de Jóvenes
and why is it bear that name?
SPE: First, the idea of the street child caught my
attention. Probably because my father had been a street child in France…Second,
I am French, but I have a Spanish surname. It is assumed that my grandfather or
great-grandfather came to France during the civil war in Spain. You could say
that I am a “mix between a family destroyed by migration and a super-cohesive
family from the country.” My mom is a country woman and my dad is a city man
and street child. That gave me good roots and, at the same time, made me ask
“why are there so many problems in the world?” My last name
(Escudero) brought me to visit Spain, and after Spain I came to Latin America,
a place that fascinated me.
After finishing
school, I became a volunteer. I did not want to go to the university just to go
to the university. So I found a volunteer opportunity that was compensated and
promoted by the State, which was an incredible experience. For six months I
worked in an association for the prevention of crime in marginal neighborhoods…
involving all the problems of migration, violence, children in conflict with
the law. Later, I travelled to Central America for four months and there I was
met with the reality of street children, as well as indigenous populations. It
was a fascinating experience because… in the indigenous people I was found my
mother’s background—the roots, values, family—and on the other hand in the
street children I found the freedom of my father.
When I came back
from this experience, the organization where I had volunteered wanted to hire
me as an educator. However, I discovered that this job wasn’t for me because, as
an educator, everything was done in urgency; one does not have time to think
about a single child and his trajectory, or how you can impact and modify his
path to empowerment through human rights. Then, I began my studies in sociology
at the university, focusing specifically on the issue of street children. As I
needed to do field work for my studies, I traveled 4 or 5 times to Central
America, specifically El Salvador. I was surprised that the NGOs that I met on
my first visit in 2009 no longer were working in the street in 2012. They still
claimed to serve street children, but none of them were actually on the street.
Then, I decided to go by myself to the streets and I came in contact with these
children. When I returned [to El Salvador] a second time, I found many of the
children again, but many others had died. One young man that was very close to
me (he has since passed away… he was my age, he was a young adult) told me,
“I want to stop drinking. Uh, I don’t know if you can help me.” I
really couldn’t, because I did not have a center where I could treat him, nor did
I know of one that existed. However, I started to look for one and I found one.
Then and there I started [to work] with Salvadorans and this motivated me to
create [this] association.
And why did I pick
the name Tierra de Jóvenes? It was a name that I had chosen for a blog
on my first trip to Central America in 2009. The idea behind the name is to
visit the world through the eyes of young people. When I founded the
association, I chose to use that name again.
“The idea behind the name [Tierra de Jóvenes] is to visit the
world 
through the eyes of young people.” – Simon-Pierre Escudero
IIMA: You mention IIMA Human Rights Office in your
speech at the UN Panel. What was your relationship with this Office?
SPE: During my studies
in sociology, I realized that I liked doing field world. During this time I was
involved with the Salesians—I was vice president of the Salesian Youth
Movement, I am a former Salesian student…Initially, I wanted to have my first
volunteer experience with VIDES, but it was not possible because I had a very
specific project in mind. However, I had heard of the human rights office with
Sr. MaríaGrazia. The United Nations seemed to be something very distant, but I
decided to ask Sr. MariaGrazia for an internship. It was a wonderful experience
and it allowed me to understand what could be achieved at the UN. It is during this
internship that idea of an association based on the language of human rights
took form.

IIMA: Thank you for your time, Mr. Escudero. We wish you
the best of luck with your work.