Ser Familia: How it Shaped My life
By: Ana Maria Echeverry
I began my journey with Ser Familia in 2007 at the age of 12. Although I was a year too young to officially participate in the youth program the organization offers they made a special exception for me, because I was taken by a family of volunteers that coordinated the youth group at my church who vouched for my maturity and need to go. Little did that family know that they were taking me to the most influential event of my youth, an event that shaped me all the way into my adulthood.
That weekend, looking back, was my saving grace. That first workshop was my first encounter with emotions I had once buried; I faced guilt, fear, and sadness that had been left in the back of my head. I believe that that very first workshop was the beginning of my spiritual and emotional journey.
Immediately after participating in the workshop I joined the team of volunteers as one of the youngest. During my first workshop as a volunteer I was put as part of “set-up” and had the opportunity to see exactly what it was like behind the scenes of the retreat. Being a part of set up and watching so many people work for a common cause engraved values, like working hard and team building, in me.
The first time I realized that I could be a leader was during my second workshop as a volunteer. The director of Renovacion Juvenil at the time, Michael Urbina, put me in a group as a leader. He turned to me after a meeting and said something around the lines of, “Ana Maria, I am going to put you in a group with Linette. I know that it’s only your second retreat, but I know you can handle it. You are mature for your age, don’t disappoint me.” He was half joking, but I wasn’t afraid either way. I sat in my group, where the ages ranged from 14 to 15, I had recently turned 13. I learned 3 things that day. 1) God does not put a mountain in front of you that you cannot climb. 2) A true leader leads by example, not by words. 3) There is absolutely nothing that I cannot do when I put my heart into it. These 3 lessons I carried with me for the next 9 years. I have applied every single one to all aspects of my life. I believe that the application of these lessons helped me get through high school, into college, and they have helped me succeed in every job I have held.
I am now 21, a senior in college, the first marketing intern of Ser Familia, the youth group coordinator at my church, and an entrepreneur. All of these goals and dreams have been accomplished by the values, skills, and lessons that Renovacion Juvenil left me with. More than that, the team at Ser Familia gave me something much more valuable, they gave me a family.