When Kimmy arrived to Fundacion Calicanto we saw a young 18 year old girl with an introverted personality, monotonous speech, low self-esteem and if she ever answered a question, it was usually a shy and awkward yes or no answer with her head tilted toward the floor, avoiding eye contact at all costs.
The first week of CAPTA, Kimmy had difficulty communicating with the other women in the classroom; she had a child-like attitude and cried every time a teacher insisted on her participation. She had not finished high school; she only made it to 9th grade due to learning difficulties and because her mother couldn’t afford to send her to school any longer. By the time she entered CAPTA, she was financially dependant of her mother, and so was her younger sister.
On the third week of the course, positive changes in Kimmy started to show through the interventions of the psychologists and teachers. In the Computer Literacy course, she impressed the teacher with her high abilities to use the computer and finishing first in all of the assignments; and due to her dexterity in this class, the teacher asked her to help the other women in their work. This sparked a new attitude in Kimmy, for the first time in her life she felt she was good at something, and she spread this new feeling of self-satisfaction and self-confidence in the other courses. She began to express herself with her classmates and everyone who works at Fundacion Calicanto. Her personal appearance changed; she would come with impeccable hair, dress and make up. She started to be more outspoken, and would even volunteer for small tasks that would involve having to ask for things or talk to someone else.
During the practice at the International Hotel School, she excelled and received a recommendation letter and a diploma for her high performance. Kimmy was chosen by her classmates to be their spokeswoman in the graduation ceremony and received a Perseverance Award. A few days after graduation she passed by Fundacion Calicanto for an update, she said she couldn’t wait to start her new job and continue her path towards personal success.
In January 2014, we began working with the Ciudad de Dios gang in San Felipe. Following graduation in April, we reported that the group voluntarily removed their graffiti, adopted the name “Forteleza." Some had begun working and some had started businesses.
At the six month mark we asked an indpendent firm, Vitalitas, to help us survey the participants, police and community to understand what changes had taken place. Here is some of what they found:
We were thrilled by those statistics. And thankful for everyone who supported this intervention. But maybe most powerful were the words that the participants spoke to the interviewers about the changes they felt:
Employer reviews of the graduates working in Casco hotels are positive and Forteleza Tours is going strong. The boys are making a living and creating a vibrant cultural attraction in an area that tourists feared just a few months ago. (The full report is attached as a .pdf, which includes the a project finance summary).
So while there is a lot of work left, we are comfortable saying at this point that the intervention was a sucess. Casco Viejo has one fewer gang and eleven new leaders thanks to your help!
We learned a lot from this intervention and are looking forward to doing it again with one of the two remaining Casco Viejo gangs starting in October. If you know anyone who would be interested in knowing about Esperanza, please encourage them to become a member of the Esperanza Social Venture Club. We depend on members' monthly membership dues to keep this good work going!
Alina is 12 years old. She lives with her grandmother, her younger brother, a dog, a cat, two parakeets and a turtle in one of El Chorrillos’s most dangerous barracks. When she was 2 years old she had an accident with a standing fan that left her with a big scar in her bottom left cheek. This incident made her very self-conscious, defensive, choosing to attack first rather than be attacked and also very introverted. Her defensive attitude caused her a lot of problems and she always found herself in some kind of trouble.
She came to Enlaces in June 2012, with bright eyes and a lot of energy. Her progress was fast. Dancing became her "thing" and in less than a year she became one of the best dancers in the class. She once said, “When I dance I feel like I am flying, like I am somewhere else”.
A couple of months ago, Alina was walking to a park near her neighborhood and she was hit by a vehicle that left her lying helpless on the street. Nobody saw anything, nobody said anything. The law of silence. Besides the fact that no charges were brought for this unfortunate event, she also was left with an injury to her right knee that made her limp. She missed several days of school because her grandmother couldn't afford medical care and what was even worse to her was that she couldn’t dance. “I am worried I’ll never dance again, I thought I was going to die”, she said sadly.
The Enlaces team immediately sorted together a strategy to restore her health back to normal if not better than before. The dance teachers got her an appointment with the best doctor in sports medicine of the country, and then she went over three weeks of physical therapy in one of the best clinics of the city. Since she missed over a month of school, the Enlaces team also helped her with her studies and homework so she didn’t fall behind her peers. When she went back to class the school principal told her “accidents keep chasing you, you better take care of yourself”.
The accident has been a new beginning for Alina. Her grades have improved and as well as her performance in dance class. She received a lot of letters and visits from her friends and teachers that missed her while she was away from the program.
Two months after the accident she is back on stage preparing a solo for a presentation in August. She is aware she has to take care of herself and that her body is her temple and she values dancing more than ever.
These stories are possible because of supporters like you! Please spread the word about this project and ask your friends to support Enlaces. We'll keep you updated with our work and success stories.