In a room full of inspired neighbors and businessmen, Esperanza’s second class celebrated their graduation this past Friday with a beautiful ceremony held at the local American Trade Hotel.
The 10 young graduates in this particular class have turned a lot of heads for several reasons…
First, for their fortitude.
The past six weeks were peppered with a number of setbacks and roadblocks, but the graduates showed that they were willing to overcome pretty much any odds including a temporary pause to the program due to safety concerns.
This "ganas" to succeed is something that is new (and reassuring) to the technical team.
Another reason that this particular class was so inspiring was their entrepreneurial drive.
Never before had the technical team seen young men with such desire to create their own businesses.This had an interesting way of enticing local entrepreneurs to support the program as well as scoring several international press opportunities.
The graduation ended with a business plan presented by the group's Leaders to coordinate high-end dinners in the ghetto (a model designed to bring attention to the neighborhood via partnerships with successful local restauranteurs).
Several of Panama City’s top food and beverage executives were in attendance have already expressed serious interest in participation.
The graduation also marked another milestone as the young men officially renounced their previous gang title (Ciudad de Dios) in favor of a new and inspiring name, “Fortaleza” which can be interpreted as “Strength” (as in, “one needs Fortaleza to succeed here”) as well as “Fortress” (as it relates to the historic stone wall remnants that once defended Casco Viejo from pirates.)
This was an organic and monumental decision by the graduates, not necessarily to forget where they came from, but rather to demonstrate where they are going.
All in all, Esperanza San Felipe as a program made great strides in this, our second phase of reintegration.
Eyeing several large grants as well as a constant flow of recurring $25/monthly donations from inspired supporters, financial backing seems to be one of the few yet tangible cruxes to our success.
While there are still a lot of challenges and we're maybe only half way towards our goal of turning the former Ciudad de Dios territory into a "Zona de Paz" and integrating these guys fully into the community, our first report represents a spectacular start.
We are proud to share with you the latest news about Fundacion Calicanto's CAPTA program. After a long application process, CAPTA was chosen the regional winner for the Financial Times/Citi Urban Ingenuity Award. The award celebrates innovative projects that bring solutions to the world's most pressing urban challenges through education and other development efforts. CAPTA was chosen for its contribution to education, training Panama's poorest women through a psychological and vocational course that opens employment opportunities for single mothers.
The Financial Times article that positioned CAPTA among top contenders, featured the program through the eyes of Luzkeira, a former gang leader who got her life back because of the CAPTA program. Luzkeira was forced by her parents to deal drugs at the age of 10; she went to prison for the first time when she was 13 and was arrested two more times since then on other serious charges. Luzkeira lives in a dangerous part of Panama City and has witnessed the death of close family members due to rival gang violence. To support her daughter and her nephew, she sells stuffed bread and coffee every night to nearby construction workers.
Luzkeira was recruited into the program by the social worker that gave her an informational sheet on the street. CAPTA offered her formal training and taught her skills that she can now use not only to find employment, but also to live responsibly away from violence and gangs.
Read more about Luzkeira using the links attached. Her marvelous turn around is proof that if we all work together as we have been, we can save women from violence and instability.
We are grateful for all of your kind donations, this prize belongs to you too; you have all contributed to rescuing nearly 600 Panamanian women.
Thank you and congratulations to you all!
Cristhian is 9 years old and currently lives in one of the most dangerous communities in Panama City.
Cristhian joined us on July 15, 2013 after he auditioned for the program at his local school. As part of the program requirements, the social worker visited his home and found that Cristhian is labeled as a problem child by many of the people who know him. His behavior was so troublesome that in October, school officials decided that it would be best for him to continue his studies from home with assigned learning modules. He was to report to school on Fridays for his physical education class and to turn in assignments.
The Enlaces team did not approve of the action taken by the school officials; not only was it unnecessary to put him out of school but the learning material the teachers had provided was in deplorable conditions. Katty, our social worker, visited the school several times and spoke to nearly all of the officials at the school until he was reinstated.
With more treatment, we realized that Cristhian’s problem came from several sources, including bullying, need for attention and love, as well as an eye problem, which didn’t let him study or focus.
Through a Facebook call for a donation that would help us get Cristhian reading glasses, we were able to test him and buy him a pair of new glasses. The smile on Cristhian’s face is unforgettable to the entire team. The pair of sunglasses helped his self-esteem and his maturity level in school. He was paying attention and doing his homework, which made his mother very happy.
We have started to provide therapy sessions for him and his mother, he is receiving the full benefits of the program: a healthy meal, dance and theater classes, and a drawing and painting class by a volunteer and academic tutor.
The smile on Cristhian’s face motivates us all to do this work. His behavior changed radically after only a couple of months with the Enlaces program.
Thanks to you, we can provide these opportunities to kids like Cristhian, if you didn’t follow our work and donate as you do, this wouldn’t be possible.
Let Cristhian’s smiling face motivate you to continue to support Enlaces.
Happy New Year!