In March we reported on the graduation of Esperanza's second class, but we all know that Esperanza's goal isn't to gradaute young men, it's to demobilize gangs and give their members a chance to be productive parts of the community. Esperanza invests heavily in post-graduation support, and we are very happy to report that so far, two months later, things are going very, very well.
Let's start with the quantitative:
--Of the ten graduates, nine are still working full time or have started their own businesses.
--All have shown substantial increases in levels of social integration (we measure size of social and professional networks, and contacts with formal society such as bank accounts, drivers licenses and use of public services).
--None have been arrested since graduation (though police harrasment continues to be a challenge).
--Excitingly, two micro businesses have grown out of this group. As you may recall, Esperanza has a separate track for leaders who show entreprenuerial drive, and at the graduation the former gang leaders presented a plan to do tours of their neighborhood and start a pop-up restaurant in their alley. Well, they did it and we can only describe it as a raving sucess. Three Saturdays in a row now they've had close to 50 people at their restaurant, grossing $700-$800 each night, on top of tours several days a week. In total they say it is far more than they were making before from illegal activities. On Sunday, La Prensa published an article about them so we expect even more sucess going forward as word gets out. And a third micro business, an electrical contracting company, is in the works.
Qualitatively, there is a pride beginning to show up not just in the boys, but in other stakeholders as well.
--Supervisers at their jobs are giving good reviews, with several qualified as "excellent".
--The mentors who are helping guide their businesses are proud and engaged, the results of which you can see in the quality of food and cocktails the entreprenurs are serving at their Saturday evening events.
--Members of the community now walk freely in an area they used to fear, and are starting to use the new name, Forteleza, rather than the old gang territory name.
All this of course would not be possible without the amazingly dedicated Esperanza team of professionals and volunteers, and the support of the Esperanza Social Venture Club members. We have lots of work left to do with those who've graduated and many others in the community we haven't yet reached, but so far so good!
Panama’s summer season goes from January to April; most children are on school vacation and usually enjoy days in the pool and other outdoor activities due to the good weather.
The children from the community we serve don’t usually have opportunities to enjoy a safe summer with recreational activities; instead they are forced to wander the streets and usually end up spending their time with adults who expose them to topics inadequate for their age.
For that reason, this summer the Enlaces children had the opportunity to continue to train in Contemporary Dance with their teachers and they also received master classes from two very renowned US dancers, Kellee Blanchard and Robert Mills.
They also had Art classes where they began working on their self-portrait with the acrylic technique; they had Psychology workshops where they learned the differences between materialistic possession and personal accomplishments.
Every Friday they participated in different fieldtrips: they rode bikes in a road by the ocean, they visited the Miraflores Visitor Center from the Panama Canal and a Science and Art Museum for Children called Explora. The Enlaces kids summer program ended with a big swimming pool party, sponsored by the generous donation of swimming goggles and cap by Ben Betesh International from the brand SPEEDO, plus the cooperation of several people in the community with towels for the kids.
GENIS is 40 years old; she spent her early life in the province of Darien, with her parents and siblings. Despite her family’s limited resources, she was able to finish the eighth grade.
Twenty-two years ago, she moved to a poor, violent community in Panama City called Curundu, where she had to make many sacrifices as a single mother to feed her 5 children.
Genis learned about Fundacion Calicanto from a friend who had recently graduated from the CAPTA training program. As soon as she heard that the training would help her gain the tools she needed to be a successful woman, she decided to sign up for the training.
She stood out in the classroom because she is one of the few women from this neighborhood who has not been influenced by drugs or gangs; instead, she has learned to survive and learned from her experiences. Genis was one of the best students in the course; her goals included working in a hotel and own a descent home for herself and her family.
She left behind all her fears and insecurities and now works at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Panama. She started cleaning the public areas in the hotel and due to her initiative and excellent working habits, she’s moved up to housekeeping. Genis is an example of a woman who decided to change for herself and her family; thanks to the CAPTA course, her dreams came true.
GENIS es una mujer de 40 años de edad que vivió sus primeros años de vida en la Provincia del Darién, junto a sus padres y sus hermanos. A pesar de los recursos limitados de su familia, con mucho esfuerzo pudo llegar hasta tercer año.
Hace 22 años se mudó a una comunidad de riesgo en la Cuidad de Panamá llamada Curundú donde inicialmente tuvo que hacer muchos sacrificios para mantener a sus 5 hijos sola.
Genis fue referida a Fundación Calicanto por una estudiante egresada del programa de Capacitación para el Trabajo (CAPTA) y desde que conoció el programa, tomó la oportunidad de capacitarse. Caracterizándose porque a pesar de su historia de vida, nunca fue víctima de las drogas, ni de las pandillas de su barrio, sino que aprovechó cada una de sus experiencias para aprender. Genis fue una de las mejores estudiantes del curso, sus metas incluían trabajar en un hotel y adquirir una casa digna para su familia.
Dejó atrás todos sus temores e inseguridades y hoy en día trabaja en el Hotel Waldorf Astoria Panamá. Empezó en el área de limpieza de áreas públicas y gracias a su pro actividad y desempeño ahora está como ama de llaves. Genis representa una mujer que tomó la decisión de cambiar su vida y la de su familia; gracias a CAPTA su sueño se hizo realidad.