One of the exciting components of Esperanza is the community projects.
These are projects that the boys identify as community changers…
That show neighbors, police, and friends and family that the barrio is changing (both literally and figuratively).
Our most recent community project involved painting two homes in the heart of (the former) Ciudad de Dios (now referred to as Fortaleza).
The day was a great one…
With kids of all ages (and even a good handful of adults) coming out to help our newly-minted graduates.
Of course, there’s always something that doesn’t go as planned…
In this case, a number of neighbors were convinced that one of the (former gang) leaders was profiting off this painting venture.
Esperanza funds 50% of these projects and the boys fund the other 50%.
So to assume there are profits is ludicrous (but also understandable considering the circumstances).
Overall, a very successful day.
We even had a documentary videographer from New York, who was inspired by the boys at graduation the day before, come to film a bunch of footage.
The painting project is about 80% complete to date.
When complete, it will serve as a clean and sanitary place to announce the opening of our graduates’ first true (legitimate) business!
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!