Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama

Jun 23, 2014

Marlene, insights from a strong-willed CAPTA woman

What is your name?

My name is Marlene 


How old are you?

I am 19 years old


Are you single or married?



Do you have children?

Yes, I have a 2-year-old daughter


Have you finished high school?

I’m studying right now. Trying to finish.


What did you do before the program?

Before the program, I was working in a company that manufactures and selects buttons for clothing.


When you heard about CAPTA, what did you like about it?

A neighbor and friend of mine told me about a program that would teach me how to find a job and how to change my life in a positive way.  Hearing this was very exciting for me and I told my relatives that I wanted to join the program, not just because it would help me find a job but also because I wanted to learn! I wanted the opportunity to keep learning and make my dreams come true.


Why do you think you need this program?

To improve as a person and change my life, I want to be better and have more stability.  I feel like this program will help me.


What did you feel when you were accepted into the program?

I felt happy and I got really emotional, I even started crying because I was full of joy.


What would you like to change about your life?

I would like to change the way I am and be able to communicate more with my family and to hold a fluent conversation and not end up arguing with them. I would like to understand them without fighting.


What are your goals after you finish the program?

My personal goals are to find a job, finish building my home and finish my nursing degree, that’s the dream I’m following.


What change would you like to see in the world?

Respect, value and no discrimination for women. That would a good change.


What have you learned recently that you would have liked to know when you were a young girl?

I wish I had a mentor who constantly encouraged and supported me to keep studying and working to get my college degree to find a worthy job.


Anything funny about your personality?

When I first meet someone I’m usually very serious but once I start to trust I’m all laughs.


What does luxury mean to you?

Luxury to me is having a full make up kit.


What would you tell a woman who could help you by buying something luxurious?

I would thank her because with her donation she is helping women who don’t have the resources to continue studying.


Would you like to receive some advice from these women? What would you ask?

Yes, I would like to ask her what she did in her life to get to where she is.  How did she overcome all the obstacles to reach her goals without giving up ?


What advice could you give to a younger woman?

To continue studying and finish their college careers. Don’t give up despite the obstacles in the way, because with effort we can go further.


How did this program change your life? Has there been a change in your life after the program?

The program helped me understand that anything in life is easy as long as we fight for what we want. I learned to have a good attitude, to be positive in everything I do and to believe in myself.  I feel more confident and now I know how to act when I am in a difficult situation. I learned to say things at the right time without offending or hurting others and I dialogue more with my family.

Marlene and her beautiful daughter
Marlene and her beautiful daughter


Mar 26, 2014

Genis, An Empowered CAPTA Woman


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.

Spanish Version

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.

Genis at the Waldorf Astoria
Genis at the Waldorf Astoria
Jan 23, 2014

CAPTA Wins Regional Prize for Urban Ingenuity

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!

Oct 18, 2013

Meet Agustina, an example of a Capta woman

Agustina: beautiful, hard worker and proud
Agustina: beautiful, hard worker and proud

My name is Agustina, my mother is a housemaid, my dad is a chauffer and I have 7 brothers. Seventeen years ago I arrived to the city with a dream to start my own business. My aunt and I started a restaurant but not everything turned out as we planned. The business broke financially and we had to sell absolutely everything to pay off debts. I was completely broke and alone, when I met someone who tried to help me I fell in love and I thought he was the man of my dreams. He helped me start another business selling fried foods in Santa Ana (urban community in Panama City), but I barely made enough to feed my daughter.

With time, the relationship went sour. He was rude and would mouth-off when he got home drunk; he cheated and didn’t respect me, I was constantly humiliated. I realized that he got worse with time and I decided to leave him. I felt trapped and then I found out that I was pregnant with his child. I felt that my life had lost meaning. I continued to work at the stand but it wasn’t enough, we didn’t have enough to eat and didn’t live well.

One day as I was walking to the local church, I ran into a gentleman who started talking to me about something called Calicanto. A few days later, I signed up for the CAPTA course. At first I thought it was a little silly and I was also scared since I didn’t have any skills or preparation for this course.

I still remember the first day when we met Ms. Hildegard, she said that this was a day for change and that from that moment on, we would start our new life. During the course, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. every day; it was really tough! I had to organize myself and learn to do things with time.

I started to value myself and I saw that there were so many women like me who had gone through similar difficulties. These women were my friends, I learned to love myself through them while learning a new skill. I have been employed now for 4 years as a housekeeper in a hotel located in Casco Antiguo. I work and enjoy what I do. I am starting to learn English and I hope to get a better position in the future.

I own my home, which I bought with my savings and hard work.


CAPTA changed my life. Help Calicanto keep changing lives.


Agustina Henríquez

Agustina, sharing her story with other women
Agustina, sharing her story with other women
Jul 18, 2013

"What I Want For My Children" Yajaira Quiroz

CAPTA friends,

Over the last few weeks one of the assignments given to the CAPTA students was to write a personal evaluation of themselves.  In an overall period of four hours the students were able to write what their actual situation was and who they thought they were. The purpose of this exercise was to help the students develop a picture of who they really are and who they can be. Most of the women in CAPTA are victims of domestic violence and have low-levels of education so this exercise is extremely important for self-exploration and goal setting.

The following self-evaluation written by Yajaira Quinoz, shows her thoughts of who she is and what she wants to be, at the end of her piece she makes a short list of her life goals.


My current situation:

Personally, I am like any other mother struggling with the kids, trying to make sure they grow up in a good place. The place I live in currently is not all bad but can have various unfriendly consequences if you’re not careful.  In my household, there is only one income and as we all know, everything is getting more expensive and its hard to maintain a family of 5 with a minimum wage salary. I feel obliged to find a path that will take my family to another level.

My Personality:

I am aware that not everyone likes me. Of course, I’m not a sweetheart, but that doesn’t hinder the amount of qualities I know I have; I am a very responsible person, I make sure that everything I do was done the best as possible, I am and learned to become more social here at Calicanto, and like to make friends with people who share different opinions than me. I’m a very joyful person, and it’s not easy for anyone to upset me. I have a strong character but it still doesn’t change the fact that I am very loving in my own way. 

Who am I?

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been discovering who I truly am.  I realized that I can be better, and change not just for me, but also for my family. That is why I want to be much more than what I’ve been until today.

Today, I learned today how strong I am as a person and I know I want to be the best example my kids will ever have.

My goals:

To own a home

Education for my children

Yajaira Quiroz


*It is important to note that the next 2 hours of the course, which will be taught in up coming weeks, will allow her to develop her goals and add more context to what she plans to do after CAPTA training. 

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Project Leader

Hildegard Vasquez

Panama, Panama

Where is this project located?

Map of Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama