If you don't know Carmela, she graduated back in July and I promised to update you on her progress.
A few weeks after Carmela graduated from the CAPTA program, she worked for one month in "Las Clementinas," a Casco Antiguo hotel. For one month, she developed excellent relationships with her co-workers, superiors, as well as the hotel's frequent clients. Unfortunately, after just one month, Carmela had to quit her job.
Carmela tells us that the reason she had to leave was because she was thrown out of the place where she lived. In urban cities it is very common for gang members to take over abandoned buildings but other people such as Carmela, who have no training, employment and 4 children to look after also live in these buildings and daily take on the risk of living among gang members. Due to escalating conflicts related to the gang members who occupied the building, Carmela was faced with the decision to leave her home to better safeguard herself and her children.
Soon after she made the decision to leave, she found another abandoned building where she could live with her children; but just two weeks after, the building collapsed and she was forced once again to go back to the building she left filled with gang members.
Carmela is now looking for employment, she has applied to several places and is waiting for one to call back. "Life continues to put obstacles in my way; the difference now is that I've been through CAPTA and I know how to make better decisions." "I have learned to think first and not do the crazy things I used to do."
Even though she isn’t working, Carmela thinks about projects that she could do in her community. For example, she sought out our dance instructor for the ENLACES program which teaches at risk children modern dance and suggested a dancing project in her community with the children that live in her building. She hopes that this initiative will bring positive new activities to her community.
During December you can help Carmela by making a recurring donation to this program or to our CONEXION program. A recurring donation of only $20 will be matched by a Global Giving secret donor and you can secure Carmela the constant follow up visits she needs to succeed. We will continue to visit Carmela and help her as much as we can, but we need your continued support for this to happen.
From Fundacion Calicanto: Happy Holidays and thank you for all the support you have already given!!
We are celebrating a big program accomplishment: CAPTA has graduated 20 different groups since its first in 2005. To date the program has trained 456 women for employment and 66% of them are working in the hotel industry.
CAPTA’s reach goes beyond employment training; CAPTA has motivated and inspired women to work toward a goal in their lives: a house, an education or job stability. Many CAPTA women have started as housekeepers andare now working in administrative areas as receptionists and even as accountants!
Fundacion Calicanto is proud of each and every one of our graduates; they motivate us to continue our work in this community and they have proven that if given the tools to learn and find employment, they can succeed.
We’ve had many special guests celebrate this great accomplishment with us: Jonathan Farrar, United States Ambassador to Panama; Aprile Age, Director for the John P. McNulty Prize Foundation, Stanley Motta, Chairman of COPA Airlines, board directors, previous graduates and others.
We would especially like to thank all of our friends on Global Giving who could not be there but keep in touch through our reports; this accomplishment would not be possible without you. I hope that you continue to keep in touch withour work and look forward to the next 20 CAPTA groups, just like we do!Thank you all!
“Now I understand what it means to give yourself an opportunity, and that’s what I’m doing here.”
Carmela is 28 years old and lives in Santa Ana, one of the most dangerous communities in Panama City with high poverty levels; she has four children.
Although CAPTA caters to many women with different backgrounds and education levels, Carmela was a perfect candidate for CAPTA. She is a woman who has suffered through many difficulties in her life; she had been working in bars since she was 10; and at the age of 15, her best friend was infected with HIV. Mentally, this was a turning point for Carmela. “I was afraid and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me; I had to find a way to get out of this business.” Carmela then left the bar and started working as a waitress in a night-club.
Unfortunately, things did not get better; from this point on, she met men who would only mistreat her and she was still forced to work countless hours, engaged in dangerous activities to feed her children.
After persuasion from her siblings and another NGO in her community; she decided to get help. She was referred to Fundacion Calicanto because the CAPTA program could provide the psychological support and the life skills she needed to find employment.
“The first couple of days, I didn’t want to stay; I thought about leaving several times but each day of class taught me something new and it was all so different from what I used to. Nefthaly (program coordinator) motivated me because he was always so happy; Dr. Celia (conflict management teacher) taught me how to stop screaming and hitting, she taught me to talk out my problems; Jaime (theater teacher) taught me how to express myself; I have changed a lot in the last three weeks and I feel better about myself.”
“I go home and tell my kids what I learn every day, sometimes they laugh when I try to speak English, but then they start practicing with me too,” Carmela said while giggling.
Carmela graduates in another 3 weeks; her goals are to find a job, study, and to own a home where her children can feel free to play.
We will update you on her status after she graduates and finds employment.
The last CAPTA group we graduated was very special; we tweaked a few things during the “fundamental cycle” and got excellent results. To begin, we decided to make an alliance with Malambo, an organization thatcould refer some girls to our program. We did not consider these alliances because the organization works in areasoutside of our focus community; however, this time we decided that opening up space for women in need outside the community could turn out to be a success. Malambo is an orphanage in Panama that rescues girls living in poverty or exposed to violence. The tendency with these orphanages is usually to shelter beneficiaries from outside danger, but they unintentionally make them dependent on a system that is meant to let them go when they reachadulthood.
Five girls came in from Malambo: they were shy, they usually coordinated to wear the same colors, one girl spoke for them all and they also had the same likes and dislikes. Slowly, our psychologist began to work on these traits and asked the class facilitators to separate them and to make them speak for themselves, exploring their individual abilities, likes and dislikes. In just 4 short weeks, the progress seen with these girls was phenomenal. Theyall walked and spoke with confidence and it was apparent that something had changed.
Following this experience, we have decided to also join forces with Divina Gracia, another orphanage hosting girls that have suffered violent crimes. These alliances are helping us change more lives, we are taking girls who need training and professional skills to survive once they leave their “homes.” We are closing a gap by educating girls that come from a different system but also need the personal attention and professional training that we can provide at no cost.
Finally, I’d like to announce that we are also celebrating a new phenomenon with our last CAPTA course: of 18 women who graduated only 2 weeks ago, 14 are currently employed! We attribute this to the changes that wemade in our program for example, treating the girls as regular students who must work hard to earn a title. The specific changes include giving them homework, making them study, having them research various topics and create projects according to what they research. These changes have produced wonderful results and we will continue to implement these with other courses.
As you remember from our last report, we saw our VI CAPTA group make their way to the International Hotel School for an intense housekeeping and customer service training. Fundacion Calicanto is now proudly celebrating the sixth CAPTA graduation this year!
Join me in congratulating these women for their commitment and hard work through these 7 weeks of intense vocational training; we have seen them grown into independent, confident women ready to face the world and we areall very proud of them.
By the time they graduated, 15 of 22 women had employment possibilities lined up and the remainder had interviews lined up from hotels and restaurants seeking out our CAPTA women. This has been an incredible accomplishment which we could not have done without you! On behalf of our CAPTA graduates and Fundacion Calicanto: thank you for all you have done this year, your support has been a tremendous push for the women and the program; we hope you continue to help us improve the lives of women for years to come.
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