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!
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