We have graduated more than 700 women since 2005, of which 64% are working in hotels and other businesses; and 8% chose to continue their studies.
So far, our area of action had limited itself to San Felipe, El Chorrillo, Curundú, Santa Ana and Calidonia but in 2015, we started the process of expansion outside our traditional sectors.
The province of Colon is located near the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. It is commercially important for the country because of the Free Zone (the world's second largest) and by its ports activities. We aim to change the reality of families living at dangerous and marginalized areas, this effort is supported by the Embassy of the United States that rely on the viability of the program and have chosen the City of Colon as the perfect candidate for social change.
Why is it important?
Colon City has big problems such as unemployment, education and social support, which is why many of the young people end up associated with gangs. However, women have an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to succeed with their families. They represent 48% of the colonense population, within this percentage the majority is under the figure of "head of household" and must address their homes by themselves.
Our desire to help
Calicanto Foundation, ensuring the social restructuring of the province of Colon and believing in strong women living in this sector, decided to extend its training program (CAPTA) to areas such as Barrio Norte, Barrio Sur, Buena Vista, Puerto Escondido, Villa Caribe, reverted areas and Arco Iris located in the City of Colon. During the next two years, we plan to train and locate more than 220 colonenses women in the Hotel industry.
A CAPTA woman increases 70% of her self-esteem; 60% of them became leaders in their community; 90% received health certificates. 85% of women culminated the course and 64% of them are located into the labor market.
Expansion has not been an easy task, but we have had the support of the Embassy of the United States during this journey of hope. We have approximately 75% of the funds needed to develop our program in the sister province of Colon. In 2015 we managed to perform:
Our work does not end there. We need your help! we want to educate each of our beneficiaries with the right equipment and provide them the tools they need to achieve their goals. Once accredited to take part in the tourism-hotel sector, it will attract other women to improve their lives and their environment.
Help us build a new Colon City, full of opportunities and decent work for colonenses mothers. Hundreds of homes, children and communities will be influenced by this wave of social restructuring. You can be part of this change!
Summary: As 2015 comes to a close, Esperanza has a lot of wonderful news to share: all a direct result of your commitment to give Casco Viejo's at-risk young men a real opportunity to permanently integrate into their community.
We are currently in Phase II of our timeline, focusing on maintenance of individual and group successes. Now that all three groups have graduated, this phase is all about keeping new jobs, not doing drugs, and avoiding arrest. No matter how good an eight-week gang intervention program is, without serious follow-up by trained counselors and social workers, the change won't last long. So in a lot of ways, this phase is the least visible yet...but that doesn't mean fascinating things aren't happening every day:
1. Esperanza Social Venture Club Is Growing Up
While some graduates opt for traditional labor insertion in any one of our neighborhoods' various supporting businesses, others choose for the entrepreneurial route -- a natural fit considering the original impulses and personal strengths that inspired these young men to a high-risk lifestyle were strong and community-oriented in the first place. Upon entering the Social Venture Club, entrepreneurs are paired up with mentors who accompany them through the business development process. Esperanza has always had an inspiring group of neighbors and business leaders who volunteer their time to become mentors. But we never quite knew what characterized the most successful of those partnerships...
Until we commissioned an internal report by Costa Rican entrepreneurial expert Roy Retana Campos, to build a first-of-its-kind success framework for our unique mentorship program. Finally, the intangible aspects of what makes our community "tick" are beginning to come alive. And we believe the results of this study will have a place in history as Esperanza Social Venture Club, one of the world's most innovative "social impact funds," continues to mature. Just last month, we approved a second round of funding for one graduate and his seafood distribution company. Read MORE Here
2. Sharing Our Stories With The World
One of the unforeseen challenges of success with Esperanza has been our relationship with the media. While one might think that "any press is good press," we have found that nothing in quite so straightforward in the sensitive world in which we work. To streamline our interactions with the press, we have developed a Communications Department and are pleased to share our most recent published posts:
3. Our First True Fundraiser
As a non-profit organization in a country inconsistent with government funding, we are constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to financially support our work. In the same way Esperanza is not your everyday charity, our first fundraiser was rather unconventional as well.
The "Mar A Mesa (or Sea to Plate) Challenge" saw two celebrity chefs fly in from Spain to pair up with two Esperanza graduates in two days of sportfishing and food prep. The result? A gorgeous dinner hosted at the renowned Maito restaurant in downtown Panama City, where supporters enjoyed not just "socially conscious" food and cocktails, but a special sense of community: a common belief in solving things a different way. Click for PHOTOS...
We may repeat this frequently, but it's really important to know: Esperanza is incredibly appreciative of your support, as are the graduates themselves. They know that Esperanza is not a government program. That it is supported by hundreds of people who want them to succeed.
This makes a big difference to them -- because something like this has never been done before -- as it does to our leadership and our volunteers.
I've spent over half of my life working to achieve my dreams. For a long time, I didn’t care or give any importance to where my income came from and always relied on my partner’s resources or money that I could find on the streets from one day to the other. My partner and I were involved in gang activity and it wasn’t until I was incarcerated that my life finally began to change. After my release, I was back on the streets when I ran into someone handing out flyers about a training program. The program really appealed to me and I saw it as an opportunity to change my life.
After the 7-week program, I felt more confident about myself and about my abilities. I had always wanted to start my own business and I dabbled into a few options, like selling purses, perfumes, and jewelry that I obtained from the free zone at a lower price. Then I saw an opportunity to sell fried food to construction workers, late night shift police officers and as my food got more popular, I decided to turn this into my main source of income.
Building my own business did not come easy, my food was low cost and the sales did not provide high profits. I was a partner with another person that I met through a local church but his level of commitment was not the same and this resulted in many conflicts. These conflicts forced me to push myself a lot harder to keep up the production of daily meals on track so that I could build the business on my own. I proposed to Fundacion Calicanto an idea that would be beneficial to us both; I would provide the daily food they need for the other women in the program and through Global Giving they could announce my work and business goals to raise funds for a large refrigerator that would hold my food products and desserts and some large pans. Not only would I have to provide daily meals for the women in the program; but I would also have to find the remaining 40% of the funds needed for the entire purchase. After 3 months, I was finally able to save up the money and purchased all the materials needed for my business. I am now the official supplier of food for the program from which I graduated in 2013.
Today, thanks to CAPTA (a seven-week employment training), I am a businesswoman. I started selling homemade meals to Fundacion Calicanto, my neighbors and members of the local police force. Thanks to the training I received, I live a more stable life and can provide food for my family on a daily basis. We live in a very dangerous, high-risk area and I do my best to educate my daughter and provide the best that I can. She is now attending a bilingual private school and doing very well.
Thanks to the money raised through Global Giving, I could pursue with my dreams as a businesswoman. Today, I am a role model for other women, I've created jobs in my community and above all, I am able to spend more time with my loved ones and give them the life they deserve.