Last November, as part of Enlaces’ Extension Programs, a Dance Festival was held at the Instituto de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (Institute of Our Lady of Mercy in English) of El Chorrillo in Panama City, where fifteen of the 98 students from 4th and 5th grade whom we have been working with since 2013, showed a work sample with four students of our intensive program who participated with an extract of a piece presented in “Mi Cuerpo, Mi Fuerza” (My Body, My Srength in English), a show that made its debut last August.
This was the first time both groups presented their work in front of an audience composed exclusively by their peers. They all showed a lot of concentration, self-control and hard work. In the short sample they used techniques such as presenting their names with their bodies and the Mirror technique, where one leader directs the group as they change positions.
It was a very emotional event, where the dance teachers’ effort and dedication showed as well as the commitment that children have forged in this year of partnership with the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, where Fundación Calicanto accomplished to include Dance as a subject in their academic curriculum for 4th and 5th grade.
At the end of the event, one of the school teachers asked to say a few words and she said “We all know how restless and uneasy our children are on a daily basis, but something magic happens when they come to Dance class; when they dance they acquire a certain peace and they seem to listen more.”
In 2015 we plan to add another grade in this school so that more children can benefit from the dance lessons Calicanto offers.
We conduct these interviews with our graduates to understand what motivates them to join CAPTA and also to provide basic insight into the mindsets of the women we train. This is Ana's interview, she recently graduated and has been able to cash in her first check which will contribute to her daughter's education back home.
What is your name?
How old are you?
I am 47 years old
Are you single or married?
I am legally married, but at the moment we are separated.
Do you have children?
Yes, I have a daughter who is 8. She lives far away from me with her grandparents and I miss her very much.
Have you finished high school?
No, I couldn’t finish high school. I reached 11th grade.
What did you do before the program?
Before the program, I used to work as a housemaid.
When you heard about CAPTA, what did you like about it?
What I really liked about CAPTA is that the program offers the opportunity to learn important skills that could help me land a stable job.
Why do you think you need this program?
The reason I think I need this program is for personal development, as a mother I want to provide for my daughter and I want to give her a better life.
What did you feel when you were accepted into the program?
I felt the desire to improve I knew this program would be for my benefit.
What would you like to change about your life?
I think that I would prefer to have a better quality of life.
What are your goals after you finish the program?
For me it’s a must to always keep learning and growing. I would like a stable job, improve my quality of life, own my home so that I can bring my daughter to live with me and provide for her.
What change would you like to see in the world?
I’d like to see equal opportunities for children. Learning and studying are basic things that all children should have, just like food and water.
What have you learned recently that you would have liked to know when you were a young girl?
I guess I didn’t know how important school was; if I knew better, I would have finished high school.
Anything funny about your personality?
The way I communicate, always with joy even if I am tired.
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury means being able to afford a comfortable life style. Having my own home and car to move around, having my bills up to date.
What would you tell a woman who could help you by buying something luxurious?
I would tell her how grateful I feel for the help she’s provided me and other women in need.
Would you like to receive some advice from these women? What would you ask?
Yes, of course I would. I would ask her for advice on what can I do to have the same opportunities she has.
What advice could you give to a younger woman?
A good advice for a younger woman is to study, so that she does not regret it later.
How did this program change your life? Has there been a change in your life after the program?
The program helped me to improve as a person. Now I can solve conflicts and express myself without aggression. My life changed because they gave me the key to change things in my life. For example, now I have a stable job and I am about to cash my first paycheck. I will send that money to my mother to help pay my daughter’s education back home.
When you last heard from us we had just wrapped our second intervention (with the Forteleza group), reporting 85% employment/entrepreneurship, along with other extremely promising statistics. We'll we are proud to let you know that Forteleza's employment and entrepreneurship statistics haven't changed, and we've now started our third intervention.
The latest group started three weeks ago and is still 19 strong (from 21 orignially), which is by far the best retention rate we have ever seen. They have passed through the full personal develpment cycle, working on self-esteem, communication, conflict resolution and other topics, both in groups and individually with the staff psychologists.
This week they began the skills development phase, which will last unitl mid-January, when they will start jobs or start businesses. There is a lot to do between now and then, but we're really excited about this group.
If things go as well as they have with the previous two, this will the the third of four gangs in our community that have committed and changed thanks to your support and the hard work of the Esperanza technical team.
If you're thinking of a gift for the person who has everything this year, why not make them a member of the Esperanza Social Venture Club. It's kind of amazing what a lot of people giving $25 per month can do!