Fundacion Calicanto

Calicanto is a community based organization dedicated to safeguarding the historic and human heritage of Panama City's inner city historic district through social, educational, cultural, and conservation programs and initiatives.
Apr 7, 2015

Building Bridges Inside and Outside the Classroom

An Enlaces Parents Club Couple
An Enlaces Parents Club Couple

On the 24th of March, Fundación Calicanto’s Enlaces program hosted a Puberty and Adolescence Workshop for the parents of our child dancers. 18 of 21 parents attended. This might not seem like such a significant figure, but it wouldn’t have been impossible to gather these many parents together in one place when we started this social initiative five years ago. Those who follow Enlaces closely know that our program deals primarily with prevention for at-risk children. We offer them a safe space in which to practice dance as well as partake in other artistic avenues that their young minds would otherwise not prioritize. We also provide them with supplementary schoolwork aid and counseling and we follow through with their respective academic institutions in order to ensure their continued mental development.

And yet all this can be undone if they leave the Foundation and arrive at a home with parents who prioritize other issues over their children’s continued education. For this reason, our outreach must be larger. If we are to influence the community in a positive way, we must obviously focus on its future contributing members. But we must also focus on their families. The increased interest in their children’s extracurricular activities is proof that our web of influence is growing. Now, when an Enlaces child returns home after a valuable afternoon of learning and dancing, they are greeted by parents that are perhaps a bit more interested in their endeavors. Instead of questions like “Why do you waste all that time at the dancing school?” they might hear something along the lines of “What did you learn today?”

Our older students are benefitting directly from the aforementioned workshop and from our new focus on adolescence. They are establishing balanced relationships with their parents, relationships in which both parties understand the importance of freedom but also the necessity for boundaries. Since this is such an important and difficult period for children, we want to avoid an excessive separation between the parental unit and the child. Just because they might seem like they want to distance themselves, these children (like all children) need a parent emotionally present to guide them through a scary but exciting new phase of their lives.

Our dancing lessons, study aid, psychological support, therapy sessions, and values don’t stay within the four walls of our Enlaces classroom. They can’t. Our beneficiaries include everyone linked to the children we are helping shape into adults. When we give them the tools to better their own circumstances, we must also give them the blueprints to rebuild connections between themselves, their families, and their communities that may have been lost along the way. And in some cases, we must teach them how to build bridges that might not have existed at all.

Workshop Leader Helps Parents with Activity
Workshop Leader Helps Parents with Activity
Enlaces Parents Enjoy our Workshop
Enlaces Parents Enjoy our Workshop
Group Hug with our Enlaces Coordinator
Group Hug with our Enlaces Coordinator
Mar 31, 2015

Carolina: A Phoenix From A Fire

Carolina
Carolina

Carolina lost more than anyone should when her house went up in flames. Now she lives in a makeshift apartment in Casco Antiguo, a neighborhood that we focus on with our social programs and that she refused to abandon, with a small room and several other family members, her children and mother included. Very few would’ve blamed Carolina for having a defeatist attitude.

When we complain about our problems, they seem to be the most important thing at the time. It’s hard to put them in context and zoom out because they’re very real to us. But when we encounter people in Carolina's position, we often wonder whether, if we were forced to shoulder burdens twice that size, we would be able to move forward.

Carolina did.

Losing your house, however, is not the same as losing your home. For Carolina and for many of our students at the Foundation, home is a synonym for family. This means that Carolina lost both. One of her children, a boy who had yet to reach his ninth year of life, passed away during the fire. He left behind his twin brother and his entire family. Instead of wallowing in her pain (and could we have faulted her for it?) she decided she would never allow something like this to happen to her family again.

She joined the most recent cycle of our GlobalGiving Project CAPTA (Or Fight Poverty: Help Educate the Women of Panama) and graduated last Thursday, going as far as winning a scholarship from our friends at the a local dental clinic for "The Perfect Smile". For many of our women, it is a hard lifestyle change to come to the Foundation from 8 to 5 and acquire knowledge in a formal setting. Can we stop for a second and imagine how much harder it is to do so when the shadow of a loss like this tried to poison Carolina's mind and drive her to self-pity and apathy every day? The mental healthcare professionals who work with us at the Foundation reported that Carolina would have episodes during the program where she would be overcome with grief, sometimes collapsing. But she had other children at home that depended on her. So after one of these bouts of grief, she would always come back the next day, ready to continue her lessons. Nothing stopped her.

Carolina did not only overcome the many social hurdles placed in front of people in her position. By graduating, she also overcame a psychological pain that she couldn’t simply escape when she went home at 5 every day. With this recent graduation, her diploma might represent her new accreditation, but it also represents the love she had and still has for her deceased son. She honors him and the rest of her family by not letting anyone or anything, not even her own tragic past, dictate her future.

(The names in this report have been changed to ensure the privacy of our beneficiaries.)

Carolina
Carolina's Old Residence
Carolina
Carolina's Old Residence
Carolina Receiving Her Diploma
Carolina Receiving Her Diploma

Links:

Mar 27, 2015

You free on Saturday?

Fortaleza Tours Invitation
Fortaleza Tours Invitation

Because You're Invited...

As Fortaleza Tours, the third business to emerge from the Esperanza Social Venture Club, celebrates 365 days of transformation with a toast to all its supporters this Saturday in the Callejon at 7pm.

It’s relevant to point out that most gang reintegration programs of the world operate in one of two ways:

Either they open their door and say, “Come to us as an individual and we’ll help you get out of a gang.”

Or they say, “Come to us as a group and we’ll help deconstruct your gang so that each can go on his own path.”

But as you may have gleaned, Esperanza is a little different.

We attempt to harness the very characteristics that made that gang “functional” in it’s own unique way…and divert those dynamics in a pro-social direction.

That’s why younger graduates choose to be placed in a formal job setting.

While the higher leaders of the gang who have charisma, leadership skills, and hustle can actually launch their own business...

The process of training the young men that now operate Fortaleza Tours went something like this:

Step 1: Graduate meets with small business specialist to design dream business plan (in the case of Fortaleza, walking tours of a former red zone)

Step 2: Graduate learns Powerpoint and Excel

Step 3: Graduate presents business proposal to panel of Casco Viejo business leaders

Step 4: If approved, Esperanza provides seed capital to graduate’s start-up business

Step 5: If proven motivated, Esperanza provides graduate with ongoing legal, marketing, and moral support via our content mentors and volunteer network

It should be noted that we didn’t come up with this process entirely on our own…

We had help from a team from MIT’s Sloan School of Business Management, who expressed interest in helping simply because they had never seen a program like this executed before. And neither had we!

But suffice it to say, today three months into operation, Fortaleza Tours is bringing in approximately $3,000/month in revenue and social metrics are all pointing in the right direction.

If you are wondering what Fortaleza's impact on the neighborhood looks like...check out the attached map:

It shows that in the past 15 months, there have been ZERO REPORTED CRIMES in the Fortaleza territory. This is something the police, our neighbors, and the members of Fortaleza itself are very grateful for. 

Apart from being featured in all kinds of positive press outlets, we all think this is really the cause for celebration, and we hope to share the moment together!

Where: Fortaleza Callejon
When: 7pm-9pm Saturday, March 28th
RSVP: Jaffet Glissant 6031-8961

Sincerely,

- Matt, KC, & The Entire Esperanza Team

Map Of Crime In Casco Viejo
Map Of Crime In Casco Viejo

Links:

 
   

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