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.
Oct 8, 2014

"My Body, My Strength"

Beginners group in their theatre piece
Beginners group in their theatre piece

This is the title of Enlaces Program’s most recent dance presentation at Teatro Anita Villalaz, one of the theatres at Panama City’s historic Casco Antiguo. For this show the children trained and rehearsed for more than 4 months, where they explored the relationship between their bodies as a tool for success and source of self-confidence and self-respect. Within the creation process they reinforced the importance of taking care of themselves and the concepts of individuality and how a group can act as a whole, too.

It is beautiful to see, how they become more professional with each presentation. They understand theatre codes, and see the stage as a sacred place. Their concentration was outstanding, and so was their coordination and teamwork. With each show they feel more engaged with their identity as performing artists.

We had a full house, for the first time the families of each one of them were present and so were some of their schoolteachers. The following days the event still pounded in the streets of Casco Antiguo and in our hearts. The children were completely satisfied and eager to work on the next show and share their art with the community. Stay tuned for the next presentation!

Getting ready for the show
Getting ready for the show
Minutes before going on stage
Minutes before going on stage
Intermediate group make reference to machines
Intermediate group make reference to machines
Showing our strength
Showing our strength
One of our most talented boys doing his solo
One of our most talented boys doing his solo
The older boys working together
The older boys working together
Leaving stage satisfied and happy
Leaving stage satisfied and happy

Links:

Sep 26, 2014

Kimmy, the power of self-confidence

Kimmy on the first day, with a child-like look
Kimmy on the first day, with a child-like look

When Kimmy arrived to Fundacion Calicanto we saw a young 18 year old girl with an introverted personality, monotonous speech, low self-esteem and if she ever answered a question, it was usually a shy and awkward yes or no answer with her head tilted toward the floor, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

The first week of CAPTA, Kimmy had difficulty communicating with the other women in the classroom; she had a child-like attitude and cried every time a teacher insisted on her participation.  She had not finished high school; she only made it to 9th grade due to learning difficulties and because her mother couldn’t afford to send her to school any longer. By the time she entered CAPTA, she was financially dependant of her mother, and so was her younger sister.

On the third week of the course, positive changes in Kimmy started to show through the interventions of the psychologists and teachers. In the Computer Literacy course, she impressed the teacher with her high abilities to use the computer and finishing first in all of the assignments; and due to her dexterity in this class, the teacher asked her to help the other women in their work. This sparked a new attitude in Kimmy, for the first time in her life she felt she was good at something, and she spread this new feeling of self-satisfaction and self-confidence in the other courses. She began to express herself with her classmates and everyone who works at Fundacion Calicanto. Her personal appearance changed; she would come with impeccable hair, dress and make up. She started to be more outspoken, and would even volunteer for small tasks that would involve having to ask for things or talk to someone else.

During the practice at the International Hotel School, she excelled and received a recommendation letter and a diploma for her high performance. Kimmy was chosen by her classmates to be their spokeswoman in the graduation ceremony and received a Perseverance Award.  A few days after graduation she passed by Fundacion Calicanto for an update, she said she couldn’t wait to start her new job and continue her path towards personal success.

Standing by herself during yoga class (far left)
Standing by herself during yoga class (far left)
In her practice at the Intl. Hotel School (middle)
In her practice at the Intl. Hotel School (middle)
Giving her testimony as the group
Giving her testimony as the group's spokeswoman
Her face in the graduation invitation
Her face in the graduation invitation
Sep 9, 2014

The Results We've Been Waiting For

Jafet, Forteleza Tour
Jafet, Forteleza Tour's Marketing Manager

In January 2014, we began working with the Ciudad de Dios gang in San Felipe. Following graduation in April, we reported that the group voluntarily removed their graffiti, adopted the name “Forteleza." Some had begun working and some had started businesses.

At the six month mark we asked an indpendent firm, Vitalitas, to help us survey the participants, police and community to understand what changes had taken place. Here is some of what they found:

  • 85% of the graduates are still working A majority of police and community members surveyed reported a positive change in the participants' behavior
  • Only about 20% of the residents surveyed believe there is an active gang on their street, versus over 60% prior to the start of the program.
  • The participant's risk factors (arrests, negative conduct, victimization and involvement with drugs) have dropped sharply, while their protection factors (social capital and participation in society) have increased.

We were thrilled by those statistics. And thankful for everyone who supported this intervention. But maybe most powerful were the words that the participants spoke to the interviewers about the changes they felt:

  • “My mentality has changed, my way of making a living has changed. Now I have a vision for the future. I don’t think about killing nor in being killed.”
  • “I don’t live trapped, running from the law, thinking about food.”
  • “Before people looked at me with fear. Now they respect me.”
  • “Now I can heal wounds I caused to my community.”
  • "I can walk with tourists and be part of society."

Employer reviews of the graduates working in Casco hotels are positive and Forteleza Tours is going strong. The boys are making a living and creating a vibrant cultural attraction in an area that tourists feared just a few months ago. (The full report is attached as a .pdf, which includes the a project finance summary).

So while there is a lot of work left, we are comfortable saying at this point that the intervention was a sucess. Casco Viejo has one fewer gang and eleven new leaders thanks to your help!

We learned a lot from this intervention and are looking forward to doing it again with one of the two remaining Casco Viejo gangs starting in October. If you know anyone who would be interested in knowing about Esperanza, please encourage them to become a member of the Esperanza Social Venture Club. We depend on members' monthly membership dues to keep this good work going!

Josue, American Trade Star Bartender
Josue, American Trade Star Bartender
Marco, Forteleza Tours
Marco, Forteleza Tours' Sous Chef
Antonio, explaining graffiti to guests
Antonio, explaining graffiti to guests

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