Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama

by Fundacion Calicanto
Vetted
Celica Williams
Celica Williams

"My name is Celica Williams and it is a great pleasure for me to speak on behalf of my colleagues.

I want to tell you a little about my story and how CAPTA changed my life. I come from Bocas del Toro (indigenous province in Panama about 8 hours away from the city). During a visit to my cousin Edefina who lives in the city and spoke to me about  a course that she was enrolling in and wanted me to join. I was afraid to join the course because I've never been away from my family for a long period of time.

My mother is a housewife and my dad is in a wheelchair due to a work accident he had a few years ago; we live off his pension. My seven year old daughter and my husband also live in the same house. I only completed sixth grade, my parents had no money to pay for school and it was also very far.

CAPTA was a challenge because I had to leave my daugher and husband in Bocas del Toro but I decided to leave and just asked God to take care of them.

I want to thank my cousin Edefina, who has given me strength. She encouraged me to take this opportunity for myself and my daughter. Edefina opened the doors to her home and has treated me very well. I sleep on the floor, because we live in a very small room, but I'm doing this for a better future.

Before coming to the course my dad told me, "Daughter take care of yourself, I never thought you would leave, I don’t understand why you are leaving but please be safe.” I told a neighbor about this program CAPTA and said, “don’t go, you are not prepared and will not make it through the program.” But guess what?

Now they know what I've accomplished, three women I know want to come to Panama City for this program. I am proud.

CAPTA changed me.  I used to be very nervous shy. I didn’t have any work experience and I never wore make-up. I am different now; and I have more confidence because of this course.

I want to thank everyone at Fundacion Calicanto, especially Dr. Celia because she taught me to value myself.

Fundacion Calicanto: thanks for the opportunity, I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this and now I feel like I can find employment and fulfill my goals.

Classmates: remember going forward with everything they have taught us, it was not an easy journey so you must do well and achieve your goals.

The guests and donors that support CAPTA, thank you because you give women the opportunity to be independent and empowerd.

THANK YOU!!"

Group picture
Group picture

Dear friends,

The first CAPTA course for the year takes off with 23 women in search of new opportunities. The recruitment for this course was not easy; the women we found interested in the course faced several obstacles and were not sure they could participate. With the start of the school year, most of the women were preparing their children for school and did not have the means to purchase school materials and uniforms. This is a troubling situation for these women, who often want to take advantage of opportunities from organizations like Fundacion Calicanto but can’t stop working to provide for their families.  Our CAPTA coordinator Nefthaly Montenegro had the excellent idea of asking for community donations in the form of school materials, books, and uniforms; the results were amazing! Different members of the community we serve, came into our offices and dropped off backpacks, shoes, uniforms, pens and pencils, and anything you can imagine a child could use in school. Each woman received enough donations to cover their expenses for their children’s school year!

This year, CAPTA also counts with the support of a prestigious local dental clinic, owned by Dr. Richard Ford, who has pledged to provide “perfect smiles” to three girls from each course. Dr. Ford will provide at no cost, all treatments and surgical necessities to improve dental hygiene and cosmetic appearance. This important alliance is evidence that changes and opportunities can come from several avenues and it proves that if different sectors join and cooperate, we can provide much more than we could alone.

We have started CAPTA this year with new supporters, who like you believe in the program and the opportunities it creates. Fundacion Calicanto’s President Hildegard Vasquez says, “When you change the life of a woman, you change her family, her community, and the country;” I want you to know that you are part of this process.

Thank you! 

Dr. Richard Ford and Hildegard Vasquez
Dr. Richard Ford and Hildegard Vasquez
Yoga class
Yoga class
Carmela outside her home with her children
Carmela outside her home with her children

If you don't know Carmela, she graduated back in July and I promised to update you on her progress.

A few weeks after Carmela graduated from the CAPTA program, she worked for one month in "Las Clementinas," a Casco Antiguo hotel. For one month, she developed excellent relationships with her co-workers, superiors, as well as the hotel's frequent clients. Unfortunately, after just one month, Carmela had to quit her job.

Carmela tells us that the reason she had to leave was because she was thrown out of the place where she lived. In urban cities it is very common for gang members to take over abandoned buildings but other people such as Carmela, who have no training, employment and 4 children to look after also live in these buildings and daily take on the risk of living among gang members.  Due to escalating conflicts related to the gang members who occupied the building, Carmela was faced with the decision to leave her home to better safeguard herself and her children.

Soon after she made the decision to leave, she found another abandoned building where she could live with her children; but just two weeks after, the building collapsed and she was forced once again to go back to the building she left filled with gang members.

Carmela is now looking for employment, she has applied to several places and is waiting for one to call back. "Life continues to put obstacles in my way; the difference now is that I've been through CAPTA and I know how to make better decisions." "I have learned to think first and not do the crazy things I used to do."

Even though she isn’t working, Carmela thinks about projects that she could do in her community. For example, she sought out our dance instructor for the ENLACES program which teaches at risk children modern dance and suggested a dancing project in her community with the children that live in her building. She hopes that this initiative will bring positive new activities to her community.

During December you can help Carmela by making a recurring donation to this program or to our CONEXION program. A recurring donation of only $20 will be matched by a Global Giving secret donor and you can secure Carmela the constant follow up visits she needs to succeed. We will continue to visit Carmela and help her as much as we can, but we need your continued support for this to happen.

From Fundacion Calicanto: Happy Holidays and thank you for all the support you have already given!!

Carmela during the CAPTA course
Carmela during the CAPTA course
Carmela
Carmela's children
CAPTA 20 - Group Picture
CAPTA 20 - Group Picture

We are celebrating a big program accomplishment: CAPTA has graduated 20 different groups since its first in 2005. To date the program has trained 456 women for employment and 66% of them are working in the hotel industry. 

CAPTA’s reach goes beyond employment training; CAPTA has motivated and inspired women to work toward a goal in their lives: a house, an education or job stability. Many CAPTA women have started as housekeepers and
are now working in administrative areas as receptionists and even as accountants!

Fundacion Calicanto is proud of each and every one of our graduates; they motivate us to continue our work in this community and they have proven that if given the tools to learn and find employment, they can succeed.

We’ve had many special guests celebrate this great accomplishment with us: Jonathan Farrar, United States Ambassador to Panama; Aprile Age, Director for the John P. McNulty Prize Foundation, Stanley Motta, Chairman of COPA Airlines, board directors, previous graduates and others. 

We would especially like to thank all of our friends on Global Giving who could not be there but keep in touch through our reports; this accomplishment would not be possible without you.  I hope that you continue to keep in touch with
our work and look forward to the next 20 CAPTA groups, just like we do!

Thank you all!   

Executive President congratulates CAPTA girls
Executive President congratulates CAPTA girls
Recent CAPTA graduates join celebration
Recent CAPTA graduates join celebration
Ambassador Jonathan Farrar congratulates CAPTA
Ambassador Jonathan Farrar congratulates CAPTA
Customer service skit put on by CAPTA girls
Customer service skit put on by CAPTA girls
Carmela
Carmela

“Now I understand what it means to give yourself an opportunity, and that’s what I’m doing here.”

Carmela is 28 years old and lives in Santa Ana, one of the most dangerous communities in Panama City with high poverty levels; she has four children.

Although CAPTA caters to many women with different backgrounds and education levels, Carmela was a perfect candidate for CAPTA.  She is a woman who has suffered through many difficulties in her life; she had been working in bars since she was 10; and at the age of 15, her best friend was infected with HIV.  Mentally, this was a turning point for Carmela. “I was afraid and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me; I had to find a way to get out of this business.” Carmela then left the bar and started working as a waitress in a night-club.

Unfortunately, things did not get better; from this point on, she met men who would only mistreat her and she was still forced to work countless hours, engaged in dangerous activities to feed her children.

After persuasion from her siblings and another NGO in her community; she decided to get help. She was referred to Fundacion Calicanto because the CAPTA program could provide the psychological support and the life skills she needed to find employment.

“The first couple of days, I didn’t want to stay; I thought about leaving several times but each day of class taught me something new and it was all so different from what I used to.  Nefthaly (program coordinator) motivated me because he was always so happy; Dr. Celia (conflict management teacher) taught me how to stop screaming and hitting, she taught me to talk out my problems; Jaime (theater teacher) taught me how to express myself; I have changed a lot in the last three weeks and I feel better about myself.”  

“I go home and tell my kids what I learn every day, sometimes they laugh when I try to speak English, but then they start practicing with me too,” Carmela said while giggling.

Carmela graduates in another 3 weeks; her goals are to find a job, study, and to own a home where her children can feel free to play.

We will update you on her status after she graduates and finds employment.

 

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Organization Information

Fundacion Calicanto

Location: Panama City, Panama - Panama
Website: http:/​/​www.fundacioncalicanto.org
Project Leader:
Hildegard Vasquez
Panama, Panama

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