Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama

by Fundacion Calicanto
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

“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.

Estephani - Malambo girl
Estephani - Malambo girl

The last CAPTA group we graduated was very special; we tweaked a few things during the “fundamental cycle” and got excellent results. To begin, we decided to make an alliance with Malambo, an organization that
could refer some girls to our program.  We did not consider these alliances because the organization works in areas
outside of our focus community; however, this time we decided that opening up space for women in need outside the community could turn out to be a success. Malambo is an orphanage in Panama that rescues girls living in poverty or exposed to violence.  The tendency with these orphanages is usually to shelter beneficiaries from outside danger, but they unintentionally make them dependent on a system that is meant to let them go when they reach

Five girls came in from Malambo: they were shy, they usually coordinated to wear the same colors, one girl spoke for them all and they also had the same likes and dislikes. Slowly, our psychologist began to work on these traits and asked the class facilitators to separate them and to make them speak for themselves, exploring their individual abilities, likes and dislikes. In just 4 short weeks, the progress seen with these girls was phenomenal. They
all walked and spoke with confidence and it was apparent that something had changed. 

Following this experience, we have decided to also join forces with Divina Gracia, another orphanage hosting girls that have suffered violent crimes. These alliances are helping us change more lives, we are taking girls who need training and professional skills to survive once they leave their “homes.” We are closing a gap by educating girls that come from a different system but also need the personal attention and professional training that we can provide at no cost.

Finally, I’d like to announce that we are also celebrating a new phenomenon with our last CAPTA course: of 18 women who graduated only 2 weeks ago, 14 are currently employed! We attribute this to the changes that we
made in our program for example, treating the girls as regular students who must work hard to earn a title. The specific changes include giving them homework, making them study, having them research various topics and create projects according to what they research. These changes have produced wonderful results and we will continue to implement these with other courses.

Lizeth - Malambo girl
Lizeth - Malambo girl
Group picture
Group picture
Graduation performance
Graduation performance

Dear friends,

As you remember from our last report, we saw our VI CAPTA group make their way to the International Hotel School for an intense housekeeping and customer service training.  Fundacion Calicanto is now proudly celebrating the sixth CAPTA graduation this year!

Join me in congratulating these women for their commitment and hard work through these 7 weeks of intense vocational training; we have seen them grown into independent, confident women ready to face the world and we are
all very proud of them. 

By the time they graduated, 15 of 22 women had employment possibilities lined up and the remainder had interviews lined up from hotels and restaurants seeking out our CAPTA women. This has been an incredible accomplishment which we could not have done without you! On behalf of our CAPTA graduates and Fundacion Calicanto: thank you for all you have done this year, your support has been a tremendous push for the women and the program; we hope you continue to help us improve the lives of women for years to come.

Happy Holidays!

Group picture
Group picture
Maria de Los Angeles, CAPTA student
Maria de Los Angeles, CAPTA student

Hello all,

My name is Dalys Rodriguez, I am the new program director for Fundacion Calicanto. I have been here four weeks and I am writing this report as a true testament of the change I have seen in the women since my arrival. I started
working with the CAPTA program about 6 months ago as the English volunteer and fell in love with the program and the girls from the very first day.  I remember my first day like it was yesterday, I had never taught English before; I was scared, nervous and excited all at the same time. But as soon as I walked in through the classroom doors, I was
motivated by the women’s joyful voices greeting me: “hello!”

My work schedule did not allow me to interact much with the girls during those first six months but being here full-time has allowed me to see firsthand, the incredible impact that the CAPTA program makes. My first full-time week here, I met women who were clearly timid, spoke softly or aggressively in some cases, and confidence levels were low from what I could perceive but now on my fourth week, the women I see are empowered, they walk and speak with pride and confidence. I was amazed at the change and it proved to me that our “Fundamental Cycle” which is the first five weeks where they learn about their self-esteem, how to channel emotions, resolve conflicts, and entrepreneurship among other courses, really is what makes a difference and helps these women change their outlook on life.

Monday November 21st, our sixth and final CAPTA group this year went on to the International Hotel School in Clayton, The City of Knowledge.  Their smiling faces expressed excitement and anxiousness as they were embarking on this new journey in their lives.  At the hotel school they will receive specialized training on customer service and proper housekeeping techniques from one of the best Hotel Schools in Panama.

They are all eager to learn and we wish them all the best.  We’ll see them soon again at the Graduation Ceremony next December 7th.

I would also like to take this opportunity to let you all know that there is a new way you can help ensure that after these women graduate, they continue on their path to success.  That’s right, Fundacion Calicanto realized that a permanent change requires more attention and continuous support so we have created a program that will do just that, and we have called it CONEXION. 

CONEXION is our initiative to provide continuous support to our recipients from our programs CAPTA and Enlaces. This program ensures that our graduates stay on the right path because we provide additional occupational and personal training during monthly activities that focus on reinforcing values through educational seminars.

I invite you to visit our CONEXION page on Global Giving and learn more about this program.

Greetings to all and make sure you check out our facebook page
and follow us on twitter @fundcalicanto

Girls take "Emotional Intelligence" course
Girls take "Emotional Intelligence" course
Girls listen to lecture on cultural heritage
Girls listen to lecture on cultural heritage

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Organization Information

Fundacion Calicanto

Location: Panama City, Panama - Panama
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Hildegard Vasquez
Panama, Panama

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