On August 24th I was given the honor to attend the graduation of 21 young women, from some of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods of Panama, who have just completed the CAPTA course and are now ready to become social leaders.
The graduation was held at the Interoceanic Museum in the old town (Casco Viejo) of Panama City. The area in itself is an eclectic mix of rich and poor: it is becoming increasingly easy to find a multimillion dollar apartments opposite falling down and dilapidated buildings overrun by cats and small children with no parents. It is within these less glamorous buildings, the underworld of Panama City, that the beneficiaries of CAPTA come from.
The graduation ceremony is an opportunity to give these women a stage and allow for them to show how they changed as people, and what they intend to do with their new-found expertise. Hildegard Vaquez, project leader, gave a touching speech about how these women are more than just beneficiaries, they are friends. To each other and to Hildegard and the rest of the Calicanto Team, these groups of beneficiaries truly demonstrate the capability within every individual for change.
These women are now social leaders within their communities, and the seeds to continue the cycle of change.
With their new expertise in the hotel industry along with the encouragement and backing from Fundacion Calicanto, these women are now eligible to seek out a career previously unimaginable.
During the graduation ceremony the women performed a short skit demonstrating how Calicanto has changed their lives. The subject matters, although presented humorously, were drugs, violence, domestic abuse, lack of education, and lack of self-restraint, all of which these women were intimately connected with in a vicious cycle of poverty.
Calicanto not only breaks these women free from this cycle, but also provides them with the necessary tools to implement change in their communities.
As part of the ceremony, each woman was asked to say what they wish for most in the upcoming years. Nearly all of them were humble, asking for stability and opportunity. I have no doubt they will go far beyond this, and wish them every success!
Calicanto currently run 7 cycles (of CAPTA) a year. Each cycle aids between 18-25 women (roughly), and lasts for 7 weeks. Thus, 49 weeks of the year Calicanto staff and volunteers are involved in the lives of women living in poverty. I think their expertise, dedication, and willpower to succeed is admirable and unquestionable, and look forward to reading more reports from the CAPTA program and Fundacion Calicanto!