“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.