After attending the graduation ceremony of the CAPTA beneficiaries I was taken to Fundacion Calicanto's offices located in the Old Town (Casco Viejo) of Panama City.
Upon walking in I was slightly confused: the offices were in an old run-down school, with shaky ceiling fans and graffiti all over the walls. It looked reminiscent of a 1960's Cuban government building, or rather, what I'd imagine one to look like.
The artistic vibrance of Calicanto's office provides the playful and creative atmosphere in which the children of ENLACES are able to let their minds roam free. On the second floor of the building is a classroom, air-conditioned, with colorful walls and lots of artwork everywhere. Beside the classroom is an even more creative room in which there is a dance floor as well as the resources and supplies for the children to paint, draw, or play about. The building, to me, represents what schooling is all about. The shell of the school provides the framework in which these children can think academically and creatively, and the fun colorful walls give inspiration and make these children feel safe.
Within this environment, and using the facilities as provided by Calicanto, these kids can choose to say NO to gang violence and abusive substances found commonly within their neighborhoods. Calicanto inspires confidence and gives these children a previously unheard voice.
Safety is clearly a large component that these children have very little experience with. Coming from some of the roughest neighborhoods in Panama these children face issues that very few grown adults face in developed countries.
Calicanto provides stability to the otherwise tumultous lives of these children, and provides a safe but creative environment in which these children can experiment with the arts and culture, as well as receive after-school tuition.
These children are the leaders of tomorrow, and through giving them the right learning atmosphere Calicanto is helping shape the future of Panama.