A Graduation Ceremony of a Different Kind

Smiles all round as Esperanza’s gang intervention program comes to an end

Last week, Jacques, Peter and I had been to El Chorillo — an area of Panama City — to observe the young men who are changing their lives by participating in Esperanza’s gang intervention program.

El Chorillo — an area of Panama City near Casco Viejo

Today was graduation day and Jacques, Peter and I were invited along too to help celebrate. The atmosphere was very emotional — a few tears of happiness and pride were shed.

To put what we are doing into context, the graduates with the most entrepreneurial promise from this intervention will become local entrepreneurs and part of Esperanza’s Social Venture Club. Restructuring the Social Venture Club is the focus of our project here in Panama City.

Most of the Esperanza team were there. Matt gave a nice speech and then the graduates showed off what they learnt in the last weeks by taking to the stage to explain what they had got out of the intervention program. I was really impressed at their confidence and presentation skills.

Janeth — the program director of Esperanza — has led the boys through the program day by day. We interviewed her last week, she said the boys do not like her at first and do not want to listen to her because she is a woman and they are suspicious of her, but as she gains their trust and shows them love (which some have never had before) they all come to see her as a kind of mother-figure. She is truly “making lives better”. I was touched by her tears of pride as the guys received their badges and certificates.

Janeth — the intervention program director

There were howls of laughter as Janeth showed a photo slideshow of the last 10 weeks.

As each person collected their certificate it was like a London photocall, everyone taking pictures and videos with their mobile phones.

You can see from the pictures that it was a very happy occasion :-)

Esperanza’s Janeth and Matt with one of the graduates

Those who will not go on to Esperanza’s entrepreneurship program will now be supported to find jobs in the local community. We wish these young men buena suerte!