Salvadorans at the starting line for a safer community

By Evelyn Rupert

May 3, 2017

More than a thousand Salvadorans will race through the streets of their capital San Salvador May 7 to raise money for a new community Outreach Center that will help give at-risk youth a safe space and path away from crime and violence.

The May 7 “Nuevos Runners” race event is part of the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention project, a five-year initiative that aims to improve local and national institutions’ ability to combat alarming rates of violence and crime. The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

Larry Sacks, USAID Mission Director to El Salvador, at the April 19 launch of the Nuevos Runners campaign.
Larry Sacks, USAID Mission Director to El Salvador, at the April 19 launch of the Nuevos Runners campaign.

“I have participated in many races here in El Salvador, and I have always been impressed to see how many Salvadorans from diverse backgrounds go into the streets of their communities across the country. Some simply for the pleasure of running and others to show their support for a noble cause,” said Larry Sacks, Mission Director of USAID El Salvador, at the April 19 launch of the event.

Sacks added that the race is a symbol of community resilience in a long-term effort to stem violence. El Salvador has one of the highest rates of homicide in the world and is plagued by violence, street gangs and drug trafficking.

“As we all know, it is hard to live in El Salvador and not be affected by violence,” Sacks said.

“The race represents another opportunity to demonstrate the determination of the Salvadoran people to win the race against violence, whether you have a lot of running experience or you’ve never put on a pair of sneakers.”

Competing for a safe space for youth

All of the money raised from registration fees will go toward equipping the new Outreach Center, which will give the community’s young people a safe place to learn, spend free time and participate in arts, music, sports and more.

The Outreach Center is one piece of the Crime and Violence Prevention Project’s holistic approach, which includes more than 40 unique prevention tools from Municipal Crime and Violence Observatories to youth employment programs.

Eleven municipalities are hoping to be home to the new center – the location will be decided through a public raffle after the race.

“The Outreach Centers are safe places for the communities’ youth, where with support from a coordinator and volunteers from the same community, they learn how to dream and believe in themselves in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them,” said Harold Sibaja, Chief of Party for the project. “An Outreach Center in a community is a violence prevention space for hundreds of young people.”

USAID has funded the construction of 164 such Outreach Centers in vulnerable communities around the country as part of a push to offer youth an alternative to crime, violence and migration.

The new location will be the first with grassroots funding, which Sibaja said shows that the communities believe in the benefits of the centers.

Race participants can choose among a 3, 5 or 10 kilometer route through the center of San Salvador, followed by activities and musical performances. About 1,500 people have registered. More than 450 registration kits – which include T-shirts and a participation medal – were donated to children who benefit from Outreach Centers around the country.

“With the race, called ‘Los Nuevos Runners #YoMeAtrevo’ (I Dare), we want all Salvadorans to join us and be able to say, ‘I dare to create opportunities for youth. I dare to generate life dreams. I dare to believe in young people. That’s why I dare to be a Nuevo Runner and change the lives of the most vulnerable kids in the communities of El Salvador,'” Sibaja said.

For more information about the race and the USAID Crime and Violence Prevention Project, click here.

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