Youth Challenge Program (YCP)

In Guatemala, youth face limited opportunities for education, job training and employment. As a result, many young people have turned to membership in gangs, which has resulted in political and social instability and a rise in crime.

Through a previous program, the USAID-funded Guatemala Youth Alliance Program, Creative provided second chances to vulnerable Guatemalan youth and former gang members through unique education and employment programs including seven new youth outreach centers staffed by former gang members and entrepreneurship trainings and competitions.

Based on the promising results of the Guatemala Youth Alliance Program, in 2008 USAID awarded Creative the Youth Challenge Program. The goal of the Youth Challenge Program, or Programa Desafio Joven, was to develop violence prevention initiatives to reduce crime and violence in high risk communities in and around Guatemala city, helping to improve the lives of Guatemala’s vulnerable and at-risk youth—a group that makes up nearly 66 percent of the country’s total population.

With a focus on impoverished youth who live in neighborhoods with high unemployment and limited job training opportunities, the program provided positive alternatives to street life and crime.

The Youth Challenge Program established Alianza Joven, a local NGO that continues to provide services to at-risk youth in Guatemala. The program also established 11 new youth outreach centers, bringing the total number of outreach centers in Guatemala to 18.

Helping former gang member to transition out of violence to better and more stable lives for their families and communities, the Youth Challenge Program placed 100 former gang members in jobs and provided tattoo removal and psychosocial services to former gang members and their families.

In 2009, the program established the Youth Movement Against Violence as a way to raise awareness of violence prevention in the country. The Movement has now been registered in country as an NGO and has since spread to all seven Central American countries and is operating regionally through Youth Against Violence-Central America.

The movement’s campaigns included “90 Minutes Against Violence,” a series of three soccer matches between teams including former gang members, government officials, politicians, business leaders, community members, artists and professional soccer players. The game, which drew more than 10,000 spectators and received national coverage, was part of a campaign aimed at involving youth in making violence prevention recommendations and strategies.

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GUATEMALA: Historic Soccer Match Between Former Gang Members and Government Officials

A crowd of 10,000 turned out to cheer as 15 former gang members spilled out onto Guatemala’s Mateo Flores National Stadium to face a team of government officials including the Chief of Police, the Minister of Culture, the Presidential Sports Commissioner, police officers, firemen, and two Armed Forces Generals in an historic soccer match. Learn More...

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