Youth At Risk
Though Panama’s recent economic growth has been applauded, the country has also faced increased crime and violence, particularly in highly populated urban areas. An overwhelming majority of perpetrators—and victims—are age of 25 and younger.
In 29 selected communities affected by violence, Creative’s Panama Community Youth at Risk Project helped lower the risk factors for youth that make them vulnerable to violence and crime.
The USAID-funded project, known as Alcance Positivo in Panama, worked with the private sector, Panama’s government and community organizations to combat the alienation of youth from their communities. It also developed 5 Municipal Violence Prevention Councils to strengthen municipal and local-level violence prevention strategies. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor, the program led initiatives to reduce school drop-out rates and increase opportunities for job training and placement through the development of a new national life skills curriculum and a job preparedness curriculum.
Alcance developed 22 youth Outreach Centers with local partners that have served nearly 10,000 youth from 12 to 29 years old with technology, job training, tutoring and life skills. The project successfully established an alliance between the U.S. Embassy, United Way of Panama, municipalities and 11 corporate sponsors to support these centers.
Through activities like sports leagues and youth mentoring programs, Alcance Positivo engaged more than 40,000 at-risk youth in creative violence prevention activities. In partnership with the Ministry of Public Security, the Community Youth at Risk program established sports leagues for at-risk youth coached by local police.
Of the more than 6,000 youth who participated in a three-month sports tournament, nearly 83 percent reported improved respect of rules and norms and 58 percent reported less violent conduct.
Alcance Positivo also developed the capacity of the NGO sector through the creation of a NGO Management Certificate program, first ever national surveys on NGO management and volunteerism and creation of a web-based platform for learning, sharing best practices and connecting civil society in Panama through www.PonteEnAlgo.com.
The Alcance network of youth organizations, private sector partners and other groups shared best practices on how to reach at-risk youth with effective violence prevention strategies, with a particular focus on the needs of at-risk youth in unstable areas, including the Darien region along the border of Colombia.
Alcance also supported the Child and Adolescent Police Unit to promote community policing, school resource officers, and connection of the police to engaging youth in positive ways in the outreach centers.
During the project period, in the 29 target communities there was an increase of 24 percent of persons who said that they felt safe or extremely safe in their communities (from 38 percent to 62 percent).
Despite Panama’s significant economic growth, pockets of poverty remain—and youth are the most vulnerable. Explore how communities have organized to provide at-risk youth with opportunities, while trying to stem the temptation of gang life, through Creative’s three-year Alcance Positivo program.
PANAMA: Witnessing Youth Discover the Power of 5 – A Personal Perspective
Rubén, 17, embodies for me the heart of USAID's Alcance Positivo Youth Program in Panama, implemented by Creative. Rubén lives in the Nuevo Veranillo barrio, one of the most violent in Panama. Learn More...