Central America:

USAID Youth Alliance-supported Organization Wins Major Foundation Grant

February 23, 2011

CENTRAL-AMERICA_Regional-USAID_SUCCESS-STORY-AJ_7-1-11-800x544 A Guatemalan organization, Alianza Joven, was selected for a $300,000 “Helping Those Who Help” grant by the prestigious Guatemala-based Gutierrez Foundation. Alianza Joven’s proposal stood out from among hundreds of submissions received by the foundation. To qualify, Alianza Joven had to be formally incorporated, provide its financial reporting and demonstrate positive impact in the community. A beneficiary of the Outreach Center in Escuintla named Moises accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

Alianza Joven was in strong company as one of five finalists. The other finalists included an organization working in urban slums and rural areas; an NGO that provides support to micro-enterprises; a well-known education provider and a local NGO protecting the rights of indigenous women.

The Gutierrez Foundation received thousands of text messages nationwide from Guatemalans who voted for Alianza Joven for achieving significant change for youth-at risk in some of Guatemala’s most dangerous neighborhoods through its “Outreach Centers.” Alianza Joven’s methodology is based on Creative’s Outreach Center model developed under the USAID’s Youth Alliance Program. Alianza Joven manages fifteen Outreach Centers in Guatemala. Harold Sibaja, Director of the USAID Youth Alliance Program underscored, “The prize awarded to Alianza Joven, the local Guatemalan NGO, represents a national recognition of the Outreach Center Model as a mechanism to prevent crime.”

Creative conceived the Outreach Center model in 2006 as a community-based, volunteer driven initiative to provide services to youth in neighborhoods where gangs and violence have prevailed. Outreach Centers are established in collaboration with local churches, the private-sector and municipal governments. The Outreach Centers provide a safe space that offers youth creative use of free time, including training in English and information technology, tutoring in school work and remedial education opportunities. The Centers have been embraced by communities, who welcome this alternative to youth joining gangs. Schools and other institutions increasingly refer youth to the Outreach Centers. University students are volunteering at Outreach Centers as teachers and as trainers in information technology and computer maintenance.

The Outreach Center model has evolved over time. The Outreach Center model currently includes the following components: “The Challenge of Dreaming my Life” life skills training; information technology and English language skills strengthening; support of youth-focused microenterprise models; and volunteerism development and collaboration with partners focusing on the sustainability of each Center. Youth Alliance project funds cover basic operational materials and provide a salary for a Coordinator for a limited period, after which time Centers must provide for their sustainability. Seventeen Outreach Centers were established in Guatemala by USAID through Creative Associates International.

Under its current AJR USAID-SICA program, Creative has established nine Outreach Centers in El Salvador and Honduras, with another 34 planned for the two countries. More than 6,000 youth have benefitted from services at Outreach Centers in El Salvador and Honduras since May 2008. In the third quarter of 2010, volunteers in El Salvador and Honduras provided more than 11,000 hours of service to beneficiaries.

It is not the first time the Outreach Center Model has received acclaim. In 2010, the Gloria Kriete Foundation in El Salvador awarded an Outreach Center partner known as “Fe y Alegría” (Faith and Joy) a $30,000 prize recognizing services provided to at-risk youth through two Outreach Centers.

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