San Salvador inaugurates Outreach Center to serve city’s vulnerable youth
By Evelyn Rupert
November 7, 2019
A new Outreach Center opened its doors in the heart of downtown San Salvador, creating a safe space and “second home” for the city’s children and youth.
The Libertad Outreach Center, named for its location near the Libertad Plaza of historic San Salvador, is the first center to open in the capital city is the 169th across the country established with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Representatives from USAID, the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, the city of San Salvador and other municipalities, along with youth and their families, cut the ribbon on the new center in late October, celebrating with music and dance performances.
“Through the Libertad Outreach Center, we are contributing to violence prevention and positively influencing the lives of the many youth who will benefit from this space,” said San Salvador Mayor Ernesto Muyshondt at the inauguration event.
Outreach Centers serve as a safe space for young people to productively spend free time and offer support and opportunities including tutoring, computer courses, goal-setting workshops, music lessons, volunteerism and much more. The Libertad Outreach Center is expected to serve 2,000 youth each month.
“We know that many Salvadoran families face economic challenges and insecurity,” said U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Ronald Johnson at the inauguration. “We need to give youth concrete alternatives and provide an answer to the needs of the communities, offering better access to education, jobs, cultural activities, sports and safer public spaces.”
Outreach Centers have been a major piece of the USAID-funded Crime and Violence Prevention Project, which has worked with 55 municipalities in El Salvador on solutions to build resilience in vulnerable communities. The Libertad Outreach Center is set to be the final center opened under the project, which began in 2013.
The three-story Libertad Outreach Center includes a computer lab, recording studio and music room, games area and classrooms. The center was developed with $88,000 from the Crime and Violence Prevention Project and a $70,000 investment by the municipality of San Salvador.
All services for children and youth are provided for free, but the center will fund its operations and programming in part through an attached coffee shop open to the public and through alliances with the private sector and government institutions.
A network of safe spaces
The Outreach Center model began under a preceding USAID project, Alianza Joven Regional, which ran in El Salvador from 2008 to 2013 and established the first 41 Outreach Centers. The remaining 128 Outreach Centers were established under the Crime and Violence Prevention Project and have benefited more than 39,500 people to date.
The inauguration of San Salvador’s first Outreach Center is also another milestone in a larger collaborative effort to revitalize and restore the historic center of San Salvador, which has been beset by high levels of crime and violence. The Crime and Violence Prevention Project has supported the restoration of public spaces and worked to make residents feel safer in their own communities.
The Crime and Violence Prevention Project transitions operation of the Outreach Centers, as well as other violence prevention tools, to their respective municipalities to ensure sustainability.
The Outreach Centers are staffed by coordinators but rely heavily on youth volunteers to support the wide range of activities and serve as role models for younger children.
Esther Ramírez, one of four coordinators of the Libertad Outreach Center, said that because of her own upbringing in central San Salvador, she recognizes the challenges and opportunities that youth need to learn and develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
“The Libertad Outreach Center will be a place of hope for all children and youth so that they can grow, learn to serve, set goals for their lives, and give and receive love,” she said.