USAID Awards Creative the Regional Youth Alliance for Central America and Mexico
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded Creative Associates International, Inc. the Regional Youth Alliance USAID-SICA project, in recognition of the firm’s successful innovative and participatory programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-gang members into society and prevent the participation of youth in gangs.
This timely project is a direct response to the public security, investment and development challenges caused by youth gangs throughout Central America. Gang activity has contributed to driving crime rates in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to among the highest in the region.
“We are privileged and honored to have been selected to carry out the Regional Youth Alliance USAID-SICA,” said M. Charito Kruvant, President and CEO of Creative Associates International, Inc., a 30-year-old company with programs in 18 countries. “Creative has a long-standing commitment to communities and youth in Central America and beyond. This project provides young people, communities and institutions with the opportunities to create a regional future built on peace, security and prosperity.”
The Regional Youth Alliance USAID-SICA, known in Spanish as Alianza Joven Regional USAID-SICA, will also employ Creative’s long and successful history of establishing community based public-private alliances to leverage support, both in-kind and financial, for crime and violence prevention activities for youth.
“This 33-month project will give us the opportunity to look at crime-prevention issues with a regional perspective,” said Pablo Maldonado, Creative’s Senior Vice President of Operations. “We’ll be able to diffuse innovative community-based crime prevention programming throughout the region, gather and organize knowledge, including legislation and best practices, with the aim of achieving regional coherence. And lastly, we’ll be able to work with and strengthen the role of the Sistema de Integración Centroamericana (SICA) in coordinating regional approaches to reducing youth crime in Central America.” SICA is the organization of Central American Countries which leads the region’s integration efforts.
In addition to promoting community-based activities, Creative will award sub-grants to regional organizations in 45 targeted communities working with gangs and gang prevention. The sub-grant program will reach approximately 300 community leaders and serve 3,000 at-risk youths. Sub-grants directed to media initiatives will seek to raise awareness of the dangers of gang life and sensitize the public to becoming more engaged in prevention and reintegration initiatives. The project will be led by Salvador Stadthagen, a longtime development expert, who has served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United States and Canada, and in many other diplomatic positions.
Harold Sibaja, Creative’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said the project builds on Creative’s successful Youth Alliance Program, also funded by USAID, and will serve as a catalyst to help reconcile country-specific approaches and the lack of uniformity of legislation in Central America to make way for the development of regional solutions to address youth violence.
“Our experience in Guatemala, our successes and lessons learned give Creative the understanding of the issue, the recognition from key stakeholders, and the foundations to address the issue of youth violence at a regional level,” Sibaja said.
The project will also assess regional legal frameworks and practices to promote multi-country policy and reform to improve the treatment and rehabilitation of youth in order to develop a cohesive regional response to the gang problem.
Led by Creative, the Regional Youth Alliance’s key partners will consist of USAID, the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Commercial Industrial and Financial Associations in Guatemala (CACIF), the El Salvador National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), the National Business Council of Honduras (COHEP), Rotary Clubs, local churches and vocational training institutions, among other organizations.
Under the Youth Alliance Program, known in Spanish as Programa Alianza Joven, Creative developed innovative strategies in Guatemala to address the social and economic conditions that drive youths to join gangs and helped ex-gang members turn their lives around to become responsible contributors to society through mentoring, internships and other job training.
Creative opened youth centers to provide at-risk youths with a safe and constructive environment to learn new skills and not fall prey to gang influences.
Along with prevention, Creative developed unique job training, business development and mentoring programs for former gang members to enable their economic viability and involvement as responsible contributors to mainstream society. It is anticipated that 450 rehabilitated gang members will obtain permanent employment through the Regional Youth Alliance’s sub-grant program. The job placement component is based on Creative’s Challenge 100 program in Guatemala which provided former gang members – young women and men alike – with mentors and job training. It grew out of Challenge 10—Peace for the EX®, an innovative program that was also broadcast as a reality TV series. It gathered 10 former rival gang members who had to share the same home. Divided into two teams of five, the teams competed to establish legitimate businesses with the help of private-sector mentors. Challenge 10—Peace for the EX®, known as Desafio 10—Paz para los EX® in Spanish, was broadcast on Guatemala television. To view the series, visit www.challenge10.com.
For more information about the project, please contact Technical Monitor Lynn Sheldon at LynnS@CreativeDC.com.