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Saying no to drugs and violence – how EI helps

January 29, 2009

2956145454_c1f66045131Although Nicaragua itself does not produce drugs, because of its location – sandwiched in the middle of the drug trade – the country still feels significant influence from drugs. Nicaragua is a major transit country for drugs coming from South America on their way to the U.S, including routes along both coasts and the Pan American highway.

Drugs are particularly an issue among young people in the country, with an estimated 5.1% of male high school students smoking crack, 10.5% smoking marijuana, and 5.7% sniffing glue [1].

Along with drugs, Nicaragua and its youth also face a culture of violence. Many weapons from the armed conflicts of the 1980s remain in circulation, while youth gangs have become increasingly violent and have started recruiting younger members. The average age for youth gangs in Nicaragua dropped from between 18 to 25 years old in 1999 to between 15 and 18 years old in 2006.  

For the youth that face these pressures in the communities where Empowerment International works, however, there is hope. One way to help keep kids in Nicaragua off of drugs, out of gangs, and in school includes engaging them in artistic expression. For example, EI’s photography program has helped children bring out their creativity and channel their energies into something useful. The program targets some of the most at-risk students, who are invited to take photography classes with advanced and professional photographers from around the world. A huge success, the photography program provides a critical incentive for many students who were on the verge of dropping out of school.

EI continues to develop new initiatives within the organization, along with partnering with other local community organizations with established programs to provide students growth and advancement opportunities. EI has created partnerships with a few different groups to help students gain job skills, including Pronat, which offers computer-training classes for underprivileged teenage girls. This training program inspires the girls to stay in school by giving them a step up in the technology market, and showing them they can be competitive in an increasingly technological world.

EI also works with the Café Chavalos program, which teaches boys how to run a restaurant. They learn how to cook, order, track stock, maintain a budget, advertise, and perform customer service. The goal is to provide the boys with training to be successful in the business, accounting, and community service sectors, and it also allows the boys to earn a small wage.  By providing this support and working with organizations within their communities, EI is making a difference in these children’s lives. EI kids face major challenges and destructive distractions, but EI helps them stay focused through creative outlets. These students are being given the opportunity to break the cycle of drugs, violence, and poverty and instead become productive members of society.

[1] According to “Nicaraguan Youth Gangs: From Throwing Stones to Smoking Rocks,” from Envio, a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America.

– Francesca Dalleo

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In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never finish  5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.

$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us

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