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Alternatives for Teenagers

This past Monday, the New York Times published an article about the successes of a major gang truce in El Salvador. Five months after bringing jailed gang leaders together to negotiate a truce,

“Homicides in this country of six million people are down 32 percent in the first half of this year; kidnappings have fallen 50 percent; and extortion has declined nearly 10 percent, according to the Salvadoran security ministry, which attributes the drop largely to the truce.”

The article focuses on the tenuous hold these leaders have over the lasting peace. “Many remain skeptical that the truce will stick, noting the lack of alternatives for young men in poor neighborhoods,” the article states.

Creating meaningful alternatives to gangs is a complex issue and a difficult proposition. Many young people face uncertain futures, with seemingly few job prospects in their home country.  The Migration Policy Institute estimates that more than 18% of El Salvador’s population currently lives in the United States. [source] Lutheran World Relief is working in El Salvador to help change that.

Friends Luis Amaya (Left) Rolando Mejia (Right) members of the youth baking group, showing off the tools of their trade.

Practical Skills Training

The photo at the top of this post shows a group of youth in Nuevo Gualcho who took part in a Lutheran World Relief-sponsored training program. This program focused on leadership development and practical, concrete job skills that can help them earn a living.

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Here they show off the doughnuts they made for a treat, as part of the bread-baking skills they learned. The youth explained to LWR staff that they are first earning money to invest in their small baking business and, “When we make more money, we would like to help the community meet its basic needs, like helping people have enough food to eat, all the time.”

Two of the young men, Luis Amaya and Rolando Mejia, talk about how they want to avoid leaving their community and country. They appreciate learning these skills so that they can, “do dignified work, staying close to our families.”

Part of a larger project

This small youth training wouldn’t have the lasting impact if it was separate from a larger community-wide effort to improve people’s incomes and livelihoods. LWR is also working to improve this communities access to water and is supporting cattle farmers.

This is all to help create a community with improved living standards, community cohesion and ways to make a living.