Growing up without loving parental support, teenagers in Costa Rica are left depressed and confused about what the future might hold as they enter adulthood. Joel Porras writes about how a mentoring programme, run by our partner network, is giving them hope of a brighter future.
A quarter of homicides in Costa Rica take place in Alajuelita and Desamparados: two communities in San Jose where our partner network is working.
The network’s situational mapping found that last year only 18 per cent of children aged between five and 17 years in these communities completed their basic education.
Many who grow up in these communities are trapped in a cycle of drug abuse, gangs and poverty.
Young people are lacking positive role models so need guidance and extra support to help them make positive life choices to prevent them from falling into this same negative cycle.
Red Viva Costa Rica brings its 61 member churches and organisations together to respond collectively with initiatives including feeding centres, educational support, and clubs for positive use of recreational time to reduce the risk of involvement in gangs.
As part of the response, more than 500 children between the ages of ten and 18 living in these communities or government care homes are benefitting from the Preparation for Adult Life programme.
This is a mentoring programme which develops skills and confidence and considers future vocations with the goal that the teenagers will be empowered to enter adulthood with joy and purpose.
Most teenagers on the programme tell us that they want to study, and they all agree that they want to change the negative life they have had. They dream of many different professions, but this is a dream that they see as very difficult to achieve.
During their life, they have been told that they cannot do things, that they are not good at studying, and that they are not wanted.
As this programme is run by a network of local churches, alongside lessons in vocational skills and self-confidence, these young people also build deep relationships with the churches who support them through these challenging times.
They are also given the gift of belonging, through personal relationships with the church volunteers.
Together, churches have an opportunity to change young people’s stories. Despite their past, we are focused on their future. We believe that they are able to learn, that they are not alone.
We want young people to know that their dreams, which many see as impossible, can come true – and we are there to help on their journey to make their dreams a reality.
Joel Porras is Network and Programme Facilitator for Viva in Latin America and the Caribbean
This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 12