Think Creative - Issue 3

Think Creative Summer 2018 First textbooks in Mozambique CVE insights from Morocco “Yoga-preneurship” in Afghanistan By Creative Associates International

Transforming Towns Together

Inside the collective strategy to prevent violence in El Salvador

snap shot Turn the page to learn the story behind this photo

Photo by JimHuylebroek

snap shot


updates from around our world

Iraq Elections Support By Jim Huylebroek, Photographer

When Creative sent me to Erbil, Iraq, to document its parliamentary elections and the USAID-funded Iraq Governance Performance and Accountability Elections Support program,* I was expecting the unexpected, knowing well that as in any election, tensions can rise and the security situation can turn suddenly. But on Election Day, it was the positive things that most surprised me. Internally displaced families living in makeshift housing turned out at polling stations to cast their ballots, many far from home. Voters brought their children along, and poll workers gave them honorary electoral stains on their fingers. I was looking for a way to capture some of these stories, and when I saw this boy on tiptoes peeking at his mother’s voting paper, I knew I had an interesting shot. That moment for me was testimony to a significantly improved security environment in Iraq and a glimpse at the potential of today’s children to become engaged citizens in the future.

*The project is implemented by DAI with Creative Associates International.

In this Issue

07 Dispatches

Updates from around our world

Transforming Towns Together 14 p.

09 // • CVE Insights from Moroccan Leaders • Field Notes 10 // “Yoga-preneurship” in Afghanistan 11 // Honduras: Reducing youth risk with family counseling 12 // In Focus: Afghan Children Read

“Yoga-preneurship” 10 p.

14 Cover Package Transforming Towns Together

Inside the collective strategy to prevent violence in El Salvador When citizens, elected officials, law enforcement and others join together, even the most crime-affected neighborhoods can be- come resilient, thriving communities. Get to know the residents of one Salvadoran town proving that collective action can transform spaces, people and attitudes.

ON THE COVER: Youth in El Salvador are finding new opportunity and hope as communities gain resiliency. Photograph by Erick Gibson for Think Creative .

Photos by JimHuylebroek (top, center); Erick Gibson (bottom)

4 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Think Creative by Creative Associates International

Letter from Leland Kruvant President & CEO Creative Associates International


Founder & Board Chair Charito Kruvant President & CEO Leland Kruvant Chief Operating Officer Pablo Maldonado Executive Vice President Earl Gast Chief Financial Officer Oswaldo Holguin Senior Vice President Thomas Wheelock Senior Vice President Sharon Cooley VP, External Relations Jessica Kruvant VP, Global Operations Mario Vilela

What sincerely motivates me—and all my colleagues at Creative—are the people who are represented in these numbers. For example, Fakhria Ibrahimi Momtaz is a remarkable entrepre- neur and visionary bundled in the figure of 15,813. She is the co-own- er of technology company Momtaz Host and founder of Momtaz Yoga Center, Kabul’s first such center for women. A yoga practitioner herself, Fakhria saw the mental and physical benefit the practice could provide to women in a traditional culture and conflict- affected society. She participated in AWDP’s inten- sive training, along with several fe- male employees, which has helped her to grow both businesses. Today, her yoga classes are always

Plenty of numbers cross my desk. Proposed project budgets, quarterly financial statements and even frequent flyer miles. But the numbers I most enjoy tallying are the ones that tell the stories of transformation taking place globally through the projects we help to implement. Let me provide you with three big numbers: 15,813; 8,929; and 77. Each one is from the USAID- supported AfghanistanWorkforce Development Program (AWDP). The first figure, 15,813, is the num- ber of women who gained new business skills through technical training. The second figure, 8,929, is the original target of women to be trained. The final number, 77, is the percentage by which AWDP over-achieved its goal.

full, and she delights in sharing her passion with other women. You can read her story on page 10 and view her video online. During my visit to Kabul, I saw firsthand how AWDP’s six-plus years in 12 cities transformed professional training. AWDP is working with training institutes to design classes in in-demand, market-based skills that job seek- ers and entrepreneurs like Fakhria can deploy to launch careers and grow businesses. Indeed, at Creative, numbers are more than figures. They represent people and progress. Sincerely,


Senior Director, Communications Michael J. Zamba Communications Manager Marta S. Maldonado Strategic Content Manager Jillian Slutzker Art Direction Amanda Smallwood Writers Natalie Lovenburg Evelyn Rupert Web Design & Digital Technology Luis Aguilar Contributing Photographers Skip Brown Erick Gibson Jim Huylebroek Emanuel Rodríguez Think Creative is published three times a year by Creative Associates International, a global development organization dedicated to supporting people around the world to realize the positive change they seek. The content is produced by Creative and does not represent the policies or positions of its clients, partners or host governments. Reproduction of any or all of Think Creative is prohibited without prior written permission. Copyright ©2018.

20 Feature Stories

20 // Women at Work: Nicaraguan women forge their own paths to technical careers 22 // First Textbook: A learning milestone in Mozambique

First Textbook 22 p.

25 Creative Life A mission-driven community 26 // Staff Spotlight: Earl Gast

Results-driven leadership from DC to the field

Earl Gast 22 p.

27 // • Culture Corner: Pakistan’s “Jingle” Trucks • Staff Photo Submissions 28 // On the Rise: Investing in women’s leadership in development 29 // Empowering Youth around the World • Shaping tomorrow’s leaders at Creative • The youth ROI • Creative’s summer interns 30

Empowering Creative Women 28 p.

For more information about Think Creative , please email us at

5301 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20015 + 202.966.5804 Creative Associates International

// Walk this Way: A day in the life of Jeffrey Coleman, Regional HR Operations Manager, Africa

Photos by Skip Brown (top, bottom), Leopoldino Jerónimo (center); Illustration by Sorbetto/iStock | 5


Afghanistan & Pakistan Africa Asia Latin America & the Caribbean Middle East & North Africa

Introducing Regions in Focus Did you know that Creative works in nearly a dozen countries across West Africa alone? With Creative’s new regional pages, delve into region- specific projects, news, employment opportunities and more.

Visit Creative’s regional pages at

Celebrate and Advocate! Mark your calendars for these upcoming international days! From celebrating youth contributions to global development to continuing the push for peace, raise your voice on these important topics.

day of peace Sept. 21

youth Day Aug. 12

world teachers’ day Oct. 5

Literacy day

Sept. 8

day of the girl child Oct. 11

day of democracy Sept. 15

6 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Di spa t che s

Updates from around our world

The Proponte Más secondary violence prevention program is piloting family counseling in Honduran Garifuna communities to reduce risk and build resilience to gang violence.

Photo by Emanuel Rodríguez | 7


updates from around our world

USAID’s Afghanistan Workforce Development Program training helped the Balkh Dairy Union to boost production and sales. Qeyamudin Qeyam (right) supervises milk distribution. From left: Abdelilah Abdellaoui from Salé, Soukaina Sriti from Fès, Chief of Party the Fostering Peaceful Communities i Morocco project Yasmina Sarhrouny a d Abdeljalil An uar from Casabl ca visited U.S. governm nt representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to share their insights into local CVE programming.

Photo by Maggie Proctor

8 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Field Notes

Leaders share insights on CVE approaches

m Citizen Security

Community, Family and Youth Resilience USAID’s Community, Family and Youth Resilience program is support- ingmore than a dozen after-school programs that provide children and youth with sports, tutoring, music, drama, dance and cultural activities. Together, these programs are reaching more than 570 youth in three Eastern and Southern Caribbean countries. Mali Peacebuilding, Stabili- zation and Reconciliation The five-year USAIDMali Peacebuild- ing, Stabilization and Reconciliation Project will work in 46 communes in central and northernMali to support the implementation of the 2015 Peace Accord and to respond to the spread of conflict into new regions. The project will engage communities inmon- itoring and responding to conflict, strengthening civic engagement and promoting inclusive governance. Honduras Dry Corridor After training at the prestigious agri- culture university Zamorano, a group of nutritionists and nutrition promot- ers are heading to the Dry Corridor region where they’ll support families to improve their nutrition, health practices and behavior. The project is funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program through theWorld Bank and implemented by Creative with INVEST-Honduras. Funded by USAID and implemented by the International Rescue Commit- tee and Creative, the Pakistan Reading Project recently hosted the “Policy Dialogue on GenderMainstream- ing in Education and Reading” in Islamabad. Participants discussed challenges, opportunities and the im- pact of government and civil society in strengthening gender equality in the education system. Education Pakistan Reading Project

Morocco // Fostering Peaceful Communities

m Governance

in their communities,” says Anouar, who is a high school Arabic teacher in addition to his work with this initiative. The project marks the first time Hassan II Mosque has collaborated with an international organization on a CVE-focused project. In Salé, the local team found that no organiza- tions were working with women and mothers on CVE, a critical opportunity to bolster prevention. They designed a program to equip women with tools to prevent radicalization within their families and communities. The program trained 60 mothers and unem- ployed young women on how to detect hate speech and signs of extremism, recognize signs of radicalization and provide support to loved ones at risk. “It was received very positively,” says Abdelilah Abdellaoui, a civil society leader who supported the initiative. “Most of the mothers went back to the community with their training and what they learned in the classroom. Often, they came back telling us about a friend or a neighbor who wanted to do the training as well.” By working through local organizations that had already garnered trust in these communi- ties, the project could effectively reach individ- uals at the greatest risk for radicalization and the community members best able to support those at-risk individuals in their families and neighborhoods, says Sarhrouny. Across all the initiatives, the leaders reported that themost significant changes they observed in participants were changes in attitudes about the nature of violent extremismand a new un- derstanding of their role in helping to prevent it. This change in attitudes symbolizes a major step forward for preventing and countering violent extremism, says Sarhrouny. “When you get into these types of trainings, when mothers start understanding and having these conversations among themselves, for example, that is the big change of attitude that can make a big difference in a community,” she says. n

To stemviolent extremism, solutionsmust be tailored to local drivers and needs, according to Moroccan leaders on the frontlines of communi- ty-based efforts to counter violent extremism. Hailing from neighborhoods with high levels of violent extremist activity and recruitment in the cities of Fès, Salé, Casablanca and Beni Mellal, these religious and civil society leaders have assessed local risk factors for violent extremism and implemented tailored interventions as part of the Fostering Peaceful Communities in Morocco project, which was funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bu- reau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations and implemented by Creative. From preparing religious students to prevent extremism to training unemployed mothers to recognize the signs of radicalization, the interventions had two critical characteristics in common that made them successful, according to Chief of Party Yasmina Sarhrouny: They were locally driven and collaborative. “As CVE practitioners, we see a lot of proj- ects that succeed and many others that don’t because they are designed elsewhere. They are cookie-cutter or they don’t necessarily bring all of the players together around the table,” says Sarhrouny. Across these communities, religious and civil society leaders came together to understand lo- cal risk factors for extremism and design smart interventions to mitigate them. For example, Abdeljalil Anouar and his Casa- blanca team found a lack of religious knowl- edge to be a risk factor for extremism, whereas religious literacy could be a force for preven- tion. With this insight, they decided to equip the next generation of religious leaders with tools to positively educate their communities and support prevention. “We chose to work with the students of the Hassan II School for Islamic Studies because they were already enabled with the technical skills, but we could enable themwith the soft skills and communication skills to work better

m Food Security

m | 9


updates from around our world

Proponte Más family promoters (from left)

Karla, Marcia and Wendy collaborate on reaching out to families in the Tres de Mayo neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Students hold a pose during a class at the Momtaz Yoga Center, Kabul’s first women-only yoga studio.

Afghanistan // Workforce Development Program Stretching the limits: “Yoga-preneurship” in Kabul

Fakhria Ibrahimi Momtaz has been at home on the mat since she was a little girl. Raised in a family of athletes in Kabul, she regularly practiced her gymnastics routines at home. As a teenager, she was displaced by conflict to Pakistan, but she did not leave her passion for movement behind. After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, Momtaz returned to Afghanistan and found a new way to exercise her body and mind—yoga. She pored through articles and research on yoga’s benefits, and slowly built her personal practice, storing up knowledge she would eventually share with the women of Kabul. In 2009, she and her husband opened a small technology and web business, called Momtaz Host. As co-owner, Momtaz honed her entre- preneurial acumen and spirit, assets that would soon lead to the next big venture of her dreams: a women-only yoga studio in the heart of Af- ghanistan’s capital city, the first of its kind.

“The one thing that I started thinking about [through the training] was that there should be no limitations,” says Momtaz, who by many measures has already broken boundaries in her career and for the women of her city. “The training helped me analyze more about our company’s projects and programs. It taught me about my own business and about the structure we are following in our company, and it was really comprehensive,” she says. Two of Momtaz’s employees also took the course and are bringing their new skills in marketing and management back to the technology company. As both businesses grow, Momtaz is happy to be doing something she loves and to share the joy of yoga with others. “The women who come to class feel relaxed and comfortable, and it is really enjoyable for me,” she says. n

“Stretching, breathing and meditation were the moves that, after learning, I found how beneficial they were for the body and mind,” she says. “I thought: How can I carry this value to women in Afghanistan and how could they become able to practice yoga?” The Momtaz Yoga Center opened its doors in 2016, creating an oasis for mind and body and a community of support for women living in a conservative culture amid ongoing conflict. To grow her yoga business, Momtaz enrolled in a women-only Business and Project Manage- ment course through USAID’s Afghanistan Workforce Development Program, implement- ed by Creative. Through the program, some 38,000 Afghans nationwide, including more than 14,000 wom- en, have taken similar trainings on in-demand workforce skills to grow their enterprises, improve their operations and secure salary increases or better employment.

Photo by JimHuylebroek

10 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Reducing youth risk through family counseling Honduras // Proponte Más

In Honduras, the Proponte Más team of more than 50 family counselors works in high-violence communities to reduce youth risk for engaging with gangs and violence. By empirically measuring risk across nine factors, Pro- ponte Más determines each individual’s risk level – primary, secondary or tertiary. With this diagnostic, called the Youth Service Eligibility Tool, Proponte Más can match each youth with the proper intervention and work toward reducing those risk factors, building resilience and strengthening families and communities in the process. In the most recent cycle, 75 percent of the 450 youth who completed a year of family counseling saw significant reduction in risk factors and are no longer considered to be at a high risk level. n

Brothers Amílcar (left) and Josue have improved their relationship after the family participated in Proponte Más family counseling.

Police & justice reform

Four Levels of Violence Prevention


75 %

Percentage of youth who

Actively involved in illicit groups

dropped their risk factors significantly from the tertiary and secondary levels through family counseling

Intervention: Reinsertion, alternative measures


77 %

At highest risk of joining illicit groups

To see family counseling in action, read “Transforming Towns Together” on page 14

Intervention: Family counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy


Living in high-violence areas

Intervention: Outreach Center programming, crime prevention through environmental design

Photo by Emanuel Rodríguez | 11


updates from around our world

12 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Program in focus A closer look at Creative’s work in action

Afghanistan Afghan Children Read

“Afghan Children Read creates a safe, positive learning environment where children can learn to read and grow.”

- Susan Ayari, Senior Associate, Education in Conflict and Project Director for Afghan Children Read

In hard-to-reach schools in remote areas of Afghanistan, young students are holding in their hands their very own books for the first time. These new textbooks are one critical piece of an early grade reading transformation that is helping to rebuild the conflict-affected country and prepare students for a peaceful and successful future. Paving a path to quality education, the five-year Afghan Children Read project has worked closely with the Ministry of Education to design, print and deliver more than half a million teaching and learning materials in Pashto and Dari languages. The books have reached primary students in four provinces: Herat, Kabul, Nangarhar and Laghman. Funded by USAID and led by Creative, Afghan Children Read works to deliver quality education through an evidence-based early grade reading program for grades one to three in formal and community-based schools. Creative implements the program with its partners, the International Rescue Committee, Equal Access and SIL LEAD. Through its collaboration with the Ministry, the project is building a sustainable, scalable and evidence-based national early grade reading curriculum. n

Photo by Ali Dariosh Shirzad | 13

Inside the collective strategy to prevent violence in El Salvador Transforming Towns Together

By Jillian Slutzker | Photos by Erick Gibson

14 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Alexis de la O Romero and his father Víctor Manuel Marroquín stand outside their home in Cojutepeque. Through family counseling, Alexis lowered his risk for engaging in violence and improved his relationship with his father. | 15

transforming towns together

Alexis de la O Romero, 15, shakes hands with his teacher and bumps fists with a friend before sliding into a desk at school and pulling his notebook and pencils from his backpack. He hands in homework and is attentive to the lesson. But not so long ago, he’ll tell you, he was a different person. “I was always on the streets. I wouldn’t listen to my family. I wouldn’t go to class,” he says. In Cojutepeque, a city as renowned for its crime rates as for its world-famous chorizo, these be- haviors can be an indicator of risk for engaging with the local ecosystemof gangs and violence. Concerned Alexis would fall into the same pattern as so many other youth in Cojutepeque, a teacher referred him to a family counseling program, part of the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project. The project, which is funded by USAID and implemented by Creative, evaluated Alexis – and 1,040 other youth – on his level of risk using a method known as the Youth Service Eligibility Tool. The tool assesses youth risk across individual, peer and family level domains using a series of nine risk factors—such as a critical life events, substance abuse and negative peer influence. Of the more than 1,000 youth the project assessed in that cycle, 142, including Alexis, displayed factors placing them at high risk for violence, referred to as secondary level risk. Of that group, 105 opted into the secondary violence prevention program. Over the course of 18months, Alexis and his family worked in close partnership with a trained family counselor to address prob- lem-solving, change negative family dynamics and lower risk factors for joining a violent group. After just the first six months, 92 percent of those 105 youth, including Alexis, no longer demonstrated four or more risk factors, placing them below the threshold of risk for violent be- havior or joining gangs—a service to the youth, their families and communities. “It’s a lot of help, both for them [the youth] and for us parents and, in addition, for the family

After completing a family counseling program, Alexis improved his performance and behavior at school and began planning his future.

“If I hadn’t joined the program, I don’t know where I would be right now.”

– Alexis de la O Romero, 15, participant in a family counseling program to reduce youth risk for violence

Diagnosing the problem, focusing on the hot spots As youth like Alexis work within their own homes to build resiliency to violence, com- munities like Cojutepeque are taking action in the streets, informed by improved access to crime data. Pulling information on crime froma range of actors like police, hospitals and schools, the CojutepequeMunicipal Crime and Violence Observatory discerns patterns in violent activity that can and have helped themunicipality take practical steps so families can venture out, kids can walk to school and vendors can sell their goods inmore secure environments. With details about types of crime, weapons used, time, location andmore, themunicipalities have implementedmeasures including postingmore police in locations where theft is more likely or installing lighting to illuminate streets. The observatory is one critical piece of a multipart effort in Cojutepeque and 54 other high- and medium-risk municipalities, from bustling San Salvador to coastal Conchagua, to bring all hands and resources on deck to reduce crime and violence and expand oppor- tunity for residents.

environment and even with neighbors,” says Alexis’s father, Víctor Manuel Marroquín. He says he and his son’s relationship changed as they worked together to address issues within the family and those his son confronted. Alexis became more open with his family, and his behavior outside the home improved too. “I was always getting into fights. I would disre- spect professors,” says Alexis of his past. “But the programhelpedme understand that that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Well, I thought about it and I started going to class. I would paymore attention tomy teachers. I would no longer disrespect them. I calmed down.” As he thinks about the possibilities for his fu- ture, he is grateful to have been given the tools and opportunity to change. “If I hadn’t joined the program, I don’t know where I would be right now,” he says. But imagining where he may go and what he may achieve is becoming easier as his commu- nity also undergoes a transformation—through the recovery of public spaces, crime data collec- tion that makes streets more secure, skills and jobs for youth, and innovative measures to reach youth just like him.

16 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

Through community improvement projects, police and citizens have collaborated to make city streets colorful and welcoming and safe public spaces for all.

Students in an air conditioning repair class examine their equipment at a FORMATE workforce training center.

Young musicians prepare for rehearsal with their philharmonic orchestra, one of the project’s many activities for the community’s youth.

“In the end, we all work to create and generate the conditions and spaces for healthy recreation and to generate smiles in each of the kids of the community.”

Two tandem philosophies guide these efforts of the Crime and Violence Prevention Project to create what is known as a place-based, public health approach. Viewing violence as a public health risk much like a disease, the project uses data to define and diagnose the problem, identify and evalu- ate levels of risk for violent behavior, imple- ment treatment or interventions and evaluate the results. To interrupt the spread of violence, the project focuses on youth at three levels of risk – the general population living in a dangerous area, those most at risk for participating in violence, like Alexis, and juvenile offenders on the path to rehabilitation and reintegration. And by targeting strategic hotspots of vio- lence like Cojutepeque, the project can more effectively reduce violence nationwide starting at the local level. It brings together citizens, national government and city officials, police, youth, the private sector and the media. “Severe gang-related violence deeplymarks everyday life in semi-rural Cojutepeque,” says Javier Calvo, Chief of Party for the project. “To address violencemore effectively, we believe that our efforts must be rooted in amultilevel

– Magdalena Magaña, public space recovery coordinator

tion of its more than 40 prevention tools as part of six interactive strategies that address everything from a lack of jobs to limited local capacity to track and prevent crime. Now in its sixth year, more than 98,600 Sal- vadorans have participated in project initia- tives, including 1,444 youngmusicians playing in neighborhood philharmonics instead of spending idle time on the streets; more than 29,200 youth beneficiaries and 1,700 volun- teers keeping neighborhood Outreach Centers buzzing; and 1,558members of Municipal Crime and Violence Prevention Committees leading community security initiatives.

Transforming abandoned spaces into parks is a community-wide effort. Here, a young resident finishes painting for a park’s opening.

and evidence-based strategy that promotes bottom-up community engagement, where the general public can work together with the po- lice, local leaders and other stakeholders to col- lectively develop strategies to lower risk factors and increase resilience and social cohesion.” Based on a municipality’s needs, the project supports local leaders to deploy a combina- | 17

transforming towns together

At Outreach Centers like this one, volunteers serve as mentors for neighborhood youth.

Youth gather at their neighborhood Outreach

Center, a safe haven for them to spend their time off the streets and away from violence.

Safe spaces that help transform communities

On any given day, in Cojutepeque and munici- palities across the country, 166 neighborhood Outreach Centers are bustling. Kids, teens and young adults play pick-up soccer games, prac- tice their English skills, take life skills courses, rehearse routines with their dance clubs or just hang out. Some 32,000 youth attend these centers nationwide. What’s remarkable about these scenes? In many cases, before the arrival of the Outreach Center, or Centro de Alcance in Spanish, youth in these neighborhoods lacked a secure place to play, socialize after school and spend their time productively. The alternative is the streets, where futures are uncertain and violence is always a risk. As part of their participation in the centers, youth chart their dreams and goals for life and map out pathways to reach them, troubleshoot- ing with mentors to overcome obstacles along the way. Neighborhood volunteers, often young people themselves, keep the center’s activities alive. These Outreach Center volunteers are also key to project-supported and municipality-led public space recovery projects that have turned abandoned lots into soccer fields and desolate streets into colorful avenues for community markets and celebrations. To date, communities nationwide have inaugu- rated 64 such projects, and an additional 41 are in the works in eight municipalities. Magdalena Magaña, who leads the project’s public space

recovery initiatives across the country, says this large number of projects is a culmination of citywide collaborations. “In the end, we all work to create and generate the conditions and spaces for healthy recre- ation and to generate smiles in each of the kids of the community,” she says. She tells volunteers that although these proj- ects take hard work, they are worth it so the community’s youth, families and residents can reclaim part of their city and take pride in what they have built together. A skill, paycheck and path forward Meanwhile, as kids and youth spend free time at Outreach Centers and newly opened public parks, the project also helps to expand eco- nomic opportunity for young adults in these hard-hit areas. Jorge Jonathan Mendoza Ramos, 28, is one of them. On his first day of air conditioning repair class, he examines unknown tools, tubes and fluids that he will study and manipulate over the next several weeks. Unemployed and eager to start a business with friends, Mendoza enrolled in this course at Cojutepeque’s Municipal Vocational Training Center, known by its Spanish acro- nymFORMATE.

“[FORMATE] is not just a course, it’s something valuable that also helps make friendships and allows us to meet people from different fields and broaden our thinking.”

- Jorge Fuentes, 24, FORMATE workforce training graduate

18 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

MORE THAN 98,600 Salvadorans have participated in project initiatives

A graduate of a FORMATE center receives her certificate for completing workforce training.

Though only his first day, Mendoza is itching to get to work and master the skills that will help shape his future. “We already have a lot of knowledge. We’ve started to learn the new tools and different types of air conditioners,” he says. “I think that a year from now, I will be able to remember that this was the beginning of a company that we want and will have.” His optimism is backed up by numbers. Since their inception in 2015, the 16 Municipal Voca- tional Training Centers launched with support of the project have graduated 92 percent of those enrolled. While Mendoza studies air conditioning repair, his peers across the country are getting certi- fied in how to prepare international cuisine, guide tours, repair cell phones, install house- hold electrical wiring and fix outboard motors for boats in the fishing and tourism industries. By providing skills and jobs, the project offers positive alternative for young people living in areas where, absent these opportunities, joining a gang may seem like a viable choice for economic security. In addition to FORMATE centers, the project partnered withMicrosoft to launch nine Mi- crosoft Imagine Academies where youth gain in-demand technical skills and earnMicrosoft certifications valued by potential employers. Nearly 1,450 total youth have already graduat- ed with certifications, including Jorge Fuentes, a 24-year-old university student. Fuentes says that the program does much more than just add a valuable accomplish- ment to resumes.

“In a place like Cojutepeque, which is catego- rized as one of themost violent municipalities, these types of opportunities give us a different perspective andmake us realize there are a lot of opportunities for us,” he says. “It’s not just a course, it’s something valuable that also helps make friendships and allows us tomeet people fromdifferent fields and broaden our thinking.” When youth graduate from a FORMATE or Microsoft center, city-runMunicipal Employ- ment Unit facilitators, trained through the project, are ready to spring into action. They help graduates write resumes, meet company representatives and prepare for interviews. To date, more than 1,000 youth across the country have secured jobs through the units. Community-led violence prevention As the Crime and Violence Prevention Project moves into its final year, it’s working to ensure the continuation of its initiatives through part- nerships with municipal governments, civil society groups and nonprofit organizations. It is also looking for unique approaches to violence prevention and creating opportunities for at-risk youth. “Currently, the project is centering its atten- tion on promoting innovative models for crime and violence prevention, from family counsel- ing to tertiary violence prevention with a wide variety of social organizations and entities,” says Karen Duarte, Coordinator of the project’s innovative grants component. Through partnerships and grants, the project is supporting initiatives like SoyAutor (“I’m an Author”), giving at-risk youth an opportunity to tell their own stories through writing, and

Beyond offering workforce skills, FORMATE centers open possibilities for the futures of young adults in at-risk areas like Cojutepeque.

Factoría Ciudadana (“Citizen Factory”), which supports rehabilitation and social reintegra- tion for youth who have been in trouble with the law, struggled with substance abuse, or been recently deported from the United States. With recreation, workforce training and social opportunities for youth, the revival of public spaces and new tools for municipalities and law enforcement, municipalities like Cojutepeque are becoming more resilient in a country that still has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. For Alexis, the project’s family counseling has helped him begin dreaming big: He hopes to become a doctor or a pilot someday. Alexis says he’d encourage his peers to look for similar opportunities to make positive change in their lives and in their communities. “Just how it made me change, it can change so many more people,” he says. “So don’t turn away from opportunities like this, because it’s a really good thing.” n With reporting from El Salvador by Marta Mal- donado and Amanda Smallwood and editing by Gerson Lara and Evelyn Rupert. | 19

Women Work at

Nicaraguan women forge their own paths to technical careers

By Gretchen Robleto

Photos by Javier Antonio Castro (left) and Norman Saballos

20 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

From Left: Juana González’s interest in agriculture led her to a career that will help her support herself and her 4-year-old child. Ashley Calero is the only woman in her automotive mechanics program. She is proud of her decision to pursue her goals and break stereotypes.

When women have equitable access to edu- cation and work, they have more freedom to make decisions and are more resilient to risk. In her classes, Chow is working to change the prevailing idea that technical and higher- paying fields like computer science are out- of-reach for women. “One of the biggest challenges has been to change the social image people have of com- puter science, the gender stereotype where technological, science and engineering careers are for men,” she says. Breaking into non-traditional fields Whether they’re working with crops, comput- ers or cars, women face similar challenges in technical education and careers. Ashley Calero, a 19-year-old fromEl Rama, is studying for a career in automotive mechanics, with a scholarship fromAprendo y Emprendo. She attends classes through education organi- zation Fe y Alegría, which, with support from Aprendo y Emprendo, expanded its offerings in the Southern Caribbean Coast region to include the auto mechanics program. Ashley says that at first, she was intimi- dated – especially since she is the only woman in the class. “It was a challenge for me to study this career, but I amvery happy with the decision I made,” Ashley says. “Mymale classmates have support- edme from the beginning, and I have achieved things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve. I have overcome every obstacle.” By breaking gender stereotypes, young women like Ashley are serving as role models and proving that women too can support them- selves and their families through in-demand technical careers. Through her training, Ashley now has the knowledge and skills to be able to tap into an industry that has historically excluded women and to become self-reliant at a young age. As her graduation day nears, Ashley says she takes pride in forging her own path toward a promising career in a non-traditional field. “I am very proud of what I have achieved,” she says. “Auto mechanics is a very useful tool, and after I graduate, I want to start a business and own an auto mechanics workshop.” n With editing by Evelyn Rupert. | 21

I arrive at the bus stop.” But Juana, who comes from an agricultural family that depends on the food they can grow themselves, isn’t letting these obstacles stop her from getting an education. Inspired by her older brother to pursue her own technical career, Juana hopes she can give back to her family, who have supported her in achieving her goals. “What I enjoy most is working the land. My grandfather and my whole family are dedicated to cultivating crops,” she says. “That’s why my career in agriculture is so important: We can have different professions in the family, but we can’t live if we don’t have anything to eat.” Pressing for women’s access to technical education Aprendo y Emprendo works to empower youth like Juana through technical education and vocational training so they can overcome the factors that put them at risk for poverty, unem- ployment, crime, violence and migration, is- sues that are heightened in the rural Caribbean Coast region. Through technical education and training, at-risk youth and their communities can increase prosperity, security and stability. The project prioritizes the inclusion of women, ethnic minorities, youth with disabilities and LGBT youth, who face additional hurdles to education and employment. Nearly 50 percent of the hundreds of scholarships awarded have gone to young women. And the eight schools that are key partners in the project are also be- ing trained in how to make their courses more accessible to disadvantaged groups. At one of these partner schools, the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast, computer science professor Olga Marina Chow sees firsthand how gender stereotypes, even within families, can hold female students back or prevent them from pursuing education altogether. “These stereotypes are rooted in the culture it- self, in the belief that women are meant for the home, are meant to care for their children and their husbands, and they don’t need to study a career,” she says. “The economic situation has been another challenge… I have seen cases in which parents demand that girls work and stop studying. They do not see their daughters’ education as a priority.”

When Juana Carolina González became pregnant at age 19, she feared she would have to give up her education like so many other young women in her hometown of Muelle de los Bueyes. “At the age of 13, girls become pregnant and leave the sixth grade and do not return to school,” Juana says. “But my parents have sup- ported me and my child, who is now 4 years old, so I have been able to continue studying.” Juana also has support from a program called Aprendo y Emprendo, which is funded by US- AID and implemented by Creative. Through Aprendo y Emprendo, Juana, now 24, received a scholarship so she could pursue technical education. And as she strives to over- come the barriers to her continued learning, she’s also breaking stereotypes in her chosen career path: Juana is studying to become an agriculture technician, a field traditionally dominated by men. At Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University in El Rama, Juana is learning the best prac- tices and latest techniques in agriculture and livestock, which makes up a large part of the local economy. Fourteen other students, including six women, were awarded scholarships through Apren- do y Emprendo to complete the agriculture technician program. The class has much more equitable gender representation than most: According to a project gender analysis of tech- nical education and training institutions in the Caribbean Coast, just 25 percent of agriculture and forestry students are women. “Girls, this isn’t for you” Despite their training, Juana says the women still face some resistance in their work, such as when they visit nearby farms to give recom- mendations on crop or livestock care. “People would say, ‘Girls, this isn’t for you. This is for men,’” she recalls. And Juana is always aware of the risk of gender-based violence as she makes the trip to school from her isolated community. “It usually takes me around two hours to get to the university, since it’s located in El Rama and I live inMuelle de los Bueyes,” she says. “I have to take care of myself during the journey. I call my parents when I am heading home and when

First Textbook

A learning milestone is delivered to 112,000 students in Mozambique

Story and Photos By Leopoldino Jerónimo

22 | Think Creative | Summer 2018

opportunities for learning and reading to the hands of a child inMozambique,” says Mphin- ga, who transported thousands of the bilingual books in Zambézia and Nampula provinces. The five-year Let’s Read! early grade literacy program is working closely with the Ministry of Education and Human Development to im- prove reading and writing skills for more than 800,000 students in more than 2,800 schools. The Let’s Read! program is funded by USAID and implemented by Creative, in close part- nership withWorld Education, Inc., Overseas Strategic Consulting, American Institutes for Research and blueTreeGroup. As one of the 112,000 students initially reached by Let’s Read!, Nenita Cássimo, a first grader at Itoculo Primary School in Nampula province, is learning to read in her own mother tongue language while simultaneously developing Por- tuguese speaking skills. She attends one of 906 schools in Nampula that is integrating bilingual education into classroom instruction. For the first time, Nenita is a proud owner of a new reading book. She is one of the many first grade students who has received reading and writing materials in her mother tongue language. During the first three years of primary educa- tion, students in the education program learn reading, writing and math skills in one of the selected local languages – Emakhuwa, Elomwe or Echuwabo – before transitioning to full instruction in Portuguese in the fourth grade. The books’ journey: From design to the hands of children When receiving their books for the first time, Nenita and other students quickly flipped through the colorful illustrations, chatting and laughing. Even though they may not know how far their textbooks traveled or how long the production process took, they are simply happy to have a book to read. Beginning inMarch 2017, the materials devel- opment process was launched at a workshop in the Let’s Read! office inMaputo. Armindo Ngunga, Ph.D., Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Education and Human Development in Mozambique, attended the session and was

enthusiastic to work with the materials devel- opment team. The team—comprising of Ministry of Edu- cation, university curriculum and teacher training experts, teachers, linguists and bilin- gual education specialists—developed texts in four different languages (three mother tongue languages and Portuguese). After the workshop, graphic designers and illustrators added their artwork to the reading books, writing exercises, complementary read- ing materials and the teacher manuals. The books were approved by a special valida- tion committee from the Ministry of Education and then were sent to different printers in the country and outside printers inMalawi and India. Then they were distributed to the ware- houses in Zambézia and Nampula provinces. Before the books were sorted and labeled for the different schools, Telesfero de Jesus, Ph.D., Deputy Director of Primary Education, trav- eled to the warehouses to observe and monitor the distribution process in both provinces. De Jesus, who leads the bilingual education program at the Ministry of Education, said he was impressed to see the results of the book development process. He emphasized that the books were well-organized and sorted for delivery, all built on a strong collaboration between the bilingual education program and the Ministry of Education. Overcoming distribution barriers to improve education The book distribution to classrooms was a fight against the elements. Due to heavy rains and poorly constructed roads, most of the 906 schools were not easily accessible. At the end of a lengthy process, the last mile was covered by motorbikes and canoes. And with help from communities, the books arrived at the remote schools where students like Nenita were eagerly waiting for their arrival. Sustainability is at the heart of the Let’s Read! early grade reading program, with the Minis- try of Education and Human Development at the helm. During his visit, the Ministry’s de Jesus empha-

For the first time, Nenita is a proud owner of a new reading book in her own mother tongue language. By learning to first read in a language spoken at home, she can build a stronger linguistic foundation essential for her success in school.

More than 112,000 first grade students inMo- zambique can hold in their hands something they’ve never had before—their own textbooks. For many of the early grade students, this is their first experience flipping through colorful pages and engaging in the magic of reading in their own mother tongue language. For MartinMphinga, a driver who delivered the textbooks for the Let’s Read! ( Vamos Ler! in Portuguese) bilingual education program, this is a dream come true. “I have been driving for over five years, and I have never felt more powerful and special knowing that I am delivering knowledge and | 23

reshaping education

Arnane de Castro, like Martin Mphinga and other drivers, helped deliver bilingual textbooks to remote schools by motorcycle, car or canoe.

For young children like Nenita, learning how to read in a familiar language can be the key to success.

the Let’s Read! program in helping to ensure school attendance of students and teachers. “As a member of the school council, I will be doing my part to ensure that the teachers come to school every day and the parents are aware of their children’s performance in the class- room,” says Neto. He adds that it is not enough that the children have received books. Teachers and school directors must undergo continuous training on how to effectively teach bilingual education. The Let’s Read! program and the Ministry of Education have conducted trainings for more than 1,600 first grade teachers and school directors to provide quality bilingual educa- tion knowledge, skills and methodologies for instructing students. And what does this all mean for the teachers, and students like Nenita? They will experience the excitement of learning in their own language –many for the first time in their lives. n With editing by Natalie Lovenburg and Kelsey Woodrick.

sized the critical need for good book mainte- nance and security. The Ministry is currently developing a strategy that gives responsibility to the schools for the conservation of the books so students can enjoy them longer. To support book longevity and maintenance, staff distributed plastic boxes to keep the student books well-stored at the end of every school day. The children bring their exercise books home. Nenita and her first-grade peers will learn how to hold their books, how to pro- tect them from damage, and most importantly, how to read and write. Newmaterials part of holistic approach The newmaterials are only one part of a holistic effort to improve the quality of early grade education in the country, including sharpening teachers’ skills and boosting attendance – both important to theMinistry and the schools alike. Constantino Xavier Neto, President of Mutori School Council in Nampula, says he is happy to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and

Mozambique has more than 20 local languages spoken in its 10 provinces, but Portuguese remains the official language of instruction in the majority of schools. This results in many students struggling to understand and learn in class.

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