Building bridges in El Salvador

August 8, 2016

On July 19, the launch of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bridges to Employment project took place at the Dr. David J. Guzmán National Museum of Anthropology in Sal Salvador, El Salvador.

The event kicked off with skits performed by young people participating in the project who provided inspirational images of how they believe it will benefit their lives over the next five years. Keynote speakers included officials from El Salvador’s national government and private sector, in addition to the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Maynes, and the current Acting Mission Director of USAID, Kim Delaney.

Marcela, a former Plan International youth ambassador and current staff member on USAID Bridges to Employment, MCed the event and recently shared with us her thoughts about the experience:

In El Salvador, because of the stigma of growing rates of gang violence, the adjective “young” is often associated with tags like “irresponsible” and “goal-less.” Young people are subject to discrimination every day.

Beyond their age, youth living in high-risk communities are discriminated against for where they’re from, too. They are believed to be linked to criminal activities and not given a chance.

Because of a lack of resources and very real fears of violence in their daily lives, forging a path to education or a career seems almost impossible for them.

In order to change this reality, the USAID Bridges to Employment project was launched last month. Led by DAI, Plan International USA is an implementing partner.

The project’s goal is to create a favorable environment through partnerships and advocacy efforts, strengthen technical education institutions and develop a youth workforce equipped with soft skills and life skills, along with psychosocial and material support to link young people with employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

True to the project name, its interventions become a bridge between young people and technical education institutions to develop youth workforce through technical, soft, and life skills. USAID Bridges to Employment links skilled young people to formal-sector employment opportunities and supports youth entrepreneurship initiatives as well. In this way, living in a high-risk community or being a member of a low-income family becomes less of a barrier.

I’m so happy I had the opportunity to participate in the launch event for the project. Most importantly for me is that I have the opportunity to support at-risk young people in El Salvador to change their lives. As a former youth advocate and current Plan employee, I am proud of the life-changing work we do.

In high-risk communities, there are many young people with dreams and goals. They’re just waiting for an opportunity. I myself lived in a high-risk community, and, with the help of Plan, my quest for opportunity came to fruition.