Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the Americas, with a homicide rate roughly eight times that of the United States. Youth gangs operate throughout Guatemala City, the capital. Street crime is rampant. Youth from poor, urban neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to gang violence. They are its victims and its perpetrators.
To guide young people toward meaningful, productive lives and away from gangs, Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with alternative school Proyecto Educativo Laboral Puente Belice (Belize Bridge Vocational Education Project), provides vocational and life skills training to young people from some of the city's most neglected neighborhoods.
Using a model originally developed in Harlem by YouthBuild International, the project, Jóvenes Constructores, or Young Builders, focuses on hands-on training, community service and leadership development.
Robyn Fieser is CRS' regional information officer for Latin America and the Caribbean based in Guatemala.