BREAKING THE CYCLE OF POVERTY
El Puente has operated for over eight years. In that time, we have helped 24--81 students per year to attend school. We made 31 microloans, provide weekly food for 5 families on a work-for-food program, and operate a Community Kitchen which has fed up to 150 healthy meals to people from 29 families three days a week. While we serve mainly indigenous people, our programs are open to all segments of the population.
We've come to believe that five conditions must be met simultaneously if a family is to succeed at breaking the cycle of poverty. They are:
Legal Compliance. A family must comply with the law. In this case, a family must send its children to school, and use government medical facilities when necessary. Failure to do so constitutes child abuse, and the government may take the children away from the parents. Public education is free, but there are mandatory expenses totaling more than $180 per year per child. The families we serve have up to 7 children, and for them this is an impossible financial burden.
Education. Children and adults must at the very least learn to read and to do basic math. Young adults must learn a skill, a trade, or consider additional education. At the elementary school level, kids walk up to an hour from the jungle to get to The Bridge, wash off the mud of the jungle trails and change into school clothes, and then walk another 30 minutes to school. The outside service area, as well as transportation to school when it's raining, are also a part of this equation. We also provide a place to gather, read, do homework, and hold tutorial sessions taught by volunteers.
Income. Young adults and their parents face the same challenges about how to create a sustainable income. Without education, training, and experience, the available work is limited to general labor at low wages. In some cases, a microloan to support a revenue-producing opportunity can serve. In other cases, we make job referrals, connecting both men and women needing work with prospective employers. When needed, we provide or arrange for training.
Food. Of course, while these things are working into place, a family still has to eat. We operate the Community Kitchen three days a week for that purpose, as well as provide a bag of food a week for people on a work-for-food program.
Hope. The adults and children in the family must believe that there's a reason for doing these things--that there can and will be a positive outcome in their lives. There are many ways to accomplish this- we have chosen the "Change your thinking, change your life" approach, from "Science of Mind", by Ernest Holmes. Bottom line, the people must become empowered and enabled, and thereby motivated, to work toward self-sufficiency.