Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The children and youth who form part of Vania’s Angels D1 program are often the forgotten casualties of the worst conditions in poor and marginalized urban life. Frequently malnourished and underserved by social welfare programs, they tend to have deserted their schools in order to work on the streets, earning meager revenue to supplement family incomes. Internal surveys administered by Ángels D1 reveal that 98% of the students are victims of physical, sexual and emotional household abuse. Such appalling violence, joined by the emotional effects of being forced to leave their schooling, contributes to poor self-esteem, depression, and feelings of low self-worth. Searching for any sense of emotional attachment and belonging, these children regularly join urban gangs and become involved in crime ranging from petty theft to the dangerous drug trade. Without any positive means to leave this environment, the children grow up marginalized in a society and become adults who perpetuate a cycle of violence and neglect.
Family poverty compels even young children to work in the streets, their parents having taken them out of schools to enter the informal economy. These youth often sell small products or perform entertainment activities at traffic lights or simply beg during excruciatingly long hours to earn paltry daily incomes. Most social programs meant to address this population and provide them with some sort of alternative tend to be short-lived, and have minor social impact; they are characterized by various charity models intended to help the children on a day-to-day basis while not offering meaningful changes and, most importantly, if the students don’t bring home money from begging, they are soon pulled out of the program
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Reaching one of the most difficult segments in urban communities, Vania Masías is transforming street children and at-risk youth in the most impoverished slum communities of Lima into productive leaders of society through her project Ángeles D1 (D1 Angels). She attracts young people between the ages of 8 through 18 to join her program which requires them to return to school, but offers them a support network of tutoring, counseling, and nutrition over five years; most importantly, she pays them not to go back to street begging through them dancing and teaching hip hop dances classes and performing in her dance troupeThe Ángels work in some of the most difficult barrios in metropolitan Lima, where the entire social environment discourages the healthy growth of the youth into productive members of society. Her comprehensive support program uses dance to bring youth into her five year program and provides a financial incentive to stay off the street while they go to school, have fun and develop into educated, self confident youth who are prepared to return to society as leaders with gainful employment. Through the personal attention and counseling that each member receives, Ángels D1 offers a positive and attractive alternative to joining street gangs, thus providing a sense of belonging to a damaged and often forgotten sector of the population.
Vania has developed a unique institutional model that both sustains the long-term project and serves as an example to the students of self-sufficiency. Her organization is comprised of three components. Ángels D1 is the principal social program working with the youth and is bankrolled by private dance schools, Escuelas D1, whose coaches are Ángels D1 students and graduates. A commercial enterprise, Dance Schools D1 are located in wealthier neighborhoods and serve wealthier students; income from these programs are used to finance the Angels D1 social program for street children.. Vania has also established a professional dance company, Cance Company D1, whose members are largely Ángels alumni. The company has participated in national and international dance tours, showcasing an at-risk youth ensemble as stars and ambassadors from impoverished Peruvian societies while also generating additional revenue and publicity for the core Ángels project. Through this tripartite scheme, Vania has created a sustainable enterprise that also in itself teaches the students values of self-sufficiency and financial administration.
Because of the financial model, Ángels D1 offers a powerfully replicable New Idea. To date Vania has directly taught about 2,000 street children and indirectly benefited thousands more. The five-year curriculum seeks to empower youth leaders, many of whom go on to open their own Angels D1 schools that employ Vania’s methodology. Now reintroduced into society, the alumni are instrumental in multiplying the scope of the project into other neighborhoods, cities, and even countries outside Peru. Opening a school in these areas requires low initial seed capital; rather, the alumni coaches are passionate standard-bearers for the program who capitalize on the positive and “cool” attitudes, combined with the growing publicity, associated with Ángels D1 to engage other communities of street children and turn them into leaders of a social franchise of Angels D1 which already has three operations, is close to opening four more throughout Peru and already has four requests for replication in Latin America.