|MAKING A DIFFERENCE|
Fundación para la Capacitación y Mejoramiento Social del Joven Tórrense (FUNCAMET) began as a youth training center in 1990. Its goal was to open up opportunities for work and for youth in the city of Carora, Lara. In 2005, FUNCAMET was still one of the few training programs in the area, despite the scarcity of opportunities for a growing young population. A proposal presented to the IAF was built on a prior grant that helped consolidate its training methodology. The 2005 three-year grant focused on training 200 young entrepreneurs and aloe farmers with the hope of improving their chances for employment.
The 2011 census in Venezuela indicated that almost half the population age 15 and above had limited basic education and that only 4 percent held university degrees. Participants in the project came from the Torres semi-arid municipality where most worked in sugar cane harvesting or goat and dairy farming. Against that backdrop, FUNCAMET applied for IAF funding to train unemployed youth who had low levels of education and troubled family backgrounds.
Training centered on jobs in baking, ironworking, computers, tourism, and integrated management of aloe production. Other areas of training focused on self-esteem, leadership, health issues, and small business management.
Funding for the project was provided by a variety of sources. The IAF provided $157,170; FUNCAMET committed $63,840; and its partners and other community organizations contributed $37,300.
Additional findings regarding the project included the following:
- FUNCAMET trained 246 young people, 58 percent of them women, in personal development and job skills.
- The project met 80 percent of its expected goals to improve the results of aloe farmers and the functions of FUNCAMET.
- All of the young people interviewed said they had a formal job or some other productive activity.
- Eighty-seven percent of students interviewed said they have since continued their education.
- Young people said the most significant part of the program was the workshops on personal development.
- They said the workshops improved their self-esteem, motivation, and perseverance – all key elements in helping find, keep, or create jobs.
- Venezuela’s national plans for 2007–13 and 2013–19 included a focus on high-risk sectors that included children and young people.
| Cake and bread making students show their ponquesitos, or sweetened breads.
Results were collected and analyzed using the Grassroots Development Framework (GDF), which measures results in three areas: the individual or family, the organization or grantee partner, and the society or community. The young people who took part in the project gained leadership and communication skills that helped them in their business and political endeavors. FUNCAMET today operates an expanded training center funded by its aloe garden and other income-generating activities. A new law passed in 2014 aimed to promote more youth participation in the workplace through better technical and inter-personal training.
Responsibility: Even though they may have started the program to learn such specific skills as computing or baking, the students also gained an understanding of the importance of punctuality, fulfilling obligations, developing a work plan, and behaving appropriately in different environments. The students demonstrated increased responsibility in areas of education, work, and interacting with their families. Only 10 percent of the students at the training center quit the program. Former students maintained good relationships with their bosses and clients. Even among those students not currently attending school or holding a job, some are maintaining households and raising children, as well as sometimes operating an income-generating activity from home. One young man, Junior Indave, said he maintains the seven-year old tools he owns in proper condition and understands their value and importance for his ironworking business. He has done some repairs in his community that have helped him land more work.
Contribution: More than a third of those interviewed said they help in their communities. One young woman shared her bakery skills with family members and other young people by teaching them how to bake cakes. Another student passed along some basic computer skills learned in the program to children in his community. Several other young people also participate in community councils and events, and three are active politically. As for teachers, some helped rural students pay for their travel costs to the center, which in turn inspired some of the beneficiaries to do the same for others.
Ninety percent of the students interviewed said their training led to more opportunities. Fifty-seven percent considered the workshops on personal development the most impactful in their life, and nearly two of every three of those students found work either in the public or private sectors, with the rest being self-employed.
The majority of those interviewed said the program instilled in them the importance of training and motivated them to continue in that direction, either in another job program or studying at a university. Forty-four percent of those interviewed had graduated from high school and continued their studies, primarily in technical institutes. Based on its reputation, the FUNCAMET training opened doors at jobs and schools for students, some of whom had not yet finished secondary school.
One young man with bipolar disorder overcame his fear of public speaking, went on to study marketing, and became a local politician, with hopes of studying psychology.
Relations: Those interviewed said another major impact of the program was the friendships they made with other young people, teachers at the center, and FUNCAMET staff. Some of those connections continue today. The students modeled their behavior in part on how well the center and grantee staff interacted with them.
Family and teacher support also was critical. The personal development professor in particular was cited for helping students mature and during the business start-up process. Ties between the students continue today. A group of young people trained in tourism still regularly get together and support one another.
Resiliency: Eight-seven percent of the young people interviewed said they overcame major economic or social crises. They attribute their resiliency, flexibility, and willingness to take risks to the personal development courses they took. Those skills have proved vital in their persevering despite limited resources and a local economy that offers few jobs.
Unexpected Results: The program taught 35 farmers better agricultural practices to improve productivity and encouraged others to cultivate aloe. FUNCAMET also worked with women heads of households, teachers, and the wives of farmers, who also had access to start-up funding to initiate production of aloe-related goods. Thirty children in their last year of elementary school participated in workshops on how to make products such as soaps and cosmetics from aloe.
Although many students initially participated in order to develop skills in certain trades, the program also gave them a chance to discover their hidden skills and talents, as well as better understand the historical and cultural value of their municipality.
Migration was not viewed by students as an issue, although there is internal movement to cities to seek education, employment, and life opportunities. Lately, there has been increased emigration out of Venezuela, particularly among people who are educated. Even those interviewed expressed a desire to move to another city to improve job opportunities. In addition, robberies have increased, limiting where and when people can walk around.
FUNCAMET’s successful training ended with the project. Many students and staff moved on to local and national government jobs. Only FUNCAMET’s main location in Carora continued as a production and community center.
The students who participated in the program continue to benefit from the values and skills they learned, and are sharing them with others.
The project investment in FUNCAMET’s aloe garden now allows the organization to rent out rooms for events. Aloe production also supports activities.
The program’s integrated training focused on teaching trades, personal skills, marketing, and management. This enabled students to develop well-rounded skills for work, studies, and life at home.
Through an agreement with a local bank, FUNCAMET arranged a credit line for young microenterprise owners, but bank rules – such as the one requiring a guarantor who is not a family member to back the loan – proved too restrictive. Only two students obtained a loan to start up their activities. This led FUNCAMET to create a small grant program to provide raw goods (e.g., flour), materials (e.g., iron sheets), and tools for young people who had completed training. The grantee partner financed the program from sales of its aloe-based products.
The interaction of teachers and FUNCAMET staff with students, as well as the involvement of parents, helped make the program a success. The project also demonstrated to communities how young people could be responsible, contributing members of society.
What Did Not Work?
Near the project’s conclusion, FUNCAMET faced competition from a government training agency that paid students to attend. FUNCAMET discontinued its training courses both because of the competition and because it lacked a plan for project sustainability. Despite this, all of the former students who were interviewed said they did not feel they should have been paid to take FUNCAMET courses, even though they would have appreciated regular financial assistance for travel.
While FUNCAMET is locally recognized for its work and interest in the community, there has been little forward movement, perhaps due to a need to seek alliances.
FUNCAMET’s training methodology helped a specific group of disadvantaged young people develop skills and values to improve their lives.
FUNCAMET’s priority was the students’ continued improvement and development, while the students most valued the personal relationships they made with staff members and teachers. The organization felt more psychological assistance would have helped address some of the students’ issues.
FUNCAMET can recognize the work it accomplished and perhaps using the same values taught to the youth, build on and grow its success. perhaps seek the means they taught the youth to replicate their success.