El Espino is a juvenile detention center for boys located outside the city of Ahuachapán, near the border of Guatemala. El Espino houses approximately 290 teens, most of whom are members of street gangs. The Success Academy at El Espino currently has 80 boys enrolled. Orphan Helpers, in partnership with the Rotary Club, has installed a computer lab and a library at El Espino.
“Sendero de Libertad” (Path of Freedom) houses around 550 teen boys, of which 85 are participating in the Success Academy. Due to Orphan Helpers’ sponsorship of a library and computer lab, college classes are currently available at Sendero.
The Female Social Integration Center (CISF) is a detention center is housing about 230 teen girls. Currently, 52 girls are studying in the Success Academy.
The Tonacatepeque Juvenile Detention Center houses nearly 340 teen boys. Many of these young offenders are associated with street gangs. Currently, 85 boys are attending the Success Academy.
CISNA (Center for Social Integration for Children and Adolescents) is a state-run protection center for about 25 youth between the ages of 11-18. Many of the boys at CISNA have suffered abuse or abandonment and have been found living on the streets. Five of the boys are part of the Success Academy.
“I would like to testify what God has done in my life through Orphan Helpers. God started to shape my life and character through the Success Academy. That’s where the brothers from Orphan Helpers in El Salvador teach us. I have understood something very special about them. They are motivated by God’s love and a love for us,” Martin says gratefully.
Many youth like Martin hit rock bottom when they find themselves incarcerated behind bars. Most of them have experienced abandonment or neglect by parents and relatives. When little or no adult supervision is coupled with enticement from peers who want to despitefully use them, the result is often poor choices that lead to imprisonment. In this broken state, though, can come tremendous healing.
WHY SUPPORT YOUTH IN EL SALVADOR?
Orphan Helpers exists to transform the lives of more young people like Martin. Our goal is to lift abandoned and incarcerated youth out of their desperate situations and equip them for success in their community.
Orphan Helpers serves in four detention centers in El Salvador–three for boys and one for girls. In addition, we work in one protection center for youth who have been abandoned or abused. Our Success Academies inside these centers provide these youth with life skills, leadership training, Bible studies, and vocational workshops.
After graduation from the Success Academy and upon release from the detention center, Academy graduates are mentored by a Success Coach. The Success Coach identifies community resources and connects youth to job opportunities, churches, housing options, and other resources critical to their successful transition into society and adulthood.
13 abandoned and incarcerated boys and girls graduated from the first Success Academies in El Salvador in 2016. In 2022, 307 are enrolled! Our Success Coaches work with the youth as they’re released.
To succeed, many of these youth also need services such as trauma counseling and tattoo removal. Above all, they need an opportunity to work and become a productive member of their society.
EL SALVADOR TEAM
El Salvador Country Director
Facilitator at CISF
Success Coach Enterpreneur
Facilitator at CISF
Facilitator at El Espino
Facilitator at Tonacatepeque
Facilitator at El Espino
Facilitator at Sendero
"Before I was sent to the girls detention center, I knew about the Lord but I did not pray or read the Bible. My heart was broken.
When I came to this place, I met Alicia (an Orphan Helpers teacher) through her art workshop. The Lord put her in my path. As time passed by, she would talk to me about God and teach me many things
My character was very strong, but Alicia would pray for me and talk to me. She taught me to have patience and to treat the other girls kinder. I felt the Lord helped me change.
The Success Academy has helped me to know more about the Lord and things that I did not know before. It has helped me to grow more as a person. In the leadership skills classes, I have learned about values and how I need to behave when going through an interview, completing a résumé, and how to manage finances
I believe God has done amazing work in me. Before I met Him, I had no idea what He could do in my life."
(Tania served nearly four years at the juvenile detention center for girls in El Salvador. Today she is back in school, completing her high school degree.)