Casa Alianza Nicaragua (CAN) opened in 1998 and was the fourth center in Latin America. Located in the capital of Managua, it has two residential centers and several programs that offer assistance to homeless children and teenagers in need of aid.
Maria Jose Arguello Ramos has been the national director of Casa Alianza Nicaragua since 2010. Arguello had previous experience in the Philippines and Nicaragua in the empowerment of women and children, especially with victims of trafficking and violence, and has been the president of FENICT (Federation of Therapeutic Communities in Nicaragua) since 2012.
Programs unique to Casa Alianza Nicaragua
The Hilton Residence
The Hilton Residence, based in the center of Managua, can care for up to 70 boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 17 per night.
The residence dormitories are divided between boys and girls, and are again separated into areas for children with addiction problems and children who are victims of exploitation and trafficking. There is also a large communal area for workshops and therapy sessions, a small horticultural area where the kids learn about gardening and cultivating crops and a soccer field and basketball and volleyball courts.
Residence for teenage mothers
The residence for teenage mothers houses up to 10 teenage moms and their babies, as well as teenage girls who are pregnant. The majority of residents are victims of commercial sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence.
Infant and child specialists instruct parenting classes for young mothers, while daycare is provided so mothers can continue their education and participate in vocational training classes, building skills that will help them obtain gainful employment in the future. There is also a clinic, a communal area for workshops and group therapy sessions and a play area with games and toys for the babies.
Micro enterprise program
Since extreme poverty is one of the most important reasons for the abandonment of children in Nicaragua, Casa Alianza Nicaragua has taken steps to help family members build futures through economic empowerment opportunities.
Casa Alianza Nicaragua offers vocational courses in sewing, baking, jewelry making and small business administration for teenagers living in our shelters and participants in community development projects. Upon completing the training, participants of this program design and present micro-enterprise business plans related to the kind of business they want to start.
The participants have been able to combine the skills gained in the training courses to both create and sell their own products. Casa Alianza Nicaragua provides regular support to these entrepreneurs.
Escuela Taller is an income generating vocational training program open to all qualifying Casa Alianza youth. The project provides four vocational tracks designed to meet modest product and service demands in their communities that have included bread making, hammock production, sewing and tailoring services and catering.
For example, Cuchara Nica (the “Nicaraguan Spoon” in English) is a simple, community-based restaurant and accompanying food-truck operated by our youth in training. Another very popular and successful program of Escuela Taller is its Metal Workshop.
Designed as a training program with a self-financing business model, Escuela Taller has a two-fold objective: (1) provide at-risk youth, many of whom who struggle with addictions, with vocational courses that are therapeutic and prepare them to enter into further specialized technical/vocational schooling that will allow them to find work upon graduation, and (2) generate self sustaining operational revenue through the sale of goods and services provided by the students.
Gender equality and sexual diversity
Casa Alianza Nicaragua’s commitment to advancing gender equality permeates throughout our programs and continues to be a leading example to other NGOs – both locally and internationally.
Thanks to our 2011 Girl Power project, and subsequent design of institutional gender policy in 2013, CAN now integrates gender awareness at every angle, from staff training to program design to care of kids.
For instance, we creatively leverage our youth’s love of soccer into a classroom for gender inclusiveness. This soccer team (equally consisting of boys and girls) even got the chance to play in the Street Child World Cup of 2014 in Brazil.
Combatting human trafficking on the Caribbean coast
Marked by acute poverty, low levels of development and social exclusion, the youth in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coastal Autonomous Region often find themselves caught up in the clutches of narco-trade, widespread forms of violence, drug addictions and human trafficking.
With current support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of International narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Casa Alianza Nicaragua is teaming up with Global Communities and an alliance of local NGOs to combat human trafficking in this region. Their contributions include victim identification, local capacity building and immediate services to those suspected of trafficking.
In 2011, Casa Alianza reached out to nearby barrios, where many of its residents come from, to see what they could do to prevent them from falling into addiction, homelessness and street life. They began community outreach work in the neighborhood of Santo Domingo, near the Hilton Residence, one of many extremely poor and dangerous neighborhoods that are not equipped to protect their kids.
Based on the success in Santo Domingo, Casa Alianza expanded this model in two other surrounding barrios, Rubén Darío and 19 de Julio. Today, gang activity and addiction have been reduced, many more children are in school, and community members now have small cottage industries.