Canada and El Salvador Find Innovative Ways to Support Youth at Risk

“The EsArtes/Stratford/CUSO International project in Suchitoto was born of the idea that the arts can help generate economic, social and human development; it can build safer and healthier communities, teach life skills and inspire creativity. I know this worthwhile project is making a difference in the lives of the youth of Suchitoto”

– Canadian Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Ablonczy

Es Artes students performed in Washington, DC, in November 2011, with Canada’s Minister of State Diane Ablonczy in attendance.  2011 marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between El Salvador and Canada.  To mark the occasion, the Embassy of Canada to El Salvador launched a Youth Anti-Violence campaign in partnership with the Central American initiative of Arts for Development “Es Artes”.  The effort was supported by Scotiabank, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s Anti-Crime and Capacity Building Program, Canada’s Mission to the Organization of American States and The National Institute for Sports of El Salvador.

EsArtes is a theatre arts school that receives volunteer support from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and from the Canadian University Service Overseas-Voluntary Service Overseas (CUSO-VSO). The school provides young people from Suchitoto, El Salvador, with an alternative to violence through cultural production creation, youth entrepreneurship and technical training.

“Theatre influences the entire life of a person and to know theatre and practice it is one of the things which permits you to better develop yourself in society and as a human being.”

– Erika, EsArtes Student

Through their work, the students of Es Artes have become promoters and ambassadors of the Youth Anti-violence Campaign “Think of Your Future, Say No to Violence”.

Working with El Salvador’s National Sports Association, the Es Artes theatre group held a workshop on alternatives to violence with over 300 youth from Mejicanos, a community  particularly hard hit by gang activity.  The EsArtes students presented a theatre piece and discussed the role their work was playing in transforming their future.