SPOTLIGHT ON COMMUNITY
Lessons from Loíza, interrupting violence, inspiring hope
This past February, we checked in with the Loíza Alliance for Peace, one of our MBK National Impact Community partners, for a virtual site visit about their effort to keep violence in Loíza at all-time lows. The Alliance for Peace was born out of the idea of supporting youth in Loíza—a town of roughly 30,000 mostly Afro-descendant people—in the process of strengthening their quality of life and taking racial equity into account as part of the context for reducing local violence.
During the site visit, the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, the Municipality of Loíza, Nuestra Escuela, and Taller Salud described their individual and collective efforts on behalf of peacebuilding, democratic education, and conflict mediation among Loíza’s youth.
Though most in-person meetings and activities are halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Loíza Alliance for Peace staff and organizations have pivoted to serve young people through remote outreach, conflict mediation, educational services, and work opportunities. As violence began to spike in the second half of 2020, the Alliance leveraged their grant from our $1 million investment fund—created in the wake of the COVID-19 and ongoing racial injustice—to onboard more outreach workers and violence interrupters. The Alliance also activated a network of local businesses and community organizations to further fill the gaps of lost work opportunities for young people in light of the economic downturn.
Overall, from delivering food boxes and personal protective equipment in the community, to educational campaigns to encourage COVID-19 prevention measures, to providing electronic devices and Internet access to all staff members and participants, the Alliance stepped up to ensure its critical work continued.
As a result, while there is much more work to be done, this coalition has helped maintain violence levels in Loíza that are at all-time record lows. According to Taller Salud’s most recent data, deaths in Loíza were reduced nine last year compared to 42 in the previous year. When the organizations in the Alliance began exploring potential models to address youth violence in Loíza years ago, murder rates in Loíza were five times higher than the rest of Puerto Rico, consistently landing among the top 10 for the island, according to Impact Community Leader Alana Feldman Soler. Today, driven by the dedicated efforts of the Alliance, Loíza is not even on the charts.
“We will continue to work until we reduce the number of deaths to zero in the town of Loíza.”
Hear for yourself how the Alliance harnesses the resources, knowledge, and expertise of these organizations that have the community’s trust and the unique ability to engage youth to become change agents, all while navigating the challenges of being a town with limited political power in the oldest colony in the world. Join us for this special glimpse of our virtual tour. ¡Bienvenidos a Loíza!