National Impact Community: San Juan, PR

Puerto Rico Community Foundation

About the Applicant

The Puerto Rico Community Foundation was established in 1985 to develop the capacity of communities to achieve social and economic transformation by stimulating community philanthropic investments. The Foundation’s 2018 strategic focus is to expand access to social, economic, and natural resources for community recuperation and renovation in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The Foundation’s goals are divided across six strategic initiatives: Food and Water, Energy and Environment, Housing, Education, Economic Development, and Philanthropy. The Foundation also led the coordination of Puerto Rico’s formal response to the original MBK Community Challenge issued by the White House in 2014.

About the Project

The Puerto Rico Community Foundation will fund the Loíza Alliance for Peace, a collaboration among youth-serving community organizations that participated in the Foundation’s 2015-16 MBK Planning process. Through concerted efforts that date back almost 10 years, the organizations that compose the alliance provide violence prevention mentorship, negotiation, workforce development, and educational opportunities to boys, youth and men of color in the town of Loíza.

The Foundation is committed to engaging the alliance as a whole, serving as its fiscal sponsor and matching MBK Community Challenge Competition funds. The program is an expansion of Taller Salud’s Acuerdo de Paz (Peace Accord), Puerto Rico’s only tertiary community violence prevention program. Acuerdo de Paz is a local adaptation of the University of Illinois’ CureViolence evidence ­based public health model, in which violence is understood as a social illness.

The program emerged from community-­based efforts to respond to an increase in gun violence in 2009. Violence interrupters are trained to detect grievances and intervene to prevent a violent event from occuring. Interrupters are mentors who carry a caseload of 15 participants at high-risk to commit or be the victim of a violent act. Acuerdo de Paz saw a 53 percent decrease in homicides during its first year of implementation and a 90 percent decrease since its inauguration in February 2012.

Mid-Year Update

Since An Alliance for Peace in Loíza became an MBK Alliance National Impact Community member, they have worked to reduce violence, increase educational opportunities, and create new economic opportunities for boys and young men of color in Puerto Rico.

In January 2019, Taller Salud was recognized as a partner to reduce violence in three zones of Loíza: Medianía Alta, Medianía Baja, and Pueblo. As part of this effort, 30 young people between ages 15-25—survivors of violent acts or at high risk—has started. Taller Salud utilizes three Violence Interrupters and three Community Outreachers, and they are developing and running individualized plans for each participant. The young people participated in seven community activities, from leadership workshops to community excursions, to foster dialogue among the participants about their intentions to solve conflicts without violence.

Another partner organization, Nuestra Escuela, is working toward providing high school equivalency courses to high-risk youth from the selected zones. During this period, Nuestra Escuela hired its MBK Coordinator and initiated interviews to hire teachers for Loíza. In March 2019, Nuestra Escuela received a closed school in Parcelas Vieques from the Government of Puerto Rico, where they started providing educational services to 50 students selected from the impacted zones in August.

In an effort to join forces, a campaign called “Problems are Solved Speaking” was designed, bringing together Taller Salud, the Municipality of Loíza, and Nuestra Escuela. An awareness walk was held with 300 participants to encourage conversations between community members that disavow violence as a way to manage conflicts.

Key Implementation Partners

  • Puerto Rico MBK
  • Taller Salud
  • Nuestra Escuela
  • Municipality of Loiza