Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty in Puerto Rico

Commitment by Comic Relief

In 2020, Comic Relief USA, in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico (BGCPR), committed $1 million to support the launch of the Vimenti Project, a comprehensive program to address generational poverty. In Puerto Rico, nearly six in 10 children live in poverty – a higher poverty rate than any other jurisdiction in the United States. Puerto Rico is also disproportionately impacted by generational poverty, a long-term situation where a family has lived in poverty for two generations or longer. To address this challenge, Comic Relief will support the opening of a new BGCPR campus adjacent to the Ernesto Ramos Antonini housing project in San Juan, which will house wraparound services for children and their families, including academic support, case management, health services, psychosocial support, and job skills training and career opportunities. Ultimately, this program will provide two-generation support to 2,000 low-income children and their families.



Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty in Puerto Rico



Est. Duration

1 Year

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean


Puerto Rico

Commitment by

Comic Relief

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

Boys and Girls Club of America; Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico

Comic Relief USA, through the Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Fund (HIH), has committed $1 million over 18 months to partner with Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico (BGCPR) to launch the Vimenti Project, a comprehensive economic development program to help children and their families overcome generational poverty and continue the recovery process. This work emerges from BGCPR’s 50-year track record on the island of offering well-respected out-of-school programs to children and youth between the ages of six and 18. Comic Relief USA's grant will support the opening of a new campus adjacent to the Ernesto Ramos Antonini housing project in San Juan, which will house the program and serve 2,000 low income children and youth and their families from the housing project and surrounding communities.

Specifically, this funding will enable critical aspects of this project including the land survey; as built drawings; the architectural proposal and design; ADA Compliance Phase; and the initial construction of the campus. This new campus will offer classrooms designed for differentiated learning and both indoor and outdoor space for learning, recreation, meals, culinary programming, and an adult learning and training center.

Once opened, the center will enable the full implementation of the Vimenti Project to provide high-touch, wraparound, two-generation support for children and their families that aims to break the cycle of generational poverty for these families. Support will be provided in three main areas: educational (academic and post-secondary educational support), social (case management, social and emotional skills development, health and wellness screenings, and provision of healthy food), and economic (entrepreneurship and job skills training, and career incubation through exploration, assistance and placement). The project will also collect data and conduct research to inform public policy and serve as a demonstration site for other Clubs and nonprofits. To complete the opening of the new campus, BGCPR has secured additional philanthropic funding and will continue to raise funds to support the project.

Comic Relief's support of the new BGCPR center will be carried out with the following key milestones.

February 18th, 2020: MEL site visits conducted

February 21st, 2020 - May 30th, 2020: Architectural design completed

February 21st, 2020 - June 20th, 2020: ADA Compliance Phase

May 30th, 2020 - April 21st, 2021: School construction phase

April 30, 2020: Six-month narrative report due

October 31, 2020: Annual report due

November 2020: Final $250,000 disbursement to BGCPR

April 30, 2021: Final report due


Before Hurricane Maria’s catastrophic landfall in Puerto Rico in 2017, the majority of the Island’s children – 377,000 (58%) – lived in poverty. The extreme poverty rate was 31%, equating to nearly one out of every three children living in a household with income that was 50% or less than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). These rates of poverty and extreme poverty surpass that of traditionally marginalized populations in the United States, including Hispanic children (26%) and African American children (33%).

The issue of child poverty in Puerto Rico becomes even more alarming when one considers the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, combined with the island’s declining child population overall. Between 2007 and 2017, there was a 35% reduction in the overall population under the age of 18 due to migration and low birth rates. The fact that most of Puerto Rico's dwindling child population lives in poverty has disastrous implications for Puerto Rico’s workforce, social well-being, and overall economic and fiscal sustainability. Even worse is the prevalence of generational poverty, a long-term situation where a family has been in poverty for two generations or longer. Among those that are under age 35, 60% make minimum wage and are not employed full-time. The island also has a disproportionate number of college graduates that don’t make minimum wage. As a result, many people have little hope for upward mobility due to lack of resources, funding, education, and infrastructure. Post-Maria, a report cited that 35% of families said that they would leave the island if they were given the opportunity to do so.

Hurricane Maria opened fissures, exposing and worsening complex and persistent issues such as violence, hunger, and poverty. Now, two years after Hurricane Maria and following the recent earthquakes, the island is facing donor fatigue and waning philanthropic interest, presenting a challenge for nonprofits on the island who are dedicated to maintaining momentum towards long-term recovery.

Partnership Opportunities

The Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico are still actively fundraising for the Vimenti Project and would welcome financial resources and matching grant opportunities up to $9 million to support the full operations of the program. The partners would also welcome media support, field and thought leadership partnerships, and the exchange of best practice information. As part of this commitment, the Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico will be conducting critical research on the two-generational poverty alleviation programming they are leading with other thought leaders in the space and would be a good source to share best practice information.

Progress Reports

February 2021

As of October 2020, the project is on track with the architectural, contract RFP’s and permit phase completed. Due to COVID-19, there are concerns with completing Phase I by August 2021 as originally planned. They are still working to that goal and will put contingencies in place to maintain the goal of students and population served at the current Vimenti site.

The programmatic and outreach targeted goals were reached this past fiscal year as reported in the midyear report. Beginning in March 2020, Vimenti School, virtual daily Club programming and parent and student social/emotional/health and economic supports were expanded through virtual outreach efforts.

This grant program is tracking to two macro goals and outcomes. The first being the construction of the new Vimenti campus, and the second towards eradicating poverty in Puerto Rico. At the year mark, progress has been in the following ways:

In terms of building the new campus in accordance with the timeline agreed upon by Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Comic Relief/Hand-in-Hand, the design phase was completed. Construction timeline remains the same but may be impacted by COVID-19. Architecture drawings were completed. $168k in permits were submitted with approvals expected in October 2020 and contractor RFP’s been sent.

The timeline for construction remains as follows: ADA Compliance Phase is July to December 2020, and School Construction Phase is July 2020 to July 2021.

In terms of the effort to eradicate poverty in Puerto Rico, BGCA has opened up programs at Vimenti for the whole family which includes training for employment and entrepreneurship for the parents and offering support services including case management in order to address barriers to learning or to find employment.