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.