With the help of the Wall Award, David G. Calvert '75 plans to launch Jóvenes Constructores de Centroamérica, an initiative that will provide job training, life skills, and community service opportunities for 5,000 unemployed youth in four countries in Central America. The project has a five-year projected budget of $15 million dollars, and Calvert is "delighted" that the first donation came from Grinnell.
"It will greatly strengthen my ability to make this project surge forward if I can bring U.S. funding to bear," he says. "Grinnell provided the kick-start."
Calvert double-majored in history and communication at Grinnell, and describes himself as "the classic liberal arts student." While refining his writing, public speaking, and research skills at Grinnell, Calvert says he was "driven to help build social justice and a better world."
Calvert sees that commitment to social responsibility as something inherent in the Grinnell College experience. "The Grinnell College mission states that '[t]he College aims to graduate women and men ... who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good,'" Calvert points out. "I think we all felt that in the 1970s, and I trust that many current students at Grinnell are making similar judgments."
After graduating from Grinnell, Calvert returned to New York City, where he helped organize and led the first YouthBuild projects. The program operates with the central philosophy that unemployed and out-of-school youth from inner cities have the interest and motivation to "rebuild their communities and improve their life prospects." Since 1978, YouthBuild USA has engaged 60,000 youth in more than 2,000 renovation projects across the nation and forged working alliances with similar organizations at an international level. Calvert founded and has managed the program in Mexico since 2003.
Jóvenes Constructores de Centroamérica (JCC) is a formal initiative of YouthBuild USA, and will provide work and training opportunities for low-income and unemployed youth in communities in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The region has been afflicted with problems of violence and gang activity since the mid-1990s, leading to an "anti-youth backlash" from community members and local government, and significant youth emigration. Calvert sees JCC as a means to provide constructive alternatives for youth in the region. Working with allies in the government, business, and civil sectors, the program will establish 250 locally operated community reconstruction projects over the next five years to provide training and life skills for young people, producing 750 community improvement works.
"Central American youth desire, but lack, options to stay and invest in their home communities." Calvert states. "This is something the region needs and will rally around, and we'll help mobilize the resources, energy, and vision to make it happen."
Calvert invites Grinnellians of any age who are interested in getting involved to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.