Programa Velasco began in December 2007, as a scholarship program for childrenenrolled in a child development center within New Dawn Association of El Salvador, ANADES. The center faced a financial crisis while trying to sustain itself and still providing affordable tuition fees for families who lived in extreme poverty. At the time, Juan Velasco, a professor from Santa Clara University was living in El Salvador and teaching with the university's study abroad program, Casa de la Solidaridad. Annie Boyd, a friend of Juan’s and a Casa alum, worked for the Casa and served as a volunteer social worker at the center.
Given the financial situation that the center and families faced, Juan and Annie wanted to ensure that more children would have access to early childhood education. To sustain the center while still offering families affordable tuitions fees, Juan came up with an idea to provide a scholarship to a child. The center greatly appreciated his initiative because with the scholarship, the child’s family could pay a lower tuition fee while the center received enough funds to operate. Juan and Annie encouraged more friends and family to sponsor a child. With time, more children attended the center and more members of the international community were involved in the program. In honor of Juan's initiative, the staff at the center named the program after him. From 2008 through 2014, Programa Velasco supported about 35 children a year and since 2015, we have supported 50 children a year through the generosity of sponsors from the United States, Canada and Spain.
Juan and Annie continued to reflect on how Programa Velasco could respond to the needs of the community and families. They saw that just providing a scholarship was not enough to protect children’s rights and ensure they had an integral education. Families needed access to social services and mothers needed opportunities to gain economic security.
Juan and Annie continued to reflect on how Programa Velasco could respond to the needs of the community and families. They saw that just providing a scholarship was not enough to protect children’s rights, support family unity and promote self sufficiency. As a volunteer social worker, it was evident to Annie that families needed access to social services and mothers needed opportunities to gain economic security. At the same time, Juan and Annie understood that it was more ethical and culturally appropriate that the social worker role be a paid position and held by a Salvadoran instead of a foreign volunteer. With this as a priority, Programa Velasco began to grow its program areas to include Family Support Services and the Women’s Empowerment Project. To achieve this end, Programa Velasco created its mission: “to educate and empower children and entrepreneurial women in El Salvador to build strong families and create better futures."
PV has the unique ability to connect resources with the deep local knowledge that ensures its programming is both born out of and flexible to the beneficiaries’ needs and desires. Staff backgrounds and experience in women’s entrepreneurship and the social sciences provide skills that allow for quality implementation and the project’s monitoring and evaluation.