WENY News - IBREA Foundation is Fighting Gang Violence in El Salvador by Emp

IBREA Foundation is Fighting Gang Violence in El Salvador by Empowering Minds

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NEW YORK, Aug. 29, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- El Salvador has the world's highest homicide rate for children-largely due to gang activity. Rather than being a safe haven, many schools and their surrounding areas are controlled by gangs. The government has made countless efforts to combat violence inside the schools with little success. Perhaps the answer is in the mind.

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In 2011, IBREA Foundation began its brain-based holistic education program in El Salvador's public schools. Through a specialized curriculum, IBREA's program takes participants through a process of releasing strong stressors in the body and brain to find inner peace-and then project this strength to peers, family, and community. IBREA's program now reaches 25 percent of all Salvadoran public schools. For his work in creating "cultures of peace inside the schools" Mr. Ilchi Lee, president of IBREA Foundation, is being presented with the José Simeón Cañas National Award by President Cerén of El Salvador on September 12 at 12 p.m. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in San Salvador. The award to Mr. Lee was made possible due to the outpouring of gratitude from many teachers who witnessed their school's security and students' lives change.

In a country of 6.5 million, over 500,000 Salvadorans are involved in gangs, including gang members' relatives who are coerced into crime. Gangland wars between MS-13 and Barrio 18 leave children with few options but to flee their country. In fiscal year 2016, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended a record 17,512 unaccompanied Salvadoran minors. Schools are key. Teachers experience regular threats and extortion. "We fear reprisals from the gangs. Any decision you take and they don't like, like disciplinary action against a pupil, can bring a threat," says one teacher. The Ministry of Education reports that in the first half of 2017, over 12,000 students dropped out of school due to violence.

Laura, one of IBREA's first students, is a living example of overcoming social violence through changes in mindset and behavior. She describes how the only way for her to overcome her mom's death at the hands of a street gang was to change her destiny: "IBREA's program gave me tools to relieve my stress, my anger, my resentment. I see many kids around me falling into gang networks. I learned that if I don't give up in my choice for peace, people around me don't give up, and so will the people around them. That's how we can end violence."


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