Neither co-founder Lucien Vouillamoz nor managing director Daniel Rincón Hanna of Ganydar came from the world of charities. The former, who started his career as a nuclear scientist, embarked on a spiritual quest, studying theology in South America; the latter, a trained engineer, studied in Lausanne before becoming a consultant. Together, they decided on a change of course and to try to empower South American youth.
Vouillamoz visited El Guasmo, a large slum in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 1983. There he saw a very poor mother, who had transformed her ad-hoc settlement into a warm burrow. Vouillamoz asked her what she would dream of and she replied: “To give my children the right education; I know I will never be able to.” Struck by a feeling of helplessness and injustice, he made a promise to himself that he would try to bring change.
They created Ganydar, a foundation to provide tools to hand-picked workshop-schools in Latin America so that apprentices may learn a craft and earn a decent living. The name is derived from ‘ganar’ (to win/receive) and ‘dar’ (to give) in Spanish. “It encapsulates our belief that we are responsible for creating development opportunities for those who wish to work hard and prosper,” says Rincón Hanna.
Today, research is one of the key pillars of the foundation. “Lucien, being an engineer, made it clear to us that there should be a spirit of research behind everything Ganydar does,” says Rincón Hanna. Following a first study, Ganydar’s vision was translated into a series of programmes. The study led to a 1,000-page report that compiled data and solutions to empower Latin Americans. “We came to the conclusion that we would invest in education only, focusing on 20 to 40 year olds, targeting employment as an end goal and raise entrepreneurship among them to increase their buying power.” Ganydar chose to support schools that trained construction workers.
The foundation buys equipment directly from Bosch and delivers it to schools. Through a two-year programme (six months of theory and 18 months of practical courses), young professionals learn their trade. They then work on the restoration of heritage buildings of their own village or town, mixing theory with business and, most importantly, building self-esteem in being useful to the community. “As soon as they regain a sense of belonging and purpose, the impact is straightforward,” says Vouillamoz.
Ganydar chose to focus on youngsters that are neither working nor studying. “They tend to come from broken homes, or live on the streets. Their social reinsertion is often difficult: they steal, fall into prostitution or end up washing cars. By offering them something they can easily earn a living from, we bring them back into the development curve,” says Rincón Hanna.
The foundation is a success. More than 1,500 students have graduated from the workshop-schools in Cuba. According to the AECID (Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional y Desarrollo) 79 percent of Ganydar graduates find employment when they graduate, while 66 percent of Ganydar graduates find employment in the field they studied.
In the future, Ganydar is looking to establish two programmes: one that revolves around tools for schools; the other around offering tools to graduates. “Tools are expensive and few can afford them once they ‘graduate’ from the two-year programme. The transition is sensible, yet tool kits are fundamental to fostering entrepreneurship,” says Rincón Hanna.
Another step the foundation would like to take is that of embracing the hospitality sector. “Many youngsters earn a lot through tips; much more than they will ever make studying for a real job. As many South American countries are opening up, the idea is to train youngsters in hospitality; we are designing a specific programme. We want the tourism influx to be non-detrimental to the local communities; we want to help them preserve their heritage, their culture, through sharing it,” says Vouillamoz.