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Franciscan Ministry
Day Camp Provides Summer Creativity Outlet for Puerto Rican Youth

The young people of Sabana Seca, just outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, often don’t have it easy.

Many are threatened by violence, whether from local gangs or via domestic abuse. Poverty is a regular presence among struggling families, many led by single mothers who struggle to get by.

Fr. Angel Dario Carrero, OFM, came to the area in the 1990s, saw the problems, and decided to do something.

Fr. Angel Dario and fellow friars founded Ninos de Nueva Esperanza (Children of New Hope), a social service/education agency which tackles issues in the community. But he wasn’t able to see his work come to fruition. The friar, who became famous for his poetry, writing and social activism, a creative force in Puerto Rican life, died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 49.

Still his legacy lives on through the dedicated lay staff at Ninos de Nueva Esperanza.

During the school months, the agency offers education and family therapy programs. The goal is to make an impact on the struggles of the families of Sabana Seca, to offer hope that their children will succeed despite overwhelming odds. The program works year-round to provide academic training, especially in English, Spanish and math; social development via arts, theatre and sports, and family therapy, including support groups for parents and children.

When the school year ends, Ninos de Nueva Esperanza offers a day camp for children ages 4 to 16. This summer, a total of 134 young people are exposed to programs as varied as karate, art, and theatre, expanding their cultural and social horizons.

The day camp expands what is offered during the school year.

“Most of the children have economic problems and educational problems … We try and give them opportunities,” said Keishla 

Santana, executive director. A primary focus is on reading and other basic skills.

The goal, she said, is a lofty one.

“We are trying to form young leaders … We are trying to create a world of possibilities for their childhood,” she said.

The summer camp opens up vistas that otherwise would not be available to children growing up in Sabana Seca.

A class in photography was offered this summer, taught by a visiting teacher, Bro. Octavio Duran, OFM, a photographer and editor of The Franciscan Way, the mission magazine published by Franciscan Charities.

Bro. Octavio, who resides with the Franciscan community of Butler, New Jersey, was invited to teach the class by the Franciscan friars in Puerto Rico. He shares his skills with the young people of Sabana Seca.

The friar provides perspective on his decades of photography. He is most well-known for photos chronicling the ministry of St. Oscar Romero, archbishop and patron saint of El Salvador.

Bro. Octavio said he’s spotted talent at the camp, remembering in particular Alex, a young man who is now a professional photographer and a college graduate. Alex was part of the camp seven years ago and has gone on to a solid career in photography.

“I remembered that kid,” said Br. Octavio about the contact he made when he visited Puerto Rico seven years ago. Success stories such as Alex provided him with an incentive to teach at the camp this summer.

There are more creative possibilities as well. This year’s class photographed their environment, and their work is featured in this story. The creative legacy of Fr. Angel Dario lives on.

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