Lorena CUERNO CLAVEL
Fellow Since 1998
This profile was prepared when Lorena Cuerno Clavel was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Lorena Cuerno is determined to reach out to the legions of disaffected youth who are growing up in an environment of economic and social insecurity, and who increasingly turn to drugs, crime and gang involvement in the absence of supportive alternatives. She knows there are no easy or immediate solutions, but Lorena has established a means for engaging young people on their own terms, through their own media, building on positive associations to create options for work and study, instead of violence. She performs, manages, organizes and provides follow-up to rock concerts and youth encounters, directed not only to adolescents already mired in illegal and anti-social behavior, but also to a wider audience which can be sensitized to the risks and costs of violence. With determination and courage, she ventures into marginal neighborhoods and public plazas to hold concerts, youth festivals and street performances which bring together hundreds, and sometimes thousands of adolescents. Musical performances are supplemented by workshops and the formation of youth groups where adolescents learn to explore, develop and articulate constructive ways of living. In El Salvador, a country plagued by social problems related to violence in the aftermath of a civil war, many organizations have tried to work with youngsters in the promotion of non-violence. However, few have been successful, mostly because they lack the skills to deal in an integral way with the psycho-social, emotional and economic dimensions that lead youth to involve themselves with street gangs. Lorena focuses on one of the most critical aspects which can lead to the successful interaction of youngsters with society at large: verbal and written communication skills. She has realized that the best way to engage the youth is by framing her outreach in the musical genre they have embraced as their own. Lorena not only validates rock as a form of communication and expression for the recognition, acceptance and creation of new opportunities for these youngsters. She also uses it as means to reach otherwise-isolated adolescents who have lost all hope of finding alternatives to crime and unemployment.