Jairo Blanchard lived the life of a gangster until age twenty-two. He then made the decision to turn his life around and return to his hometown of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. He now runs a non-profit called Recreation Sana (Healthy Recreation) as a way to try to intervene in the cycle of gang violence. It offers opportunities for the city’s youth to get invovled in healthy activities, such as sports, as a way of building life skills and fostering community.
Jairo Blanchard (center) holds a meeting for local youth to join a soccer league in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
Local youth crowd around Jairo Blanchard (center) as he signs them up to join a soccer league in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
Jairo Blanchard prepares to leave his house in Matagalpa, Nicaragua for a game of pickup soccer and some boxing with some of the neighborhood boys who are members of a gang called Mata Perros (The Dog Killers).
Jairo Blanchard (center back) referees soccer matches every Saturday for boys taking part in the soccer league run by Recreation Sana.
Jairo Blanchard (center) has to retrieve a soccer ball which flies into a neighbor's yard during a match. He climbs down into a ravine and then scales a wall and a fence. Many of the boys line the fence to watch, exclaiming in awe, “Look at him! He’s just like Spiderman!”
Jairo Blanchard (left) speaks with two boys in his neighborhood who are members of a gang called Mata Perros (The Dog Killers). He says this gang is one of the ones he has a lot of problems with because some of the members are involved with alcohol and drugs.
Jairo Blanchard (left) sits at home with his mother who he cares for. She is both blind and diabetic.
Jairo Blanchard, a former gang member, now runs a non-profit in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where he works with local youth in an effort to try and intervene in the cycle of gang violence.
Jairo Blanchard looks through a stack of old photos from when he was a gang member. He comes to one of himself posing in front of a bus. “That was my bus" he says. "I controlled that bus line,”
Jairo Blanchard greets his daughter at the end of the school day in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. His family is incredibly important to him and has helped him refocus his priorities and change his life.
Jairo Blanchard (center right) picks his daughter up from school in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
A boy holding a bottle of glue greets Jairo Blanchard on the street. Many of the street children sniff glue or sometimes even spray paint. Glue is cheap and they can often get it from shoe shops. The children aren’t necessarily homeless but may come from abusive homes.
There are times when Jairo Blanchard feels overwhelmed. His work is difficult and there are often obstacles to what he wants to achieve that can make him feel like giving up. But he presses on, finding strength in his faith and his family. As the afternoon sun burns down, he heads up a hill in his neighborhood to pick up his daughter from school.