While Rory Smith was doing research for a master’s thesis on organized crime in Monterrey, Mexico, he saw why so many kids turn to gang membership. “Education is no longer seen as an avenue for social mobility,” Smith writes in Good. “Jobs are scarce, and the state is for the most part absent, abusive, and corrupt.”
In 2013, Smith and two other social scientists founded Escalando Fronteras (Climbing Borders), a nonprofit designed to teach at-risk youth in Monterrey how to rock climb. In a community full of broken families, frequent exposure to violence, and a pervasive sense of powerlessness, Smith believes outdoor sports can inspire confidence and positivity in kids.
“Getting to the top of a climb is a major achievement for these youth; it’s an accomplishment that they themselves thought impossible,” Smith told Mashable.
“To show themselves that they can accomplish something from their own willpower is the first step in showing them that they can do a lot more than they ever thought possible with their lives.”
On Monday, Escalando Fronteras began a crowdfunding drive to raise $30,000 for a youth center in Monterrey—a permanent facility with climbing walls and space for tutoring and career mentorship. The group’s website says that 30,000 underage Mexicans live as child soldiers. So far, they’ve saved 142. With a new facility, Escalando Fronteras hopes to expand that number into the thousands.