Before the project began, the drug dealers ran these beaches, so you would never see this. The people simply stayed away.
Andres Cortéz lives just two-hundred metres down the road from the Moín School in Costa Rica. He wants to become an engineer, but for now, he is looking forward to finishing his 6th year at school. However, only six months ago, 11-year old Cortéz was reluctant to go to school and his mother worried about his safety and his future.
“We had five robberies in a month and a half,” says Silvia Raudes, Principal of the Moín School, of criminals that used to come at night and strip the tiny school bare.
“They took everything they could – the chairs, the desks, the books, even the bars on the windows. They took the tin roof one time,” she says, pointing up to the new one.
High rates of crime and unemployment are facts of life in Moín and the surrounding communities. Security wasn’t just a problem for the school but for the community in general. So while APM Terminals Moin is investing in local education, social development and environmental initiatives, the success of these initiatives as well as the positive impact the terminal has had on the community is largely due to the attention being given to security. According to the contract, APM Terminals has agreed with the Costa Rican government to reserve 7,5% of the port’s gross income for sustainable initiatives within the Limón community.
Free to learn again
There are no more robberies at the Moín School and the reason why is parked just outside the front gate: a K9 security patrol. Hired by APM Terminals, the guard sees the kids off in the afternoon and then begins patrols of the area until morning. Also, a new fence now surrounds the perimeter of the school grounds.
As a result, the Moín School’s 108 children are back in regular attendance, according to Principal Raudes. The new desks, chairs and roof, along with pens and pencils are all still there, while the new paint on the outside of the building makes it shine in the sunlight.
They took everything they could – the chairs, the desks, the books, even the bars on the windows. They took the tin roof one time.
APM Terminals has brought these and other major improvements as well, including internet access and durable, Wi-Fi-enabled XO laptop computers for all 108 students. It has also sponsored the school’s involvement in science and innovation fairs and other learning journeys about robotics, space and other programs that were once outside the school’s financial reach.
“There are 78 families in this community. We don’t have the resources of urban schools,” says Raudes.
“Now, the children have a safe school and an environment where they can be children and focus on learning, rather than worrying about their safety. And, they also have technology now. No one in this community has internet access or laptops, but now the students do. They are very proud. They look forward to coming to school now and don’t have to worry when they go home.”
Public places flourish again
Jaime Quesada is the Head of Security for APM Terminals Moin. As he manoeuvers his four-wheel drive pickup truck through the mud of the terminal site, he talks about the history and impact of drugs on the local community. Smugglers still bring drugs from Colombia, he says, and it still provides an income for some poor locals that help move it along. “But the difference now is like night and day,” he says.
Quesada points to a family with small children playing on the beach just on the other side of APM Terminals Moin’s perimeter fence. Another group of young adults are swimming and throwing a ball in the water. People now come with picnics and to watch the construction, he says. The sky is overcast, but the people are here enjoying themselves.
“Before the project began, the drug dealers ran these beaches, so you would never see this. The people simply stayed away,” he says.
“But not anymore. The project site security, school patrols and our partnership with the police has brought safety back to the area. People are back on the beaches.”
Teamwork with local authorities
The Limón police are one of APM Terminals closest and most important collaborators and partners. The security patrols that APM Terminals conducts around its project perimeter act as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police. They share information with each other about illegal or suspicious activity in the area as well as routine things like accidents on the roads into and out of the project site.
“This is a huge infrastructural project with a lot of activity taking place in and around it. Besides the tight security the terminal keeps, there are also a lot of workers and officials coming in and going out. So the criminals don’t feel comfortable operating here anymore. We have definitely noted a decrease in crime in Moín after the project began,” says Nelson Barquero, Deputy Director of the Limón Police.
“APM Terminals wants to improve security and to promote the development of this community, and it wants to join forces with us to achieve this,” he says. “Having a partnership like that is very effective and it also makes an impression on the public. It puts them at ease and makes our job easier and the city safer.”