05/29/2011 02:08 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2011

In Panama, Movimiento Nueva Generacion Inspires Youths Living In Huerta Sandoval Santana

In Panama, 17-year-old Dalys Perez lives in the Huerta Sandoval Santana, an area plagued by poverty, drugs and gang activity.

Because of familial hardships, Perez didn't attend school for three years. She says she was discouraged because, even though she considered herself to be living a good life, others would quickly judge her station by where she lived.

But, she tells UNICEF, "Mr. Hector" changed all that.

"I didn't go to school for a while because my mother was arrested...I became very depressed. It was then that Mr. Hector came to talk to me, that those things happen and I should not let it get me down."

Hector Bands, executive director of UNICEF-supported local community center Movimiento Nueva Generacion, encouraged her to join a dancing group at the center. Soon, she was volunteering to help others and started to make her way back to school.

Bands told UNICEF that it's all a part of his philosophy:

"One cannot choose the family where he or she is born...but it is completely false that if you are born in a neighborhood -- let's say El Chorillo, Curundu, or any neighborhood -- you are doomed to stay there."