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Daniel Antonio Rivera is a wheelchair user after being shot in the back. Photo: Celina Escher / IM

Turning the Gun That Hurt Daniel into Good Use

Published 30 January 2018

The bullets that hit Daniel Antonio Rivera in the back made him a wheelchair user for the rest of his life. Daniel is one of the victims of the “pandillas”, the criminal youth gangs of El Salvador. Through Humanium Metal IM is working to reduce violence and support its victims.

After being shot and the subsequent back injury eleven years ago Daniel was left by his wife to raise their eight month old daughter Catherine Cecilia on his own.

– I felt worthless and thought that I never again would be able to do something worthwhile. I became depressed and lost my appetite for life, said Daniel Antonio Rivera about the difficult time.

The young men that shot Daniel wanted “renta”, a cut of his income. Competing Pandillas fight over territory in El Salvador and civilians are often victims of violence and extortion. Gang violence is a huge problem for the country. Besides having the highest per capita murder rate in the world, the gangs cost 16 percent of the GDP, according to a study by the country’s central bank and the UN Development Programme.

Humanium Metal is a new material made of recycled metal from gun destruction programs. Proceeds from selling products made from Humanium Metal will be invested in violence reduction programs and support for people like Daniel. In El Salvador the need is gigantic. The country is more violent today than during the civil war that ended 1992.

Support led to a new job

After being shot Daniel could no longer work as a tuc-tuc driver. It was hard for him to find a new job because of discrimination against disabled people. This changed when he got in touch with one of IMs partner organizations, Fundación Red de Sobrevivientes.

– I got support from La Fundación and started seeing a psychologist. Then I learned how I could start my own business and I have managed to do things that I never thought possible, said Daniel Antonio River.

Sobrevivientes is a part of Humanium Metal and has made it possible to get access to the metal from the destroyed arms. IM supports Sobrevivientes program for economic empowerment which makes it possible for people like Daniel to become more self-reliant by running their own business or being a part of a savings and loans clubs.

Today Daniel is working as a locksmith and Catherine Cecilia is in school and soon to become a teenager.

– The best thing about making my own money is that I can provide my daughter with everything she needs. I always used to feel bad when I had to say no to her before, says Daniel Antonio Rivera.

Daniel now runs his own business and manufactures keys in his workshop at home. He lives in Quetzaltepeque close to the country’s capital San Salvador with Catherine Cecilia and girlfriend. They met when her keys got stolen.

Daniel Antonio Rivera being able to provide his daughter with what she needs does not only make him feel better. Now the family has the financial stability to plan for the future again. The impact of changing the situation for families in this way on the development of El Salvador is incalculable.


Today Daniel Antonio Rivera is working as a locksmith and runs his own company. Photo: Celina Escher / IM

Working as a locksmith has helped Daniel Antonio Rivera process the trauma of being shot by gang members. Photo: Celina Escher / IM