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El Salvador is awash in violence. Fifteen years after the end of a bloody civil war, the small Central American country has become notorious for its vicious street gangs, or maras, as they are called.

Among the worst are the Mara 13 and Mara 18 which sell drugs, extort protection money and fight relentlessly for territory.
In Santa Ana, EL Salvador's second largest city, gang members are always on the lookout for new recruits.

They pressure youth, many as young as 10, to participate in criminal activities and prove their worth as foot soldiers - or face the consequences.

Fear and economic pressures force many to become part of the gang life, setting them on a violent course that too often ends in jail time for capital crimes or tragic death.
But an innovative organisation in Santa Ana, Barefoot Angels, has been battling for more than 10 years to shelter kids from violence and away from gang life.

Barefoot Angels staff run great risks, along with the children they help, and have witnessed dramatic results.

Producers Steve Baum and Adam Raney documented Barefoot Angels' daily struggle for the hearts and souls of EL Salvador's youth.

This episode of People & Power aired from Sunday, March 9, 2008.

Source: Al Jazeera