Apr 05, 2024

Empowering Second Chances: The adidas Back to the Game Program in Peru

Learn about the 3-Stripes program that gave nine young adults a second chance after their incarceration.
by Rodrigo Chavarri Manager Internal Communications

We not only believe our company purpose that “Through sport, we have the power to change lives”, but here in Peru, we also live it with our Back to the Game program. This program puts our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy to good use by attracting talents in underrepresented communities who might otherwise be ostracized from society.

In a world that often fixates on final scores, our adidas Peru team instead focuses on second chances and personal transformations.

"In our game, there’s always the chance of a comeback; there’s no time limit."

Rodrigo Chavarri Manager Internal Communications

Since December 2021, as part of the program, we hired nine young adults from the Center for Juvenile Rehabilitation in Lima, Perú. Over time, these individuals have shown how if given the opportunity and the proper mentorship, it’s never too late to get back on track.

How did our program begin? 

Our business puts us in a unique position where we can do more than just sign a check to make a donation: we can also donate shoes! And it just so happened that one of our donations brought us in touch with the Center for Juvenile Rehabilitation. And as fate would have it, after talking about how we’d like to donate our shoes, we discovered that they have a job placement program for when their residents move out of the center.   

We immediately felt like we could pitch in and help these young individuals reintegrate back into society by offering them store clerk roles in our retail stores. Our GM Raúl Marcenaro also felt like this was an opportunity in line with our purpose, that through sport, we have the power to change lives.  

"At adidas we believe that all people have the same rights and we believe that in the Center for Juvenile Rehabilitation in Lima, we will find many young people who have all the attitude and willingness to rebuild their lives. By giving them the opportunity to come work with us, it will allow them to have the platform and tools in the future to be able to find or rediscover their path". Raúl Marcenaro, GM Perú 

The program was set up for success from the start

Before we could propose and kick off the program, we definitely had our fair share of doubts. But little by little, once our Human Resources team addressed our concerns with the juvenile center’s staff, we came to understand how this could work.

What surprised us the most when we embarked on partnering up with the juvenile center’s job placement program, was how they had great team in place, fully dedicated to setting up these individuals for success. Because we also learned that not everyone at the center is right for the program.

Don Bosco’s earn their shot at a second chance

Getting back into the game requires hard work and determination. We wanted to open our program specifically to individuals who would make the best of it. Potential candidates should’ve demonstrated day in and day out that they had learned from their past and were ready to move on.

It just so happened that we found these candidates in the center’s Don Boscos. Don Bosco members are young men in the facility that have shown contrition for their actions and are putting in extra effort to show they’re ready for a second chance.

Changing the narrative

Did you know that over 2,700 young adults are currently incarcerated in Peru? And many of them will face the daunting challenges of being reintroduced back into society after their release; that includes being stigmatized for having a record, which will make it tougher to find work.

But we are here to change that narrative so that they can start rebuilding their lives. Mistakes are a part of life. And we can push ourselves to be more inclusive and diverse by supporting these stigmatized young individuals work through their past.

Through our Back to the Game program, we noticed that once you give a Don Bosco a proper job, it’s a life-changing experience for them. They’re grateful for the opportunity. They act professionally in a work setting. And best of all for their development, they leave behind those toxic elements in their life that led to their run-ins with the law.

Jhunnior Ramos, a Back to the Game participant, had this to say about the 3-Stripe’s role in giving him a second chance: “For me, adidas means a lot to me – and still does, because adidas brings unity, hope and above all, it gives you a family.”

We’re bringing positive change to underrepresented communities

It’s a delight to see the change in character and positive attitude adjustment we’ve seen in young men who wanted to join the program.

"By supporting underrepresented communities, we’ve even seen, first-hand, residents from the juvenile center pay it forward to others. "

Rodrigo Chavarri Manager Internal Communications

Let’s take a real-life example of two friends from the center who had applied for a position with us.  

One of them understood what was at stake with this program and admitted that even if he wasn’t selected, he’d be happy as long his friend from the juvenile center was selected for the program. Because to him, our program offers the kind of support to an overlooked demographic, where it’s more important that at least his friend gets back to the game.  

And I’m happy to say that we ended up choosing both applicants.  

And our adidas colleagues are all about teamplay 

At adidas, we believe that no matter a person’s background, if they’re putting their best foot forward, then we’re going to work together to win together. But we still wanted to give our staff a heads up about their new colleagues. So after the juvenile center agreed, we gathered the entire staff from the two Back to the Game participating stores to explain the program.  

We provided background on the program and explained how we’d taken all the necessary precautions – including getting the approvals – to make sure everyone feels safe.  

The response was just as we’d hoped: extremely positive. The questions that came up at the end of the all-hands session were all about how we could best collaborate to cultivate a shared mindset to help these young men make the best out of the opportunity.

Introducing this program has only instilled good vibes in everyone

Miguel Ríos, a program participant, expressed his gratitude of the warm reception since day one. He said, “Since I arrived at the store where they assigned me, I felt confident, and I felt affection. I feel happy for the opportunity adidas gave us. I want to be an example for my family and maybe later be an example for other young people”

After a year and half of working with us, Miguel’s renewed sense of freedom even came with a promotion, from Stock Clerk to Cashier. And he’s not alone in turning over a new leaf and making the best of this opportunity.

We now have ten young adults working with us in the program; six of them are living out their second chance outside the center with their freedom in hand. And on top of Miguel’s promotion, there’s no turnover within the program members, and so far, everyone has received great results in their performance reviews.

This year, we also extended an open invitation to our group of Back to the Game participants to join our annual marathon. Eight of them took up the challenge and ran an inspiring 21 kilometers. Their drive to finish such a lengthy race is also symbolic that anyone can cross the finish line if they’re determined and willing to put in the effort – and given the chance.

The future of the program

The Back to the Game program is a platform for resilience, growth, and the power of second chances. We're excited to create opportunities for these young people and watch them flourish within our adidas family.

We’re even hoping that we set the gold standard for the program in Peru for other adidas countries to emulate our winning formula. We’d also like to branch out and partner with more organizations to demonstrate how adidas is leading the charge in changing people lives and in supporting underrepresented communities around the world.

At the time of this article, we’re expecting to invite three more young individuals into the program to join our retail stores. We’ve even been in contact with the women’s juvenile center to – hopefully soon – help them, as well, on their reintegration journey into society.

This program isn’t just a matter of providing a job, but also a path to a brighter future. It’s call for other companies and people to do their part for men and women in juvenile centers who are working towards a better tomorrow. Let's rewrite the narrative together, one colleague at a time.