Many orphanages have all the work they can manage keeping children fed, clothed, healthy and safe. What happens when these children become adults? How will they care for themselves?
Preparing older children to be successful in the outside world is critical because the outcomes are grim for orphans when the reach adulthood. Studies show that 60% of girls will prostitute themselves and 70% of boys will become criminals to survive. It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why we feel a strong calling to create and support vocational training programs wherever possible and in particular those that help girls become self-sufficient.
When we first visited Casa Bernabe in Guatemala City, we were surprised to find unused, fully- equipped classrooms to teach skills like welding, hair styling and cooking. But they hadn’t had a program in years. Why?
The classrooms sat empty because they didn’t have enough money for teachers. So with help from our donors we began providing the funding for three teachers at a total cost of $12,000 annually. Now, eight boys head down to the welding class after school every day. They have made a candelabra, elaborate tabletop candleholders, three tiered fruit and breadbasket holders and security bars for windows. Their instructor, Elias, keeps them at their skill level until they master each step. He is a very good teacher. Elias is also teaching the boys Carpentry. It has been wonderful to see as they have started to make some of their own furniture and cabinets for other people. They are learning how to use all of the power tools and work with wood cutting, sanding, staining, as well as hinging and design.
The Beauty Salon is always full each day after school. The girls usually ask the visitors if they can do their nails and hair and have worked on straightening and curling hair and up-dos as well as color and cutting. They receive classes from an instructor from Monday to Saturday, and on Wednesdays they have an instructor from the government who will certify them.
Cooking classes are daily and an instructor is currently preparing 8 girls and 2 boys to be chefs. On Wednesdays an instructor from the government arrives to teach baking. For their trimestral exam they held a themed event where they cooked for their guests showing off the abilities they have acquired.
Finally, four girls are in the sewing program. They began with the basics and have now learned to make a bag, a shirt and a skirt. One of the objectives of this workshop is for the girls to learn to make practical things they can sell in the future as well as how to run their own business.
Currently Casa Bernabe is empowering 42 teens and plans to place the older children in jobs during their vacation at the end of this year.