Jonathan spent much of his childhood homeless. His mother’s severe mental illness forced
him into the streets of his hometown in El Salvador to seek the basic necessities of life.
“While living on the streets, I did whatever it took to get through each day,” he says. “I fought for survival. That’s how I ended up behind bars in juvenile detention and that’s where I met Orphan Helpers.” Today, Jonathan is enrolled in college. He’s studying to be a social worker through Orphan Helpers’ new “Work for Success” program.
Orphan Helpers works in juvenile detention centers throughout Honduras and El Salvador to help youth like Jonathan who’ve faced extremely difficult life situations. Once released from the centers, these youth are desperate for guidance and assistance to start on a new life path.
The Work for Success program assists young men and women in two key areas: education and entrepreneurship.“These young people are ready to work hard and invest in their futures. They don’t want to go back to the life they led before, but they need someone to believe in them and give them tools for success,” says Andrea Schuitema, Orphan Helpers Director of Programs. “The Work for Success program is designed to empower youth to work hard to achieve their goals in education and microbusiness development so they can change the trajectory of their lives.”
Since June, 18 youth have completed a business bootcamp covering topics such as how to decide on a business, starting a business without debt, business management, and sales and marketing. They are now working to implement their business plans as the Orphan Helpers team continues to mentor them. Thirty more young men and women are getting ready to start the course created by the WORK 4 A LIVING organization. “Thank you for giving me this great opportunity. I feel so happy with myself!” says Franklin, who is making plans to start a bakery. “I never knew I was capable of doing something like this. Nobody ever believed in me or gave me a chance like you’ve done.”
In addition to the students studying entrepreneurship, 19 other young men and women are getting support with educational needs through the Work for Success program. They receive assistance to cover books, uniforms, tuition, and Internet connection. For many of the youth – like Jonathan – finishing high school, learning a trade, or earning a college degree provides a way out of the life they led before incarceration. “I began university studies in social work when I was released, but I couldn’t afford the tuition to keep going. With Orphan Helpers’ scholarship program, I’m excited to resume my studies,” Jonathan says. “My goal is to become a social worker and work for an organization like Orphan Helpers.”