Ramos says that learning a trade has given him confidence and taken away his fears about the future.
The room is small, and the smell of leather and polish is strong. A young man stoops over his workbench, his hammer tap-tapping small nails into the shoe in his hand. He holds it up and examines his work. Patiently, he pulls out a nail that is mere millimeters off the mark. He will not stop until it is perfect.
Seventeen-year-old Ramos has been making shoes at the Joyas del Salvador Student Center (HO-203) for three years. "I still recall that the student center director extended the invitation for all the young people," says Ramos, "and I became interested in the workshop because I knew that this would be a great benefit for my life and for my family."
Ramos' father is a taxi driver, and his mother works as a janitor. Before Ramos joined the center, he says his family knew nothing of Jesus knew nothing of His love for them. "When Jesus came into our hearts, everything started to change," says Ramos. He says that through the gifts of his sponsor, he was able to see tangible examples of the love of Jesus in his life.
"After seven years of being in the program, I have been blessed with school supplies, clothes and the shoemaking workshop, which I could not have afforded without my sponsor's help."
Shoes in Demand
Ramos is one of 15 youths enrolled in the shoemaking workshop at the center. The class is led by German Palma, who has been a shoemaker for more than 50 years. German is also the pastor of Iglesia de Dios Church, which runs the student center. "I am very proud of my students," says German. "They do very good work, and we are known in the community. People often put in orders for the shoes."
Ramos and the other students each make one pair of shoes per month. The shoes are sold at the church and the market. The money earned from the sales is used to buy each young person a set of his or her own shoemaking tools when they complete the course.
Ramos doesn't know if he will make shoes after he graduates from high school. Perhaps he'll be a doctor or a teacher. But he does know that the shoemaking course has taught him far more than leatherwork.
"I have learned to take pride in what I do, no matter what it is," says Ramos. "I will work hard when I grow up. I will work hard and provide for my family one day."
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