Project's vocational classes create skilled laborers in efforts to end generational poverty.
The acrid smell of melting iron fills the small shop at the Infantil and Yound Development Center Bethel (DR-245) in La Altagracia. A soldering gun creates a fireworks display of sparks that rival any Fourth of July celebration. Innovative vocational training classes at the center exemplify the Dominican staff's commitment to help youth gain viable working skills in this industrialized community in the Dominican Republic just west of Santo Domingo.
Six days a week, 25 boys, ages 12-18, operate saws, sanders and soldering guns at the center's welding class. In doing so, they are becoming skilled laborers in their quest to escape from La Altagracia's poverty, an urban community where nine out of 10 people are unemployed.
Sky-high unemployment rates and few viable job-training programs are stark realities pervading the 133 communities where Compassion Dominican Republic ministers. That's why vocational training tailored to local needs is offered in every project in this island nation.
Forging an Escape
"The devil finds work for idle hands," says Victor Mateo Caminero, the project's director. Victor requires every young person attending the project to take at least one developmental training course.
"The primary reason for our vocational classes is to keep our young people busy in practical, significant ways to secure their futures," he says.
Since 1999, when the welding class opened in a small shop across the street from the project, six graduates have taken up the trade. Following two years of training, students are able to make furniture, windows, doors and to weld a number of items. They are also ready to look for full- or part-time jobs or set up their own businesses.
"Our welding students also make bunk beds, which are sold to impoverished families in our community at 50 percent off," Victor says. "Our beds are stronger than those sold in the stores."
Meeting Students' Financial Challenges
The vocational training is essential to helping Dominican youth escape poverty. Often, these youth are required to contribute to their families' desperate financial needs. Faced with earning a living or staying in school, most youth choose to get a job. But with Bethel training classes they get to do both.
"We wanted the young people in our project to be able to earn some pesos to help meet their family's financial needs," the director continues. "Some of the more experienced youth in the class earn cash by assisting our welding trainer, Leo, in his welding business; while these boys are learning a technical skill, they also can earn an income."
Girls attending Bethel have the same financial concerns as the boys. So the project started a hair design course.
In addition to welding and hair design, the project has offered a variety of successful training courses over the last 10 years.
"We have many youth who have graduated from our program who are now employed as secretaries, cashiers, typists, computer assistants, English language teachers - we have taught all these fields of study at the center," says Victor. "Our students have no problem finding jobs once their training is finished."
What did you like about this story?