At age 18, Simone is a graduate of the bakery program offered at her project.
There are no coincidences in God's plan. That's what Simone Silva Franca, age 18, believes. Simone has lived most of her life in Campo Limpo, a violent, poor, heavily-populated "hood" on the periphery of São Paulo. In this industrial zone, in the second largest city in the world, shantytowns stretch as far as the eye can see. Under-employment is rampant and without intervention there is little hope to break free from the chains of poverty in this desolate community.
Yet Simone's prospects for breaking her own family's poverty cycle changed when she was nine. That's when her mom landed a cleaning job at the Compassion-assisted project Lar Batista de Crianç¡³ (BR-302) and enrolled her daughter in the program.
"My years attending this project have changed my life," Simone says. "The number one thing I've learned to like is to study!"
And study she has, especially since the project started a vocational training program in 2001.
Jobs to Fill a Community's Needs
Maura Morais, the project's new director, implemented a vocational training program to build students' capacities to find good jobs.
"Besides opening a door to the job market, this program enables our teenagers to continue attending the project," Maura says.
"In the past, some (of the students) have had to leave Compassion's program because they needed jobs to help support their families."
Lar Batista's training is focused, largely, on two income-generating courses: baking and hair design. Students can choose the course they want to attend. Each course is one year in length, consisting of four to five hours of weekly training.
Baking for Dollars
Simone chose to take the bakery course "because it's always good to learn and it's fun as well." She has learned to make breads, candies, cakes and many more bakery items in the project's industrial kitchen.
Bakery-training pupils also make delicious bread for the 440 youth enrolled at the Compassion-assisted center. Additionally, bakery items are sold to the community, including cakes and desserts for weddings and parties. Some of the profits earned from the sales help provide money for baking supplies, flour and other ingredients.
Last year, 30 teenagers, including Simone, graduated from the bakery course. Some 24 others earned certification in hair design.
"It's fun to work with the flour and see it change in consistency. In the same way, I see how our jobs are changing us by helping us to earn money," says Simone. "My dream is to one day get a job that will help support my family!"