By: Brenna Miles. Photos and Interviews by Juanfer Leon.   |   Posted: July 02, 2024

These girls are challenging the norm, learning skills often reserved for boys. They’re rising above their circumstances and inspiring others too.

Girl Power: Rising Above the Norm With Vocational Skills

These girls are challenging the norm, learning skills often reserved for boys. They’re rising above their circumstances and inspiring others too.

Written by Brenna Miles. Photos and Interviews by Juanfer Leon.
A young girl wearing a blue hard hat works on an electrical breaker and smiles at the camera.

“Women are not capable of doing risky work.” It’s a statement Yoselin and Keily, two young women living in Guatemala, have heard over and over again. But instead of allowing those words to dim their worth, they’re using them as an invitation to challenge the status quo.

Through electrical education, Yoselin and Keily are finding the confidence and skills they need to rise above their circumstances. And in the process, they’re inspiring the next generation of girls to break the bonds of poverty in their community.

What's Here:

Meet the Girls Challenging the Status Quo With Vocational Skills

Women in rural communities throughout Guatemala are no strangers to stereotypes. Many in these areas believe that women can’t do skilled or difficult jobs, so those are usually reserved for men. Unfortunately, this means that women in these impoverished communities struggle to get well-paying jobs.

Women living in extreme poverty already face nearly insurmountable challenges as they struggle to care for themselves and often family members. Stereotypes add another barrier, making it even harder for them to earn a steady income — a critical step in the path out of poverty.

Ready to face this harmful thinking head-on, Yoselin and Keily started asking the hard questions. What if things were different? What would happen if they challenged the status quo? What if they could use their unique talents to master new skills, even in fields typically reserved for boys?

“Women Can Be Electricians Too”

As part of an income-generation program, the girls’ Compassion center opened a workshop for boys to learn electrician skills. Through the program, they would gain the skills needed to run a business and become self-supporting.

While the girls had the opportunity to enroll in an English training program or a bakery program, they wanted more.

One day, Yoselin and Keily came to me, asking why the electrician program was only open to boys. They asked me to give them the chance to be trained with them. They told me that they wanted to show that women could be electricians too.

— Sandra, Compassion center director

Soon, the girls found themselves in a classroom surrounded by wires and tools. Each day, they donned their hard hats and vests, not yet aware of the trail they were blazing.

Three girls wearing blue hard hats smile and laugh as they work on an electrical circuit.
Yoselin works on building an electrical circuit.

Yoselin: “I Am Capable of Doing Things That No One Would Expect”

Yoselin is now 18 and getting ready to graduate from high school. After high school, her plan is to attend university to study medicine. She plays basketball for the school team, has won several Bible quiz contests, leads study groups at school, has learned English and plays the marimba.

It’s easy to see that Yoselin is a driven young woman and a natural-born leader. But while her future is bright, her past shows the scars of poverty and pain.

Yoselin was registered at the Compassion center when she was seven years old. As the firstborn, some of her earliest memories are of her family’s financial struggles and her father’s alcoholism.

At the Compassion center, Yoselin found hope and relief. Her family received the necessities they needed, including food and medical care. But most importantly, Yoselin received Jesus into her heart, changing her life forever.

I know that I am more mature than before, thanks to the center. Through talks, workshops, prayers and mentoring with tutors, I have received guidance to be on the right path, emotionally and spiritually, and that has helped me and my friends not to stray, especially in difficult times like adolescence.

— Yoselin

Her growing faith has impacted her entire family, including her father, who stopped drinking. And each day, her family’s relationships continue to improve. Through the support of the center and the hope Jesus gives, Yoselin is confident in her identity as both a woman and a child of God.

The electrical training Yoselin received has further cemented her confidence in herself. Yoselin now knows, without a doubt, that she’s capable of doing things no one would expect, from learning how to build circuits to conquering poverty.

“I love showing others that I am capable of doing things that no one would expect because I am a woman.”

— Yoselin
Young girl wearing a brightly colored basketball jersey holds a basketball and smiles for the camera.

Keily: “Seeing That I Could Do It Was an Impulse to Leave My Fears Behind”

Keily is in her first year of high school. She enjoys writing, acting and serving others. Just like Yoselin, Keily was born into a family that suffered the effects of extreme poverty. Her father also struggled with alcoholism.

However, Keily and Yoselin have another thing in common: They both experienced hope through their Compassion center. Keily’s father has overcome his alcohol addiction through the ripple effects of her dedication. The entire family has also dedicated their lives to Jesus.

Thanks to the program, my family and I came to be Christians. My mother is a tutor at the center, and we all attend church. We are a better family now, and we can serve the Lord together.

— Keily

The pressing challenges of poverty made Keily fearful of taking risks and exploring her potential. And even as a teen, words about her choice of vocational training, such as “it’s too dangerous” and “it’s not for women” made her fear she couldn’t do it.

But Keily now knows that she’s stronger than what tries to tear her down. Seeing just how much she’s already overcome, she’s no longer afraid.

A young girl wearing a black shirt stands in front of a brick wall and smiles for the camera.

Vocational Skills Inspire Life-Changing Confidence in Girls

Both Yoselin and Keily have conquered so many challenges. Now, the confidence they walk in is inspiring other girls, including those in the younger generation.

Arelys: “Boys and Girls Can Achieve the Same Things; We Can Do the Same Jobs”

Arelys is a 13-year-old girl living in the same community as Yoselin and Keily. Inspired by Yoselin to join the electrician program, she’s now enrolled for a year.

“One of my friends encouraged me to enroll with her in the electrician program. I love to know how machines work, and I saw that they were learning about making water pumps work, how to make electrical joints, and install light bulbs and power outlets. I admire Yoselin because she can do a lot of things many women can’t.” — Arelys

A young girl wearing a purple shirt and holding an open book smiles for the camera.

Arelys has learned many new cognitive and relational skills during the electrical training program. However, the most important takeaway for her is discovering that she is just as intelligent and capable as the boys; she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Tutor Susana told us that boys and girls can achieve the same things; we can do the same jobs. That’s why boys at the workshop treat us as equals. They are very respectful.

— Arelys
Three students wearing blue hard hats stand with their instructor while installing an electrical outlet.
Keily and Arelys work on installing an electrical outlet with the help of their instructor.

With Skills & Confidence, They’re Changing Their Communities

Inspired by their newfound confidence and abilities, Yoselin, Keily and Arelys are using their skills to transform their communities.

For example, Yoselin noticed that the electrical connections in her home were of poor quality. With her new skills, she purchased the materials and supervised all the connections to ensure her family’s safety.

In Keily’s house, a power outage caused a short circuit, requiring a circuit breaker replacement. She fixed the problem, preventing her family from needing to hire an expensive electrician.

Arelys is practicing too. When an extra outlet was needed at her school, she installed the extra wire and connected the outlet.

How’s that for girl power?

Three young girls wearing blue hard hats and safety vests smile for the camera.
Yoselin, Keily and Arelys smile proudly at the camera in their safety gear.

By ignoring untrue statements such as “it’s too dangerous” and “it’s not for women,” these three girls and many others are learning new skills that will change their lives. These skills will help them generate an income for their families, build stable careers and even open their own businesses.

Vocational training will help them journey out of poverty and into a brighter future. And as they go, they’ll inspire others to do the same.

For Yoselin, Keily and Arelys, working to obtain vocational skills isn’t just about “doing men’s work.” Instead, it’s about showing the world that they have what it takes to do whatever they put their minds to, including leaving poverty behind.

And that confidence? It’s life-changing.

The Importance of Vocational Training for All Children in Poverty

Young people living in poverty lack the skills they need to thrive as adults in their communities. Unfortunately, this perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

But through youth development programs, children and youths discover their God-given potential and gain the skills needed to generate income, a critical resource for breaking the bonds of poverty.

Most importantly, they realize that there’s hope and that poverty has no hold on them, their families or their communities. And with this knowledge, they grow in confidence, often becoming changemakers and lifting others out of poverty.

Inspire Other Changemakers Like Yoselin, Keily & Arelys

At Compassion, youth development is a critical part of our child sponsorship program. Each child in our program receives what they need to thrive — mind, body and soul — including vocational training, nutrition support, medical care and so much more.

You can inspire other young people, just like Yoselin, Keily and Arelys, to reach their God-given potential. How? Consider giving the gift of education (any amount helps!) or sponsoring a child to consistently support them as they journey out of poverty.

Learn More About Vocational Training

child writes a letter while other children watch

Learn more about the importance of vocational training for children in poverty.

child writes a letter while other children watch