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Luis Amaya (left) and Rolando Mejia (right), members of the youth baking group, show off the tools of their trade.
Luis Amaya (left) and Rolando Mejia (right), members of the youth baking group, show off the tools of their trade.

Baking Up New Opportunities

By Kathleen Swenson

Luis Amaya and Rolando Mejia don’t want to leave their native El Salvador. But until recently the teens faced some pretty stark realities. While violence and gang memberships are on the decline in El Salvador, many youth still get caught up in both, leaving few options for building a better future. Almost 20 percent of the population has already emigrated looking for better job opportunities.1

But now Luis and Rolando have a promising alternative.

As part of a leadership and skills development program sponsored by Lutheran World Relief, the teens are learning how to start and manage a small baking business. The young bakers are not only perfecting their skills in the kitchen, they are learning how to run a profitable business.

And they plan to share their success with their communities. “When we make more money, we would like to help the community meet its basic needs, like helping people have enough food to eat all the time,” said one project participant.

But LWR’s commitment to sustainable development doesn’t end there. This training program will have a stronger impact if it is connected to a larger community improvement effort. That’s why LWR is helping to improve water access in the larger community and is supporting cattle farmers and others to improve families’ livelihoods and incomes.

The baking group even made doughnuts as part of the bread-baking skills they learned.
The baking group even made doughnuts as part of the bread-baking skills they learned.

As for Luis and Rolando, what they learned at the training runs far deeper than baking, deeper even than learning leadership skills. Because of what they learned, they say they can “do dignified work, staying close to our families.”

With your support and prayers, young people around the world can be given promising opportunities like this.

Kathleen Swenson is LWR’s Program Assistant for Creative Services and Marketing.

1Migration Policy Institute http://www.migrationpolicy.org/
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