A Recipe for Dreams

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"One strives daily to be a better person," remarks Rodrigo


Finely chopping onions as required for his final exam, Rodrigo sheds a few tears. It’s hard to know if it’s because of the onions or his mixed emotions. He has stored many memories based on his aspirations and struggle to reach this moment.

When he was very young, Rodrigo started working for a call center. This service industry has grown exponentially in Central American countries, where there is a considerable number of bilingual young people. It is a tiring and absorbing job, a telephone call drawback industry where young people have found a work niche.

Having a job is certainly appreciated, but once a person enters the call center ranks, their dreams may fade away. They start earning money—a salary barely enough to cover expenses and support their family—and soon it becomes impossible to continue studying and return to the original path leading to their dreams for a better future.


Rodrigo shows his Culinary Academy Diploma. Photo by CRS staff.


One day, information about a technical training course in international cuisine reached Rodrigo's hands, but as a requisite, he had to be selected amongst a group of aspiring chefs. Rodrigo attended the event, confident but nervous. For him, this opportunity was crucial. The course was part of the Youth Builders Program implemented by CRS and did not have a cost. However, Rodrigo would have to invest in bus tickets, purchase meals and cover other expenses if he did take the course and if his family had money available for that purpose. Upon acceptance in the course, Rodrigo couldn’t express his happiness enough. At the same time, he had to make many sacrifices. He invested all his savings from his call center job to cover expenses for this new life plan and studies.

Every day at 5 a.m. he would take the bus from Jayaque, his faraway village, and continued with a schedule that required long hours, but was full of new learning, anticipation and exciting challenges. This became his routine. However, his friends started to vanish; he had no time to share with them. Nevertheless, they noticed Rodrigo’s new character, a more responsible and happier person.

Once he conquered the basic course, Rodrigo continued applying what he had learned attending the International Culinary Academy, where he would never have been admitted without his introductory course.

CRS’ YouthBuild program is made possible thanks to donations from the global Catholic community, but in large part, from Hispanics living in the United States, who recognize the importance and power of having an opportunity.

The generosity that comes from the Hispanic community, in solidarity with the people of their homeland or their roots, is the trigger for many lives, particularly for young people like Rodrigo. Without those opportunities, many of them decide to migrate, fall into a state of depression, engage in criminal activities or end up leaving their dreams stored on a shelf because they did not find any support to make them come true.


Rodrigo and his classmates. Photo by CRS staff.


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