Woodworking Training Inspiring Mountain Youth in Guatemala

In the highlands of San Marcos, Guatemala, a cold and remote city nestled within the Sierra Madre mountain range and the Central American Volcanic Arc (CAVA), Conscience International is fighting joblessness and inspiring youth at the grassroots level by supporting a training program in woodworking, a vocation particularly appropriate for this region where a variety of wood species, including aromatic cedar, is a native commodity.

Conscience International’s local partner in San Marcos, and his wife, (right) inspect new power equipment with one of the students. The equipment is helping to increase door production by as much as 500 percent

Santiago Rosales is a community leader who has been teaching the art of woodworking to young men for the past twenty years, hundreds of them over time. But it wasn’t until last December, when Angelo Velis, Conscience International’s Community Development Director for Guatemala, saw a need and presented the modestly supplied school with some power equipment and tools. Production of cabinets, tables, window frames, and doors took off. In the case of doors, the mainstay of production, the growth was immediate, boosting the little shop’s custom orders five-fold, a 500 percent jump.

Seven to 10 students a year are in the program, ranging in age from 12 to 18. There is no cost to them. In fact, while learning all the skills they need to graduate and apply for employment in the woodworking industry, they are being paid a daily allowance which enables them to continue their studies in their local school. This is a critical element of the program that is equally concerned with the students getting an academic education.

The training school is actually a modest shop, nothing like a vocational school one might find in the United States, but the expertise the young men are gaining is worthy of the increase in orders they are receiving and the certificate of completion they will earn to qualify for work anywhere in the district of San Marcos.

“The program can take two or more years to complete depending on their wants,” says Velis. “The master carpenter program can take more than three years. Joblessness, poverty and childhood malnutrition are major concerns in this region. Its location in the Sierra Madre mountain range is what contributes to the isolation and challenges of farming, industry and transportation, and it is the country’s hub of malnutrition. The training program is one way we are working to improve the odds for a better life and give hope to these young people."

Will You Help?

By contributing to our Guatemala programs, you are investing in the lives of young men who need a step up and out of poverty in one of the poorest regions of the country. Vocational job training in woodworking is one way to do that. Please DONATE HERE and select ‘Guatemala’ under the ‘Special Purpose’ section, or under “Other” and specify your donation for Guatemala.

For information on volunteering in Guatemala, please contact Angelo Velis at velisangelo@gmail.com.