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CFCA stories

Shifting gears

September 3, 2013

Henry stands outside his modest mechanic shop and flashes a bright smile.

Henry in Guatemala with his mechanics tools
Henry, a former sponsored child from Guatemala,
works with his mechanic's tools.

For the past year, Henry, 21, has been working as a mechanic in Guatemala, after graduating from high school and the CFCA sponsorship program.

Today, Henry's life looks drastically different. Before sponsorship, his life held few possibilities for success. His father struggled to feed the household of eight – five children, both parents and Henry's grandfather. Food was the priority; education was the luxury they could not afford.

At 8 years old, Henry began helping his father work in the fields. A year later, in September 2000, Henry was sponsored.

"It is the biggest gift that I have ever received," Henry said. "Sponsorship brought joy to my life. I felt connected to my sponsor."

Finding his calling

Henry dreamt of being a nurse, not a mechanic. But life had other plans.

He explored different careers and chose to take a short break from school after discovering an interest in becoming a mechanic. His father's old pickup truck sparked that interest.

"It would constantly break down," he said. "It spent more time at the mechanic shop than working with my dad. One day I decided to go to the shop and observe how they worked on my dad's truck. I found that job interesting."

Henry working on a vehicle in his mechanic shop
Henry works on vehicles in his mechanic shop, to help support himself
and his family.

Henry's father helped him find a temporary job at a local mechanic shop. For nine months, Henry cleaned the shop and spent time watching and learning.

He finally re-enrolled in a high school that offered a mechanics class. He continued his hands-on experience by working at a local shop on weekends, holidays and vacations.

After his graduation, people began bringing their cars to him at his home. After some encouragement, Henry saved up money and opened his own shop.

His uncle offered him a place to set up shop, rent-free for the first few months. Henry took out a loan to buy tools, and his family and friends helped promote his business.

"I was able to pay off my loan, I fixed up the place, and thank God, my business is doing well," Henry said.

Sponsorship at work

Henry credits his sponsorship as "a great advantage" when it came to continuing his education.

Henry standing in front of his mechanic shop
Henry stands in front of his mechanic shop,
where he shows his passion for cars on a
daily basis.

"At the beginning of every school year I received school supplies – my parents would have never been able to pay for that on their own," Henry said. "It was a great support and it raised my self-esteem. I felt that I needed to get good grades because it was the best way to thank my parents and my sponsor."

While education is important to building a path out of poverty worldwide, completing a secondary education in Guatemala can dramatically alter lives. The average educational attainment for Guatemalans across all social classes falls just shy of seven years, leaving those with secondary or higher education at a big advantage when it comes to finding work.

As a skilled mechanic, Henry says he makes $40 to $50 on a busy day.

"Henry is on the path to economic self-sufficiency," said Melissa Velazquez, CFCA senior evaluation specialist. "Sponsorship has now multiplied Henry's ability to earn more on a good day than the dollar value of his sponsorship benefit for the month.

"Our hope for Henry would be that, between his passion and dedication and the access to education he received through CFCA support, his future family will have the resources necessary to reach their dreams as well."

Henry now provides the support for his parents and siblings that he once received from his sponsor, someone he won't ever forget.

"Thank you for your support. Your support was not small; it was big. I am now enjoying a better life and I am able to help my family," Henry said. "Your support will always remain in my heart. God bless you."

Sponsor in Guatemala

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