Diego is an ambitious and motivated young employee at DHL, with plans for further studies to advance his career. He isn’t put off by hard work. Diego took drastic action to overcome early challenges in his life and turn it around. Now, Diego is using his experiences to highlight obstacles faced by young people starting their independent lives and careers. He recently presented at the launch of a study on April 5th in New York.
Five years ago, Diego’s life was very different. He frequently skipped school and went out drinking until the early hours of the morning. Born in Medellín, Colombia, when he was five years old his mother moved to Costa Rica to be a hairdresser, so he went to live with his grandmother.
At eight years old he tried alcohol for the first time and began to pay less and less attention to what his grandmother told him. At age 11, he started stealing and dropped out of school.
Due to a change in family circumstances when he was 12, his mother returned and took him to live with her in Costa Rica. Although Diego quickly made new friends and went back to school, alcohol, skipping class and rebellion still marked his days.
"She sent people to look for me because I used to run away from school and drink in the street until 3:00am. Besides, why would I go home if they were going to hit me anyway? At least, if they hit me, let it be for something,” thought the teenage Diego.
However, one night he stayed out drinking until morning. While he was cycling home he fell down a slope. That night, he went to sleep with a swollen face and a scraped shoulder. He fell asleep with the image of his mother engrained in his mind, looking at him with disappointment and felt a deep sense of anger at himself. He woke up determined to change.
Shortly after, his mother decided to invite him to join the Rahab Foundation, a Costa Rican non-governmental organization (NGO). This foundation helps people and families who became victims of the sex trade, and who had supported her during hard times in her own life.
"At first I did not want to go there, but the people at the foundation started to help me. For example, they assisted when I was doing my homework, something that in my house had never happened. In addition, the foundation gave me material for school and bus tickets to get there, because my mother could not afford these kinds of things. It was them who began to explain to me what was good and bad; what develops better family bonds and what doesn't," Diego explains almost five years after that night he fell off his bike and decided that it would be the end of his rebellious days.
Diego finished school but continued to learn valuable skills from his counselor, Arley. He learned how to dress professionally, communication skills and job interview skills.
"I was 20 years old, had finished school and it was time to look for a job or to continue studying. At that time, Arley came to me and suggested the possibility to participate in the Employability Program of SOS Children’s Villages, where I would do a three month internship and then possibly have opportunity for a job," he recalls.
One of the main goals of SOS Children's Villages Costa Rica’s Employability Program is to work with participants who come from other organizations to support as many young people as possible in the country.
In Diego’s case, the association between SOS Children's Villages and the Rahab Foundation lead to Diego working at DHL Express, one of SOS Children's Villages' corporate partners.
"I had a meeting with Fabian, a DHL Human Resources colleague, who explained to me that I was going to work in one area of the company for three months, but if it did not work out there, I could have another three months in another area. At the end, I was going to receive a letter of recommendation. I told him, with a lot of respect, that a letter was something very good, but that I was there to work hard and to get a permanent job in DHL," confesses Diego.
Six months later, Diego was still there, and still in close contact with co-workers from SOS Children's Villages who continue to check up on him and support him.
At the end of the SOS Children's Villages Employability Program, he asked to stay another month working with DHL while his boss decided if there was a permanent place for him. He spent a month being a substitute for colleagues who went on vacation and another month working almost for free. Finally, one day his boss announced to everyone that Diego was a full-time employee of the company.
"There were a lot of tears because I struggled a lot to have that, but I did it. I now come home with an income and can help my mother and my brother at home," Diego says happily.
His rebellious days are over. Today he is proud of all he has achieved. Now he goes to sleep thinking about studying English or Customs, because they are the “keys to grow inside the company”.