“When I came to live with my SOS family in Atacames 16 years ago—I think I was only 12 years old—I had a lot of dreams; but I never thought to be one day the owner of my own shoemaker´s business!,” says José Luis*, now 28 years old.
José Luis is known to friends and his SOS family as “abogado” [lawyer].
“This is my nickname!,” says the young entrepreneur. “Many years ago, my SOS siblings and biological brothers named me this, because for me it has always been quite normal to defend the others, the younger ones and weaker children. Even today, I do it.”
His former SOS mother, Betty, says that José Luis has a big heart, always trying to help others when they have problems. “He is a wonderful young man!” José came to live with Betty together with his three biological brothers Marco*, Dario* and Juan* after their parents passed. By the time the four young men left Betty’s house, they were well prepared for their independence.
With some economic support from SOS Children’s Villages and the generous money-gifts the boys had received over the years from their SOS sponsors, they were able to use approximately $3,700 (USD) to buy a small property. They renovated it and on the ground floor they installed a business space for José Luis’ cobbler business. “He and his younger brother Marco learnt this trade from an old shoemaker in Atacames,” explains Betty.
As this is his own business, and the risks are still high, José Luis also works as caretaker of the SOS Children’s Village in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Rosa, SOS youth and development officer in Esmeraldas, says: “After his daily eight hours on the job, he goes home and helps his youngest brother Marco in their own business! Great! And every Saturday, too.” His goal is to be able to spend the eight working hours every day in his shop.
“I am so grateful we got this opportunity!," José Luis says. "I really recommend that all young people living today in SOS families should use this opportunity they receive through getting money gifts, and to use it in a similar as savings. It makes dreams come true.”
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the young men.
By: Michael Kirchmair, coordinator international sponsorship NA Ecuador