Meet Louise. She enters the workshop wearing giant safety gloves and facemask, but behind the glass visor is a smile of conviction and a mind ready to work.
“I love this type of work,” says the 16-year-old, “I always have. I know I’m a little different from the other girls my age, but that I am fine with.”
Louise is Honduran. In a country with a strong machismo culture, it is a little unusual for a teenage girl to enter a vocation usually designated for men, but Louise shoves stereotypes to one side and follows her interests with pride. In April 2021, she gained the opportunity to enroll in the welding workshop Rancho Santa Fe, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Honduras, which became a game-changer for the young Catracha.
“At NPH, we all receive a formal education. However, we also get to take part in a vocational workshop to help us develop technical skills. We get to choose from carpentry, electricity, shoe making, dressmaking, beauty, life skills/home economics, and welding. Earlier in 2021, I had the opportunity to try a week in each of the different workshops to see which would fit me best. I opted for technical welding. It is beautiful and fun, and also very creative.”
Louise’s early life was not easy. She arrived at NPH when she was 8-years-old with her five siblings. Her father died in an accident and her mother struggled to make ends meet, especially the needs of her children. Louise remembers when they would only have a tortilla to share between them. Before arriving at NPH Honduras, she resided in other childcare facilities but left due to behavior issues. However, ever since Rancho Santa Fe opened its doors to her in 2014, she has not looked back.
Rancho Santa Fe is located 36 kilometers outside the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. However, Louise spent part of her childhood in Comayagua, a city located two hours and a half away from the NPH home. While it took time to adapt to her new rural surroundings, she quickly saw the opportunities that sat before her. Today, she resides there with two siblings Mackenson and Lorena, who are in middle and primary school respectively.
“I found a place where I could study, I had a home, health care, delicious food, spiritual formation, empowerment workshops for girls: so many things that I never knew I had a right to. And here I am today,” she smiles, while learning about her objectives in today’s workshop.
Her day at NPH Honduras starts very early at 5:30am, when she takes a shower, has breakfast and goes to school, a 10-minute walk through the lush fields at Rancho Santa Fe. At 1:30PM, she is usually back in her living quarters, Inmaculada Concepcion, to have lunch, participate in several activities planned by the educators and caregivers, and do homework. She likes to take time to pray and then helps clean her living area. Two to three times per week she receives welding workshops, “which is my favorite time of the week!” she adds.
“During my classes, I learn about strategic measuring so I can cut required pieces and join structures through different welding techniques. What I enjoy most is the final phase of the process, which is gluing pieces together and watching sparks come out of the tools. It’s exciting, but I am always careful,” says Louise, ensuring that the protective clothing covers all bare flesh.
“I have always loved cars. But in time, I have come to learn about cabinetmaking, and then came welding and electrical repairs. I enjoy problem-solving and looking at how to fix things. It brings so much satisfaction,” says Louise, smiling, as she goes through the safety protocol with her educator, who today will show her different uses of the soldering iron. So far, she has used her skills to help fix things for her family, such as her older sister’s door. She also hopes her skills will help her family.
“One day, I would like to do welding in my own home, and maybe have my own workshop. Very few girls do this course, but I really wanted to do it. I can try a different road in the life and build on my skills.
Away from the workshop, Louise loves to dance and loves to listen to renowned Latin American singers, especially women, with Jennifer Lopez being one of her favorites. She also loves baseball, mathematics and eating chilaquiles with her NPH siblings and caregivers. “NPH is a home where I receive love and care,” she exclaims.
“I am so thankful for the help that NPH gives me. If you have the opportunity to continue helping people like me, do not overthink it. I would not be the person who I am without the help I’ve received from NPH. I also invite all the girls to participate in workshops such as welding. It is not only for boys. All kind of people can participate, and I promise, it is worth it.”
So, does Louise feel like a role-model for girls her age? “It’s something that I never thought about before people started asking me, but if people see that I am paving the way for other girls my age, I am happy to do so, and create opportunities for other girls.”
Today, Louise just wants to focus on build on her welding skills. But for the future, she knows that this is her vocation.
Learn how you can support girls like Louise build their career and act as a role model for other girls here.
*NAMES CHANGED TO PROTECT PRIVACY