More than 140,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Central Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island last fall. Thanks to the support of the community, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is uniquely positioned to provide hope for these families with disaster relief food boxes, but also to offer an opportunity to transform lives.
In December, with tuition provided by CareerSource Central Florida, Second Harvest launched its first Spanish-language Culinary Training Program class for Puerto Rican evacuees. Over 14 weeks, the class will provide the culinary and life skills training need for a sustainable career in Central Florida’s booming hospitality industry.
One student, Miguel, lost everything in the storm. He stayed up overnight holding the doors closed to his home so the wind wouldn’t blow them open, but that wasn’t enough. Due to roof and water damage, his home was condemned. To make matters worse, one of his daughters has epilepsy and requires a refrigerated medication. Without electricity, this became a daily struggle to find ice and, eventually, a resupply of medicine. Thanks to an aunt in Orlando, the family moved to Central Florida to stabilize his daughter’s health and begin to rebuild their lives.
“I’m grateful for a fresh start for all of us, for my daughter’s health, and for both of the girls’ education,” said Miguel. “They are already learning English very quickly.”
Thanks to you, students in the Culinary Training Program, are looking forward to learning essential culinary and life skills as they prepare for the workforce. The best news of the New Year? Las Palmas and Hilton have already pledged positions within their growing organizations for the Puerto Rican students upon graduation.
Stay tuned for more stories about these students on our blog in the weeks ahead.