Johima Pina was a lawyer in Venezuela, but that feels like a lifetime ago. She remembers the hard work and late nights she spent building a successful career. When opportunities for employment began to disappear, her ex-husband moved to Orlando with their two children. Johima was heartbroken to be so far away from her son and daughter. After two years of struggling emotionally and financially, she sold all of her possessions and made the move herself.
“It was a really humbling experience,” Johima recalls. “I had a good life. I never dreamed of starting over.”
At first, she lived off her savings. She discovered that her degree and credentials as a lawyer were non-transferrable to the United States and the language barrier made it difficult for her to find employment.
After an Internet search for career training, Johima found Second Harvest’s Culinary Training Program. She was immediately attracted to the mission of teaching people and transforming lives. She applied and was accepted to begin what has become a new chapter in her life.
“Everything in the program is a teaching moment,” she explains.
From the terminology to equipment and food safety, there was much to learn. No stranger to hard work, Johima embraced this new opportunity. She discovered many similarities to being a good lawyer and a good cook: attention to detail, organization, precision, discipline.
Today, Johima is celebrating her one-year anniversary at The Rainforest Café. She’s been promoted to line cook and is called upon to train new employees. Her goal is to be a kitchen manager.
“It’s been very hard work, but it feels good at the same time,” she says. “I go to work every day and do whatever it takes.”
The Second Harvest Culinary Training Program provides qualified, at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults with the culinary and life skills training needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry. To learn more about or apply for the program, visit feedhopenow.org/culinarytraining.