Growing up in her father’s bakery, Yoleida Davila had a knack for making bread. After his death, she and her daughter fled the violence and unrest in Venezuela to seek asylum in the United States. She sold everything she could and left behind her family and friends.
Once in Orlando, she struggled to learn the US Standard System of measurement, just as many Americans often struggle to convert ingredients from cups and tablespoons into pints and grams. She also had limited English skills, making it difficult to communicate. She and her daughter lived off their savings and received food assistance from the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church pantry, one of Second Harvest’s feeding partners.
A year ago, Yoleida picked up a flyer for Second Harvest’s Culinary Training Program at the Mayor’s Job Fair and immediately felt the program would lead to a better future for her and her daughter. She inquired about the application process but because her legal status was still processing, she was unable to enter the program.
“In my heart, I knew this was the only thing for me,” Yoleida recalls. “All I wanted was to study and get a job.” Determined not to give up on this dream, she taped the flyer to her bathroom mirror and looked at it every morning. The day her social security card arrived in the mail, she called Second Harvest again and was accepted.
Today, Yoleida is on her way to transforming her future. As part of an “earn while you learn” initiative, she is working as a cook at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort while completing the Culinary Training Program. She is taking English classes at the local library and practicing her baking for an American Culinary Federation competition this fall. “If you have faith in yourself, you can overcome anything.”
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.