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Children International: Good Hope Rising

Staff Member

They work in shifts every Tuesday and Friday. Three women take the 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. shift; the remaining three work from 4:30 to 7:30. After only a few months of training, they have their daily preparations down pat.

“We knead the bread, prepare the oven, deliver the bread and clean the place…we rotate these duties so all of us have turns doing everything,” María Larrondo enthusiastically reports. María and five other mothers of sponsored children in the Chilean coastal city of Viña del Mar have spent the past year baking bread and empanadas (pastry pockets) as part of a breadmaking collective dubbed the "Good Hope Workshop."

Ever since their children became sponsored, the women have been volunteering their time to helping Children International’s Viña del Mar field staff deliver benefits, collect information and assist other sponsored children and families. Inspired by Children International’s efforts to improve their personal circumstances, the volunteer mothers devised a plan to put their own combined abilities to better use.

The group put together a proposal for a breadmaking business and applied for a “competitive funds” grant awarded by Children International’s Valparaiso field project. With so many hopeful and deserving candidates applying for limited funds, the selection process was not an easy task, according to Leopoldo Montecinos Lara of the Valparaiso field project.

The fact that the Good Hope Workshop was a “concrete, affordable and possible-to-perform project” with a “high level of organization” is what paid off for the volunteer mothers in the end. “They realize that their own action is the best tool to supply their own needs,” Leopoldo is quick to point out.

A Business on the Rise

Twice a week now the six volunteer mothers meet at a bakery they’ve set up at the Good Hope neighborhood center to prepare about 600 baked goods per day. Local patrons begin arriving when the aroma of freshly baked bread wafts through the Workshop’s open windows and into the surrounding community. They buy baked items straight out of the oven for 50 Chilean pesos apiece, the equivalent of 8 cents in the U.S.

The Good Hope Workshop sells a fifth of the items to the “Seven Sisters” sector, an apartment settlement in the mountainous outskirts of the city; another fifth is sold to a local school for children with special needs. “We go by bus to deliver the bread. We take turns so it won’t become so burdensome,” a volunteer admits about their slow-but-sure delivery service.
The proceeds from their daily sales, about 30,000 pesos or US$49, are deposited into a bank account opened specifically for their business. Volunteers take turns handling different administrative tasks. Once utility bills are paid, supplies and equipment are purchased, and delivery carts are repaired, any extra income the group earns is divided into six equal parts.

Profits may not amount to much, but every bit helps these mothers struggling to make ends meet on average incomes of only $152 per month in an inflated South American economy. María – whose 18-year-old son, José, and 4-year-old grandson, Renzo, are both sponsored – counts on a steady rise in breadmaking to supplement her extended family’s paltry income and diet.

The group’s sacrifice is starting to pay off though. Offering a glimpse at the year’s overall sales forecast, María reports, “I think we are overcoming what we sold last year!” Such optimism and determination is the reason why the other volunteers picked her to head up the breadwinners’ workshop.

The Good Hope Workshop’s success is evidence of impoverished families’ ability to improve their dire circumstances with support from organizations like Children International. “These are families that, with the right tools in their hands, have been able to develop and carry out a project that is generating good results,” says enthused Valparaiso staffer Leopoldo Montecinos Lara. “They are, without a doubt, a great example.”

In gratitude of the support received from Children International, the members of the Good Hope Workshop are proud to share their authentic empanada recipe with you.

Empanadas for “Tu

Ingredients for pastry shells:
4½ cups flour
½ cup lard
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup warm milk

Ingredients for filling:
1 lb. ground beef
3 medium white onions (chopped)
3 tbsp. lard
2 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ cup raisins
½ cup green olives (chopped)
3 hard-boiled eggs (sliced)
salt and pepper

Melt lard in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add ground beef, onions, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix ingredients and cook until beef is browned. Set aside when finished.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Melt lard and, along with warm milk, pour into flour mixture and mix until dough is soft (be careful not to overmix). Divide dough into twelve portions and cover with a damp cloth to keep moist.

Roll the dough into 3" to 4" circles approximately 3 millimeters thick. Place a tablespoon of beef mixture, a few raisins and olives, and a slice of egg in each circle. Moisten the edge of half the dough with water, fold in two, and crease the edge with the tines of a fork to seal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place empanadas on a baking sheet powdered with flour or covered with parchment paper. Brush each empanada with milk and puncture a couple times with a fork to prevent pockets from opening while baking. Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes until empanadas are toasty and golden.