All posts by Randy

How You Can Help Central American Craftsmen

Every year, Tools for Opportunity tries to make one or two trips to Central America.  During each trip, we have one or more trainers on our team to teach new woodworking skills to local craftsmen, carpenters, woodcarvers, and furniture makers.

Tools for Opportunity Class Graduates

Before each trip, there is an enormous amount of planning and preparation that needs to take place. The first item on the agenda is finding eligible craftsmen in our target areas such as El Salvador and Honduras. We have a local team member in El Salvador that interviews craftsmen to determine their eligibility for training and what specific training is needed. One of our board members annually visits Honduras for several weeks to work with local residents to find craftsmen that need our assistance.

While candidates for training are being selected, we work on gathering tool donations for shipment to the training areas. These tools can be donated by individuals or tool companies. We accept usable power tools like hand drills, routers, and circular saws. We also try to gather as many hand tools as possible such as chisels, clamps, carving tools, and hand planes.

Tools ready for distribution

If we are lacking any necessary tools for training our carpenters, we must purchase them. We’ll search around for the best pricing and look to tool manufacturers that are wanting to get rid of old stock. Sometimes, we’ll wait and purchase tools in the host country if the prices are reasonable.

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Our tool shipments are sent by cargo ship to the target location many months ahead of time. The tools are stored until they’re needed for training.

In the meantime, travel arrangements need to be made for our team. This includes air fare, lodging, and food. As you can imagine, these expenses add up fast.

Once our team arrives in-country, the work begins. Classes are held that may have anywhere from 4 to 12 students. These students could be young people that have had some technical training and want to expand their skills. Other students have been woodworking for many years but need to advance their skills to the next level.

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We’ll typically spend a week conducting 2 to 4 training sessions during that time. Once the training is complete, the students sign a contract with Tools for Opportunity. They agree to use our donated tools and training and their time on projects for their community, in addition to growing their business to provide income for their families. Many of these families survive on only a few dollars a day. We try to help the carpenters increase their income through our training and tool donations.

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The board of directors of Tools for Opportunity has established a budgeting goal of $10,000 per trip. As I mentioned before, we often make two trips per year.

You can help by making a tax-deductible donation. We make it easy using the “Donate” buttons on our web page and Facebook page. We appreciate any amount and you can rest assured that your dollars are spent with the utmost care.

We sincerely thank you for your support!

Trips, Projects, and Tools, Oh My!

Tools for Central America

TRIPS

We have a team arriving in Honduras in a few weeks to provide training and tools to local carpenters. This training has been in planning for almost two years. Gene and Randy tried to take tools into Honduras from El Salvador a year ago but were stopped at the border. This year, our tool shipment is being sent directly from the U.S. to Honduras.

As you might know, these trips cost several thousand dollars. There is the cost of shipping the tools. The cost of air fare and lodging. Then when our team arrives in Central America, there is the cost of transportation, including the salaries of the drivers. We sure could use your help in defraying some of these costs. You can click here to donate. We very much appreciate any amount you could give.

Your donations directly drive how often we can make trips to Central America to help local craftsmen. We would like to make at least two trips a year. So please consider giving today.

PROJECTS

When woodworkers in Central America build their projects, they use local woods. These woods are often at too high of a moisture content. This can result in severe shrinkage and warping of project parts. For example, doors that fit a cabinet when the cabinet is first built will dry out over time, resulting in gaps and doors that are too narrow.

One of the goals of Tools for Opportunity is to provide the materials and training to build solar-powered kilns for drying lumber. This would have a very positive impact on the overall quality of the projects our craftsmen build. Your donation can help us with this project.

TOOLS

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you know that all of us at Tools for Opportunity appreciate and use woodworking tools. And we love to share that appreciation with craftsmen in Central America. We not only provide tools, but the training necessary to use them and be able to better provide for their families. The craftsmen sign a one-year commitment to use and care for the tools while having a positive impact on their communities. If they live up to their end of the bargain, the tools become their property.

We accept tool donations for our carpenters. Tools that aren’t necessarily suited for shipping to Central America will be sold to raise funds to purchase other tools or add to the budget for trips and projects. Please consider donating tools or giving today.

Thank you for your support!

Carpenter Profile: Orlando Garcia

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The carpenters we work with in Central America are provided tools and training. In exchange, they sign an agreement that they will put the tools to good use in expanding their business and serving their communities. They also agree to provide hours of community service and plant trees. Below is a report about one of our carpenters, Orlando Garcia.


Orlando has expressed that he has been blessed with the tools he received last year from Tools for Opportunity. Work has been really good as he has stayed busy. He received a table saw kit along with a new drill and other great tools. He has been able to grow in his business as he admits that the tools he received have helped him complete pieces faster. Three weeks after the training workshop ended, he build a table saw according to plans he received from Randy and Gene and he loves it. He admits to have made one modification to the original plans: He  used a solid wood piece for the top rather than plywood. The reason for this is because he says that due to the humidity and heavy pieces of wood, the plywood tends to bend.

Orlando recently made a closet for one of his clients. In addition to this he has also made tables, beds, windows and chairs. As for his community service work, he has worked in two different schools. In one he provided 24 hours worth of work where he built two tables — the School provided the wood and Orlando provided his labor. For the other School, he provided 25 hours worth of work where he also build two tables and installed a division wall for a classroom. Again, he just provided the labor. Orlando also mentioned that he spent two days painting school desks for a third School where they bought the paint and he provided his work. As for the trees, he has planted 5 cedar trees and for the upcoming winter, he hopes to plant many more of the same kind.

The photos show the compressor, a window he is working on, as well as a chainsaw he recently purchased. Orlando was very happy to hear that you will visit again on March, as he says he will demonstrate to you he has honored the agreement fully.

Below is a video thanks from Orlando.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Right around Thanksgiving, I start listening to Christmas music. It puts me in the frame of mind to recall pleasant memories of family gatherings and look forward to the food and fellowship.

This time of year, I’m also thinking about how our gifts of time, tools, and dollars can help out our craftsmen in Central America. I’ve had the pleasure of making two trips to El Salvador recently. On both trips, I was able to provide woodworking training to several craftsmen on behalf of Tools for Opportunity. These are folks that work very hard to provide for their families and help their communities. It’s an emotional experience to see how much they appreciate our time and effort to help them.

MauricioGuys like Mauricio, for example. Here’s a guy with a humble shop outdoors with not much more than a tin roof to keep out the rain. We were able to provide training and tools for him to expand his woodworking business. Only a year later, he’s got plenty of work to keep him busy. He’s built up quite a reputation as a woodworker for building doors, cabinets, and other items.

A little goes a long way with these craftsmen. They appreciate the smallest things and learn to make do with whatever they have. That’s why it’s important that you consider donating to Tools for Opportunity. Your cash provides tools and training. And if you or someone you know has old tools that aren’t being used, contact us to arrange donating them. Your cash and tool donations are tax-deductible.

As you prepare for the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life — and how you can be a blessing to others.