"As a child I remember sitting next to my grandfather’s favorite chair while he carefully hand stitched leather wallets and belts, among other things. Eugene Adalais Brown was his name, but I knew him as Poppy. He had a long career as a leather inspector and joyfully created amazing leather pieces for those who were lucky enough to know him and his artisan skills. Being his only grandson I was able to monopolize his time, asking incessant questions about the craft, and when he passed away, his love for leather lived on in me.
While living in Honduras in the early 2000s, I was fortunate to meet another man who loved leather. Ramon “Ernesto ” Izaguirre. Ernesto, like my grandfather, was a skilled artisan who created amazing custom leather pieces. It wasn’t long before we became close friends. Ernesto, like my grandfather, had never graduated from high school. Poverty had forced both of them to support their families from an early age. However, their lack of education didn’t prevent them from being successful in their own right.
In 2008, I pitched the idea to Ernesto of us working together to share our common love for leather with other young people from a similar economic background. Immediately, he was all in, confessing to me that he had "always dreamed of being a teacher". By 2010, a new vocational school opened and enrollment was full with a waiting list. Since its inception, we've focused on teaching trades to young men and women who would not otherwise have an opportunity to study. Today, the vocational school continues to equip young artisans, with both craftsman skills and a bright future. You can learn more about it on our sister organization’s website. Ernesto continues to share his love for leather his amazing skills and his heart for teaching with a select group of young men and women who will become skilled artisans just like him."