When I was finished with Antonio’s interview at the Supply Hope warehouse where he works, he thanked me for asking him questions and said that he had never been asked to tell his story before. It was a very emotional interview and I was so honored that he shared with me. This job is truly changing his life and his son’s life. Supply Hope provides work that people can be proud of because it is within their own community. Too often, nonprofits focus on creating jobs that focus on making Americans the customer instead of encouraging people to serve their own communities. Photo by Esther Havens.
Every morning as the sun rises, Antonio, 27, boards a bus in his hometown of Crucero bound for Managua. An hour later, he arrives at the Mercado Fresco office and heads to the clean, bright yellow warehouse in the back. Pulling on his boots and gloves, he sets to work. As the warehouse manager, he is responsible for precisely weighing and slicing each order of cheese and preparing all the food before it goes out for delivery. He packs the oil in individual plastic bags. He organizes cream and three flavors of yogurt in the fridges. His work is solitary, but it makes him happy and proud. Growing up outside Managua, Antonio never knew his father. Though his mother left his father when his alcoholism became too much, Antonio didn’t escape the alcoholism and violent tempers of his uncles that they lived with. He started school at the age of 11 because of his family’s lack of resources. He dropped out of school to work in construction and later in agriculture, both common informal jobs in Nicaragua. Once he became a father, his life took on a new motivation.
He wants to work so that his son, Axel Antonio, will have a better life than he did. He says he will never leave his son, never do to his son what his father did to him. In a country in which men are increasingly not in their children’s lives, Antonio is a disrupter. He is interrupting the cycle of alcoholism and abandonment in his family and taking responsibility for his life and his son’s life. With a salaried job that he can depend on at Mercado Fresco (Supply Hope), he hopes to save enough money to buy his own home and move out of his childhood home that is a negative environment. He wants his own private, personal space for him and his son to develop their identities and character away from his family. This might explain why he loves his work in the Mercado Fresco office; it’s his own space that he gets to control. Antonio most appreciates the environment of Mercado Fresco, which he says is positive and united. The office staff help each other and encourage openness and honesty, something he says he formerly lacked and wasn’t reinforced at his other jobs. Antonio is proud of his work, and he should also be proud of himself for being a different kind of man and father to his son.