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Bringing Colombian Empanadas to Cuenca

Luis is a master empanada chef at only 26 years old. But life hasn’t always been that way.

Luis is from Colombia and was working at a gas station earning only 500 pesos (US $0.17) a month, which was barely enough to provide for his family. One night, he and two of his co-workers were robbed. Not only did the robbers steal 20 million pesos (US $6,630) from the gas station, but they harassed Luis weeks after the robbery asking for more money.

Luis moved his family to a new city in Colombia where they lived with his father, but the robbers found him again and threatened to harm his children at school. That’s when Luis decided to relocate to Cuenca, Ecuador—where he was provided political asylum for himself, his wife, and his two daughters.

Starting out as a construction worker, Luis soon realized he should use his ability to cook to start his own business, so he started making Colombian empanadas and selling them on the streets. This work was hard, as he had to start cooking very early in the morning and then walk the streets until late in the afternoon in order to earn just enough money to support his family, but it still left him unable to lift his family out of poverty. Luis decided he would have to start looking for other work to improve his economic situation, but that was not easy because as a refugee, employers would not pay him what was required by law.

By God’s grace, he learned about the Learning for Life program—training for restaurant servers—through Partners Worldwide local partner Cuenca Partners. After attending the program, Luis learned more about Cuenca Partners and attended trainings about leadership and family finances, and ultimately was able to improve his business.

Through training from Cuenca Partners and with the Lord’s guidance, Luis has been able to grow his empanada business from selling 8 empanadas per day to 180! He delivers the empanadas daily across Cuenca to places that serve food, including Cuenca University. And this is all giving his family a better standard of living. Kudos to Chef Luis and thanks be to God.