John Halligan, S.J., was working with the indigenous poor living south of Quito, Ecuador, in 1964 when he began investigating the lives of shoeshine boys in the city.
This inquiry led Father Halligan to open the Working Boys’ Center, a school that offers technical training, in the attic of a centuries-old church. After a few weeks, more than 250 boys were lining up each day to receive the training—as well as the meals and medical attention—that the center provided.
Today, the center operates out of three buildings spread throughout Quito and serves more than 2,000 members. It offers daycare, elementary education, vocational training, special-needs services and adult-literacy programs. The center serves 35,000 meals to its members weekly.
The results speak for themselves. A 2007 survey found that 67 percent of respondents reported owning their own home after joining the center, while only 21 percent did so before. Roughly 95 percent of the men and 83 percent of the women are employed.
Photos by Michael Foley