When Fabio Prumucena applied for a loan through the Perpetual Education Fund, he was working a temporary job at a local call center. His salary allowed him only one of two choices: support his family or finance a better education.
When his PEF loan was approved, Brother Prumucena, now bishop of the Campo de Fora Ward, in the Sao Paulo Brazil Santo Amaro Stake, applied for a course in telecommunications. Upon completing the course he was hired by the company that made the very same products he used while working at the call center. He now is the company's product coordinator, earning a better salary and isn't required to work on Sundays. Recently Brother Prumucena enrolled at a local university and is working on an engineering degree. This time he is financing the degree himself.
It's been seven years since the creation of the Perpetual Education Fund to help destitute Latter-day Saints break the cycle of poverty. During a press conference following his sustaining as president of the Church on April 5, President Thomas S. Monson spoke of the fund, calling it a miracle and assuring that it "is a fund that will go far into the future."
A year and a half after it was established, the program had already disbursed 5,000 loans. Today, the program administers more than 30,000 loans to participants in 40 countries.
Elder John K. Carmack, emeritus Seventy and executive director of the PEF, said that the 40 countries served "include almost all of Mexico, Central America and South America. We've reached about 10 countries in Africa, several in Asia and a number of the islands of the seas. We are gearing up to reach more countries that have needs and significant numbers of young adults who are ambitious and worthy Church members."
With better education comes better employment, greater self-sufficiency, self-worth, hope in the future and a greater ability to serve in the Church, he said.
Something else members are discovering, however, is that their improved employment situations bring with them opportunities to share their examples in influential circles of the business world.
Antonio Santana, president of the Bertoiga Branch, Guaruja Brazil Stake, never thought he'd get past his first interview with his current employer at Geny Home Shopping, a furniture manufacturing company. He knew he needed the job but he also knew most employees were expected to put in long hours, which wouldn't agree with his Church schedule and need for family time.
During the interview, he talked with the owner about everything, including his proposed salary. When they concluded, the thought came to Brother Santana: "Stand up for your principles!" He quickly added, "I must leave by five every day. And I can't work on Sundays."
"That's fine," said the owner, "you can stay later on Saturdays."
"I can do that — except on the first Saturday of each month because I have a training meeting," said Brother Santana.
The employer then looked at him as if to say, "Anything else you'd like to add?" Then, thinking of temple attendance, Brother Santana made one last stipulation that he must be allowed to travel to Sao Paulo one Wednesday out of the month.
"So when are you going to work?" asked the flustered interviewer. Brother Santana began to explain his responsibilities in the Church. He felt the Spirit present in the room and looked the employer in the eye and said, "During the time that I am at work, I will put in 100 percent of my effort."
The employer stood up, shook his hand and said, "Welcome to the company. Better that I hire a busy man than an idle one. Your responsibilities demonstrate you're anxious to grow and that you are serious about working."
Brother Santana has since been promoted as company sales manager. He said he now works alongside the owner and, as the company has expanded, they've hired two other members of the Church. In a recent company meeting, the owner expressed his gratitude for Brother Santana's Church membership and ethical standards.
Although each participant with a loan has the opportunity to pay it back, many are also paying it forward as they continue to donate throughout their life and as they share the light of their example in environments that were once unattainable.
E-mail to: [email protected]