The Birth of WITO
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” this quote spoke volumes to Raul Baez, the founder of WITO, Inc. He was compelled by an inner voice to reach out to the young men he witnessed go home and return to prison with a new bid. Some of them he saw multiple times with in the 12 years he served. When I looked into their faces I was taken aback when I was their age thinking and acting just like them, "dumb & confuse." The were a mirror image of me back when I had hair, curly too. I knew, if I didn't figure this out I could easily be like them with a fourth bid. This problem got my attention. I started thinking, could this happen to me and the question compelled me to find some answers.
I grew up in a total dysfunctional family where I experience sexual, physical abuse and violence. I witnessed rampant and pervasive attacks on my mother regularly. We were never held or told "I love you." My mother didn't believe me when I told her about the abuse and I shut down. At the age of 13, I was already consuming hard drugs and dropped out of school in the 7th grade. The drug addiction would take me on a 25-year binge with 2 overdoses and 4 near death experiences.
I became a father at the young age of 16 making horrendous decisions as a parent. I couldn't give my son nothing I didn't have. I never experience love so I couldn't express it to him. My distorted view of fatherhood was fundamental in the way my son saw the world. In 1993, he was selling drugs in the street with all the madness I introduced him to and he got shot. He was killed and I felt inadequate, powerless. In 1998, my oldest daughter was in a domestic violence situation. Motivated by fear that I would lose another child I took the law into my own hands and almost killed a man. In my mind, he was dead and I immediately went on the run. I was homeless, didn’t know where I was going to eat, sleep, shower and resorted to committing robberies, every day or every other day for 7 months to survive.
As I reflected what the collective amount of years would add up to for my active crime spree, I made the decision that I would rather die than to go to prison for the rest of my life. I was facing over 200 years in prison, real numbers, this is not a typo. The day I got arrested, I deliberately shot at 2 police officers to provoke them, suicide by a cop. They shot 32 times, 16 apiece, not one bullet hit me, Glory God I'm still standing. I was supposed to spend the rest of my life in prison or I should be dead.
It became very clear to me, I needed to change my thinking and aligned myself with the way successful people think and act. It wasn’t difficult because immediately I was able to distinguished, success leaves tracks. If I follow and do the things successful people do, to that degree I was guaranteed success. I started stepping into my power everyday, making sure that I consciously make the choice to turn negative thinking into hope, gratitude and positive thinking. I let go the belief that life is a constant struggle and cultivated a life of believing prosperity, creativity and joy were possible for me. If I chose to tap into my fullest potential. The paradigm shift propelled me to formed (E.R.I.C) the Entrepreneur Real Estate Investment Course in July 2005 at Otisville Correctional Facility where it continues to run and has been taught to over 400 men.
Realizing financial education was an essential ingredient to becoming successful, I began teaching it to others and it challenged me to prepare so that I would be received as being proficient and authentic. Up until this point, I was an addict and few people wanted anything to do with me. It was important I gained the respect of my peers about my vision and the purpose I was gradually embracing as meaningful. The platform I wanted to establish was to engage, empower and equip these young brothers with meaningful and tangible skills if they were ever going to break the cycle of incarceration.
The experience of working with these you brothers allow me to experienced a relationship with my son in a way I never experienced in real life. The more I committed to the mission, the more I felt connected to my son and eventually, the closer I got to God. Inevitably, I found purpose. I have not looked back since, living an incredible and abundant life in every area of my life.
I came home using the entrepreneurial program to start a business. Then I started a second business and eventually a third, WITO Inc. E.R.I.C. is the genesis of WITO Inc.
WITO Inc. is personal, its my story, my son's story, my brother, my father's and all my uncles whom have died from all the same dynamics in our family's tree. In my family the only men alive is my favorite uncle Felo, five nephews, two sons and me, we already know I really should be dead as well if it wasn't for God's awesome Grace on my life.
I named it WITO because it was his inspiration that propelled me to Trust God and allow him to renew me. God's redemption power in my life allow me to find purpose. As the acronym states: We Innovatively Transform Ourselves, that transformation didn't happen for me until I surrender as the logo illuminates. I had to take a stand on something greater than me. To break free from our past way of thinking, I am proposing that you also take a stand. For me it was God, for you it can be the universe, a higher power, Buddha, Allah, on your own its difficult to sustain the discipline and character to make the changes that lead to growth.
I eventually became self-educated and obtained an associate in Real Estate Appraisal, a bachelor's in Personal Finance and a double master's program in business. WITO Inc. was created for me to pay it forward. I have created a curriculum that encompasses all of the principle I lived by and are the foundation of my success. I want to replicate the successful outcomes to those I left behind. I want to create a legacy my children and family could be proud of as we break the destructive cycles in our family tree. I believe with all my heart, I was set free to help the captives be set free as well. God has allow me to take all the madness in my life and create a powerful message.
In summary, all my adversity had meaning and purpose. I eventually made a choice to use my past as a springboard to success. This is the essence of what I speak about in my book which I plan to distribute by December. The essence and motivation for the book is to create a road map of how to eliminate anything that is not positive or healthy for growth and replace it with the principles that lead to successful living.
If you can change the thinking, you can change the behavior and inevitably produce the outcomes you aspire.
WITO Inc salutes your legacy, RIP WITO