Sometimes the families I select live in very remote areas, and that was the case on this trip to Guatemala.
We stopped the truck when the road became impassable and stepped out into the brisk mountain air. As we stepped out of the pickup, I asked the local community worker how long the walk to the family’s home would be. He laughed and said “un buen rato” (a good while). We were surrounded by beautiful views on every side, so a walk in the mountains sounded nice.
But the hiking was steeper and more tiring than I expected. After an hour, I asked a woman we passed on the trail how far it was to the family’s house. She turned in the general direction I was walking, pursed her lips in thought, and said, “not too far.” After two hours, I started getting hungry. After three hours, I started thinking about how we would have to retrace each step we were taking to return to the truck.
The mothers in the Unbound program are the strongest people I’ve ever met. One of the reasons they’re strong is because they don’t have any other choice. Unjust systems and beliefs place a painfully heavy load on their backs.
— Dan Pearson , UNBOUND DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS
A rugged path
When we finally arrived at the family’s home, I gratefully accepted the coffee the sponsored child’s mother offered. I was especially grateful for the bench she nodded for me to sit on. She shared that she was a single mother. We talked about her family and their experience in the Unbound program. She told us about some of the challenges she faced trying to provide for her children with only a small plot of mountainous land to farm.
I asked her what she had used the sponsorship benefit money to purchase. She listed off things like school fees, seeds for her farming and clothes for the kids. She nodded toward a simple armoire sitting inside the home and said she had purchased it with sponsorship funds. Before that the family had to keep their clothes in cardboard boxes stacked on the floor.
A few minutes later during a pause in the conversation I stared at the armoire and thought about the hours of rugged hiking we had just completed.
“How did the store manage to deliver the armoire?” I asked. “Oh, there wasn’t a delivery. I carried it,” she said.
“How did you carry that huge piece of furniture all the way here?” “It wasn’t too difficult,” she said. “Each of the kids carried a drawer and I carried the frame.”
Fighting for their children’s success
Her response astonished me, but it shouldn’t have. I’ve heard similar stories in every country where we work. The mothers in the Unbound program are the strongest people I’ve ever met. One of the reasons they’re strong is because they don’t have any other choice. Unjust systems and beliefs place a painfully heavy load on their backs.
Those systems and beliefs need to change, and while we work to change them we also need to honor these women. Their drive and persistence are heroic. Their wisdom and ingenuity are inspiring. And their joy is both infectious and beyond my ability to understand.
The children in the Unbound program face more challenges than they can count. But for the vast majority of them, there is one thing they can count on. They know without doubt that the person who will fight for their success more than anyone else in the world is their mother. These strong, wise, joyful, and heroic women have been showing us what they are capable of for centuries. It’s long past time for more of us to get behind them and follow their lead.
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