FIGHTING TO STAY AFLOAT FINANCIALLY
Raising three teenage girls can be tough for a single father in any part of the world, but Diego’s doing it in the rural, southwestern highlands of Guatemala in the midst of a pandemic. To 16-year-old Maria and 14-year-old twins Juana and Ana, he’s been their sole provider and protector — and the personal embroiderer for their traditional “huipil” blouses for the last 10 years.
Diego is one of the millions of people in the developing world who risk falling back into extreme poverty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, he earned a living working as help in the kitchen of a local restaurant.
For years, Diego had scaled up a side business raising and selling chickens, a business he said allowed him to continue earning income after the restaurant closed. As the lockdown dragged on, resources and reserves dwindled and he sold his last chicken. Watching the progress he’d made to improve his situation slowly dissolve, he began working in food delivery where he’s earning the equivalent of up to $1.35 each day.
Diego was an adult before he ever entered a classroom as a student. Now, he serves on the education committee of a parent support group in his neighborhood.
The groups, traditionally made up of mothers, welcomed Diego in after learning his wife left the family years ago. Defying the traditional gender roles of most Guatemalan men has landed Diego in the center of town gossip, but he stays in the group because of the benefits it provides him and his girls.
All three of Diego’s girls have individual sponsors in the United States through Unbound. The parent support group Diego participates in is facilitated through the organization.
“The mothers know about my situation and they value me,” Diego said. “Sometimes, I tell them that I cannot take it anymore, that I have gotten tired of living in this situation, but they tell me to be encouraged because my daughters are already advancing in their studies. My girls are about to reach their goals.”