By Victoria Brown, social media coordinator
To help a family like Sonia’s, sponsor a child today. It’ll change their world, and yours.
It’s 11 p.m., and I’m sitting alone in the Unbound communications office in Santa Ana, El Salvador, typing away as bugs of all sorts crawl and fly around me. It’s quiet, except for the buzzing of computers and the occasional moment when the friendly guard dogs stop by to sniff around the room. I procrastinated on this post all evening because I couldn’t stop thinking about my visit with Sonia.
Her humble home is a bamboo structure covered with “tejas” (roof tiles) and plastic bags to prevent leaking. The home is filled with masses of flies, Sonia’s humor and her infectious laugh. The small, one bedroom home has two beds covered with blue mosquito nets. Her sons are quiet — quite the opposite of Sonia. Sonia’s adorable 3-year-old daughter Johana was also there and she couldn’t stop smiling.
Sonia is 30 years old. Her husband, Milton, who I did not get the chance to meet, works in the fields. He plants corn and beans to eat and sell. They have three children: Bryan (15), Diego (12) and Johana (3). Diego has been sponsored through Unbound for almost seven years.
I first met Sonia Tuesday morning at her monthly mothers group meeting.
Sonia is part of a mothers group in a small rural village. There are 30 moms in the group, and they each have at least one child sponsored through Unbound.
Sonia is the head of the finance committee in her group. The group has four committees: finance, education, health and recreation.
Her mothers group joined with other mothers groups in the area to form a co-op. This larger group of women save $2 a month per person and deposit that money into a bank account. When a member needs to borrow money, there’s a system in place to give her a loan with a low interest rate. Banks loans are difficult to obtain, and businesses charge high interest rates. The loans offered through the co-op are a tremendous help to the moms. A member will typically take out a loan to start or improve a small business.
As leader of the finance committee, one of Sonia’s responsibilities is to make a monthly deposit at the bank. She has to take two buses to get to the bank, but it doesn’t matter to her how long it takes. She’s incredibly proud to be a leader in her community. And being a part of the co-op has made Sonia “feel helpful now.” It’s allowed her “to be more useful” and make her “feel like someone.”
After the mothers meeting, I went to Sonia’s home with Yessica, a local Unbound social worker, and Ann Adele, my interpreter.
I was a little nervous when I first walked in her home because I didn’t know how she would answer my questions. Would she be candid or would she struggle with answers?
It took me a nervous minute to figure out which question to ask her first. But then, after a few questions, we were comfortably chatting and laughing. It was like I was hanging with my friends back home.
I learned she likes to do the same things as me – dance or go out for coffee with friends. At one point, I asked what her advice is for other young women. She laughed and said, “Don’t get married.” I laughed and quickly responded, “Too late.” I was fascinated by this mom who wasn’t going to let poverty take her sense of humor away.
We also talked about how her son Diego’s sponsorship has impacted her family’s life. She said Unbound has “changed a lot for good.”
Before Unbound, Sonia did house chores and watched over her family. Now, she’s selling products through a catalog. She also helps 12 other women sell products. When she explained how it works, I was quickly able to see some similarities to the home businesses my friends have in the U.S.
Sonia’s family runs a small convenience shop in their home. I was able to witness a couple business transactions during my visit. Customers tapped the outside wall at the walk-up window with a coin when they arrived. Then either Sonia or one of her children would help the customer.
But wait, there’s more.
On the weekends, Sonia gets up before 6 a.m. and takes her children to her mother’s house, which is a 30- to 40-minute walk. She drops her kids off and then sells flip-flops and clothes until about 4 p.m.
By the end of our conversation, I was amazed by all of the work Sonia does to help support her family. And yet, despite these challenges, she has a smile on her face and a joke ready to be told. This fun and humorous woman definitely has a special place in my heart now.
Before I left Sonia’s home, she told me I was welcome to come back any time. At that moment, I hugged her, not once, but twice. I so badly wanted to tell her that I’d be back, but I knew I couldn’t promise that. Instead, I thanked her over and over again and told her I would never forget her, “my girlfriend.”
Unbound’s blogger trip: El Salvador