By Naresli Calito, correspondent for Unbound in El Salvador
Joy filled the day when local Unbound staff in El Salvador and awareness trip participants got together for morning prayer with the sponsored elders.
After the elders sang and we shared in a short reflection, we all waited for the testimony from a humble and kind older man named Manuel.
Using his prosthetic arm, Manuel placed a tree leaf on his mouth and started playing a gospel tune. After his song, he introduced himself and said, “Could you take a minute to look at me? Please be honest, don’t I look handsome? This is all thanks to you sponsors.”
Manuel told stories and jokes and we all laughed. He put a smile on our faces.
Manuel lost his family when he was a child. He also lost his arm when he was young, and not long ago he lost his sight, but he never lost his faith or his sense of humor.
Recently, Manuel passed away from a heart attack. It was something that affected all of us: the staff, the sponsored elders and families who are part of the Unbound program.
“The sponsored elder group is like a human body,” Mirna, an Unbound social worker in El Salvador, said. “We are all an important part but there are a few that are really at the heart of it all.”
That was Manuelito.
The first time I heard his testimony, I really understood the meaning of Unbound in a sponsored elder’s life. He told us that before Unbound, he felt useless, like old furniture sitting in the corner. But thanks to his testimonial, we know we improved the life of an old, blind, one-armed man.
For his family, his death has been difficult. His daughter said he was preparing new songs to play with his tree leaf. Participating in awareness trips was something that brought him joy.
He was so connected with the Unbound staff in El Salvador. He shared his happiness with all of us through his music and testimony.
His passion for life was witnessed by everyone who had the opportunity to talk with him.
We miss the sound of his music, his voice and the unique way he told a story.
He always said he may live in a very humble house, but his heart and home will be open for all families in the Unbound program. We try to keep that in our minds — that he gave us the best of himself, and now it is our turn to give the best of us to others through our gifts.