Rolando didn’t have a father growing up in Cartagena, Colombia. His dad died in a car crash when he was just a baby, and his mother died from diabetes when he was only 3 years old.
“I don’t recall much of my parents,” Rolando said, “but I remember my mother being a hard-working woman, and remember her selling fried food downtown. … The one thing I remember from her is the big love she gave us; that is something that I still have inside me.”
Hard work and love are the main memories Rolando has of his mother, and these values were further instilled in him and his four siblings by their aunt and uncle who raised them after their mother’s passing. Their uncle had a decent job and supported them through high school.
With an education in hand, Rolando found a good job at a company when he was just 17. He got married, and together he and his wife had three children, Luis, Laura and Nataly.
“Thanks to the values instilled in me by my mother and my aunt, the company started to give me opportunities, offered me training, and I started to climb up some positions within the company,” Rolando said.
Things were going well for Rolando, but a car accident left him severely injured and unable to work. The company supported him through his recovery process, and even provided additional financial help, Rolando said, even though he wouldn’t be able to return to work.
“When I was in therapy, people believed that I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” Rolando said. “Six months after the accident, my wife left and abandoned me and my children.”
Despite his wife leaving, Rolando continued to move forward. He kept up with his physical therapy and regained the use of his legs. Using the money from his former employer, Rolando started a business selling fish. But the income was seasonal, and Rolando found it difficult to support his children.
“Due to the accident I fell into a great personal depression,” Rolando said. “I was very sad; it was then when I met Unbound. A friend told me about it and encouraged me to go talk to the social workers. …
“One of the biggest benefits I have received from Unbound is the values that the foundation has taught me, such as helping others and being collaborative. When I found Unbound I needed company, and Unbound came in and gave that to me.”
Rolando’s son, Luis, was sponsored through Unbound in 2009, but left the program last year when he moved to another city to live with his mother. Now, Rolando’s youngest daughter, Nataly, is sponsored, and Rolando continues to participate as the only male in the local parents’ group through Unbound.
Over the years Rolando has been criticized by some in his community for staying with his kids, suggesting he should send them to live with their mother. In Colombia, the mothers typically look after the children. But Rolando ignored the critics and persevered in his dedication to being a father.
“I have learned to take care of my children, and the experience I had lived in my life, growing without parents, taught me what I needed to care for my children,” Rolando said. “It is interesting how other men in the community, instead of criticizing me, they admire me.
“I used to go to the houses of my friends and write down the way their wives would cook. I would put those papers on the walls of my kitchen and follow the directions. I finally learned, and the papers on the wall are long gone!”
Rolando has faced many challenges, but he never gave up on being a father or his deep love for his children.
“My dreams, as a father, are to give [my children] the best education I can, give them opportunities and teach them to value and respect others so they can overcome and not have the hard life I had when growing up or as an adult,” Rolando said.
“It has been difficult. We suffered very much, but I always think of me and my siblings. We never got separated. In spite of all the difficulties we faced, we never gave up. This is what motivated me to grab my children and overcome with them.”
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