Karen has experienced much trauma in her life — from domestic violence and a near fatal attack from her first husband to being abandoned by her second husband. Now the 31-year-old single mother of three in Colombia is raising her children alone in a humble home made of bamboo sticks and rusted sheet metal.
Karen’s strength and hope for her children’s future shines brightly. Her daughter is sponsored through Unbound, and while the tangible benefits help her family, the sense of belonging and hope she feels from the Unbound program is just as meaningful.
When Karen’s second husband abandoned her and her three children, she knew she had to overcome and get back on her feet for the sake of her children. Before she became a mother she trained to become a private security guard, but after taking a few years off to raise her children, she needed to renew her private security license.
Although it took a while, she was able to borrow and raise enough money to renew her license. She works 12-hour days four times a week. The long hours are difficult on Karen because she worries about her children when she’s away.
“Organizing my time is difficult and I wish I had more time to be with them,” she said. “I honestly prefer to raise them on my own than for them to be in a toxic relationship where they will see bad examples or moments and suffer.”
Karen’s strength is evident in her commitment to protect and care for her children. Although she doesn’t want to leave them, she knows that working will help provide them with food and shelter for another day. Her job as a security officer also gives her confidence and demonstrates to her children that women can work in a male-dominated field.
“I love working in security, not sure why, but this is something I truly enjoy,” Karen said. “I feel that I am capable to protect other people. I am not sure what it is, but I also see it as a way to contribute to the society.”
Although she works long hours, Karen still finds it difficult to support three children on her salary alone. One day she wants to bring her children to live in a new home — one without holes in the walls and roof.
“My dream is to give [my children] a dignified home … for them not to get wet because there are days when rain is heavy and everything we have gets wet,” Karen said. “I can’t fix the house because I don’t have the means at this moment. If I buy one thing, I lack of another thing. It is difficult.”
When Karen picked up her children from school, she would pass by the Unbound office and stop in to see if there was a space for her children, but there was always someone else ahead of them on the waiting list for sponsorship.
Karen never lost hope that one day her children would find sponsors. When the day finally came, Karen was overjoyed.
“Unbound helps you not to lose hope,” she said. “To me it is a support, a strength. It is a joy to know that I am not alone, that we have people who worry about us. We receive the letters from my children’s sponsors and they express to my children how much they love them. I truly feel blessed in spite of everything I have gone through.
“[My children’s sponsors] are an unconditional support. They are my strength. They are the reason for me not to feel alone and to feel loved. They make me feel that I have another family.”
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