Aug 26 2015

Driving positive change

Luisa stands outside the taxi she drives in Bolivia.

Luisa stands outside the taxi she drives in Bolivia.

A taxi driver’s life can be dangerous. Unknown passengers, unsafe locations, heavy traffic, severe weather and the time of day can affect the outcome of each fare. But when the taxi driver is a woman living in Bolivia, accepting fares on a graveyard shift, the danger is much greater.

Luisa is the mother of five children, two of whom are sponsored through Unbound. She’s been driving a taxi for six years, mostly on the night shift from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., so she can be present for her children during the day.

“Life is always at risk,” Luisa said. “I hear on the news that a taxi driver is murdered for money or the vehicle. But I have no choice, I must continue working because I want my children to have a better life.”

A better life and opportunities that weren’t available to her when she was growing up.

Luisa was 14 years old when she left home, moved in with her future husband and started a family. With tears in her eyes, she names physical abuse as the reason she wanted to escape her childhood home.

“My parents used to beat me,” she said. “I wanted to escape my family.”

She did escape, but entered adulthood much earlier than others her age and had her first child at 14 years old. Luisa and her husband eventually had four more children, but her problems were far from over.

“My husband had severe alcohol problems and would spend all his pay on alcohol,” Luisa said. “My children and I did not have anything to eat.”

She knew she had to do something. She had to feed her children, so she started to sell ice cream on the streets. Then she sold vegetables and later worked as a bricklayer’s assistant. Her income was insufficient until one day her godmother suggested she start driving a taxi.

Her godmother taught her how to drive and helped her get her taxi driver’s permit. She took out a loan for her own car and, almost two months later, her daily earnings had increased.

“My husband started to appreciate what I was doing and realized that he had to change,” Luisa said. “Fortunately, he is now more supportive.”

Luisa works the night shift driving a taxi because it allows her to be with her children more.

“It is dangerous but at least I can be with my kids during the day,” she said. “Every day, early in the morning, I make breakfast for my kids and I take them to school. I have worked all night and I am sleepy and tired, but I enjoy taking them to school.”

Luisa’s oldest child, Germán, was sponsored when he was 7 years old, and her other son, Luis, was sponsored when he was 8. Their economic situation was dire, and it was hard to provide education and other things for her children.

Luisa, second from right, with three of her children and her husband, Germán (left).

Luisa, second from right, with three of her children and her husband, Germán (left).

“Thanks to Unbound and sponsorship, it has helped me move forward with my children,” she said. “It has been of much support. I am grateful with God and our sponsors.

“They give me strength to continue working hard for my family. … I know there are many strong mothers out there and they are working hard for their families. We must move forward.”

Her current challenge?

“Pay off my car loan and avoid accidents,” Luisa said with a laugh.

Luisa dreams of owning her own home and giving her children a better life. Thanks to the support her family received through sponsorship, both financially and emotionally, Luisa says her family is closer and happier.

Women’s Equality Day is Aug. 26, and we celebrate this day with Luisa’s story of perseverance and strength. She is a great example of a woman doing all she can to provide the best possible life for her children and doing so by working in a field in which there are few women. We applaud you, Luisa.

Celebrate Women’s Equality Day by sponsoring a girl. Give her the opportunity she needs to fulfill her potential.

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