People who visit seaside resorts enjoy the warm waters, beautiful beaches and the various amenities such places have to offer. But they might not think much about the lives of the people who provide those services – people like Yira and her family.
Yira is a 21-year-old Unbound scholarship student. She has also been sponsored since she was 12. She lives with her parents and brother on the Colombian coast, in an area supported largely by tourism.
Making a living in the tourist trade is hard and unpredictable. Yira’s father, Hector, a fisherman, goes out every morning well before sunrise to get a jump on the catch of the day. Her mother, Vilmaida, has a small seaside restaurant.
Yira spoke about what it takes to run the business.
“During the weekends, I help my mother,” she said. “We serve fish and green plantains with rice and salad. We usually start around 7 a.m. We set up everything and the tourists usually start arriving around 11 a.m. We never know when the day will end, but if the day is good we come home around 7 p.m. If the day is bad, we come home around 4 p.m.”
While tourism can provide a good living, there is a dark side. Not all visitors to the area have good intentions, and there’s always the danger of the local people being exploited.
“There are tourists who don’t come to relax but to look for sex, drugs, etc.,” Yira said. “The girls from this area do not participate in this, but there are others who come from other places and offer those services to the visitors.”
Yira credits her upbringing with keeping her away from that path.
“In my case I have always been with my parents and they have educated me in the environment we were working in. My mother would always tell me, ‘If they offer you something, you must say no.’ Girls in my area don’t do it because … the community, parents, grandparents, are always [looking] after them and have instilled [in them] these values.”
Armed with her solid values and the benefit of the education provided through Unbound, Yira is poised for a bright future. She recently graduated from a prestigious technical school in Cartagena as a specialist in tourism. She has big dreams.
“I see myself working on a cruise [ship],” she said. “I love the sea, the diversity of people, places and cultures. I love exploring. I want to travel and visit places, but I always want to come back to my neighborhood and to my family and friends.”
Yira appreciates her blessings, which include belonging to the Unbound community.
“As a sponsored member you become part of a family and you grow with others in the family,” she said. “There are opportunities. You get formed as a person.”
That formation has given Yira the freedom to follow a dream as old as humankind, the dream of adventure at sea.
Learn more about Unbound’s scholarship program and how you can help promising students like Yira achieve their dreams.