Unbound scholar Sergio uses a textbook to teach mothers to read and write.
Dec 14 2015

Youth open a new world for women eager to learn

Unbound scholar Sergio uses a textbook to teach mothers to read and write.

Unbound scholar Sergio uses a textbook to teach mothers to read and write.


There is a proverb that says when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. For a group of women in a village in Guatemala, that has proven to be true in a surprising way.

The women are part of a group of mothers of children sponsored through Unbound. They live in a small community nestled in the mountains of south-central Guatemala.

Like many adults in Latin America who grew up in poverty, without access to formal education, these ladies never learned to read or write. But when Unbound entered their lives, they discovered new opportunity in the form of two studious and enthusiastic teenage boys.

Wilmer and Sergio are both 16. Wilmer has been sponsored through Unbound since 2006 and Sergio has been an Unbound scholarship student since 2013. Grateful for their own educational opportunities and eager to give back, the boys accepted the task of teaching the mothers.

Mothers group members practice their writing skills by copying letters from one of their children's schoolbooks.

Mothers group members practice their writing skills by copying letters from one of their children’s schoolbooks.

“We were told [by Unbound] that there was a large group of mothers who wanted to learn,” Wilmer said. “Sergio and I raised our hands and said that we would take the challenge. I did a mental run-through of my schedule and said, ‘Yeah, I can make time for this.’ My mother only made it to second grade. This also motivated me to help other mothers.”

Willing though they were, the boys admit they were nervous about the prospect of teaching adults. Sergio spoke of his concerns.

“To be honest, I did not know what to do,” he said. “I thought, ‘What did I get into?’ I was scared to teach these mothers. I was insecure and shy. But they helped me overcome my fears.

“From the beginning they welcomed us with open arms. I thank each and every mother for that. I thank them for treating us like friends but at the same time respecting us like teachers.”

The boys began by organizing the women into groups according to their reading and writing abilities. They encouraged them to bring whatever reading materials they could find to use as guides. Some brought their children’s elementary school textbooks.

Wilmer and Sergio share a happy moment with mothers group members during their reading lesson.

Wilmer and Sergio share a happy moment with mothers group members during their reading lesson.

Sergio is pleased with their progress.

“We take small steps,” he said. “They learn how to pronounce and write a vowel at a time. For writing, we show them how to make circles, horizontal lines, vertical lines and other figures. I remember how I was taught and that is what I do with them.”

The boys feel they learn as much from the women as they teach. Wilmer is moved by the mothers’ humility and dedication.

“To see a 50-year old woman doing her best to learn inspires me,” he said. “This makes me happy and I say to myself, ‘We did something good here.'”

The women, in partnership with Sergio and Wilmer, are proving once again that ingenuity is one of the hallmarks of Unbound’s presence within communities.

Like many of the individuals and families Unbound works with, they are refusing to let inexperience, expectations or pride get in the way of achieving their dreams.

Wilmer understands the value of what he and Sergio are doing for the women.

“Reading and writing opens a new world for them,” he said. “They will be able to read street signs and read the paper, a legal document, and even help their children with homework. Once they learn it, they will never forget. They have the right to learn.”

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