Angela, or Angelita, as she’s called by her family and friends, is a sponsored elder in El Salvador. She’ll celebrate her 71st birthday in March, but has gone through a lot to get to such a distinguished age.
“My childhood was very humble,” Angela said. “My father worked the land; he worked in everything that he could find. We were nine siblings, seven boys and two girls. … We all stayed in one room. A friend of my family lent us that room and it was made of adobe.
“We were living in extreme poverty. That’s why my siblings and I never went to school. Instead we had to work. I collected firewood, carried water to my house and washed clothes in a river.”
When she was 15, Angela married and had a daughter with her first husband, who was a few years older than her. He passed away the next year at age 21.
Angela was single for three years before meeting her second husband, a 47-year-old farmer. Together they had four children, three girls and a boy. Angela said her husband grew corn and beans and was able to employ 12 other men to help with the work. In addition to taking care of the children, Angela provided meals for her husband and his employees.
“I would get up early,” she said. “I was making tortillas at 3 a.m. for all of them. I also had to carry water and pick firewood in the woods to cook all this. At lunch I carried all the food in a big basket and I walked to the land where they were working. It was two- and-a-half miles up the hill.”
At 38, Angela was diagnosed with stomach cancer. While she’s free of cancer now, she spent a lot of time at the hospital undergoing chemotherapy. In the midst of this, Angela said, her husband left her. She worked a variety of jobs to send her children to school, and her son was able to graduate while her four daughters left school early to get married.
By the time she was in her late 50s, Angela had broken her hand and was having a hard time finding work. It was around this time that she heard about Unbound.
“When I went to the office to ask for support in Unbound,” Angela said, “I said to the person who attended me, ‘These are probably the last days of my life, but if God allows me to live more, he will give me the opportunity to be sponsored.’ Seven months later I received the good news that I have a sponsor.”
Angela shared that she didn’t wear shoes for most of her childhood. She didn’t get her first pair until she was 13 years old.
“I was working picking coffee,” Angela said. “With that money I bought a dress and a pair of sandals. That was my first pair of sandals.”
Today, if Angela needs a new pair of shoes, she has the option of selecting them as part of her sponsorship benefits.
Though she never had a chance to attend school, Angela knows how to read and write thanks to a childhood friend who taught her.
“My dream was to study,” Angela said. “I dreamed of becoming a nurse, to take care of people, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t even attend the first grade. I was 11 years old when a friend of mine made a notebook for me. It was made with a paper bag, and she also gave me a book. Little by little, I started learning numbers and letters.”
Because of her initiative and her friend’s efforts, Angela enjoys exchanging letters with her sponsor, Maureen from Georgia, without the need of assistance. Angela keeps busy and has a lot to say in her letters.
“I share about the life of my flowers,” Angela said. “I tell [Maureen] about my trips and my activities with Unbound, about our trips to the beach, our delicious lunches and also about our birthday celebrations. We celebrate Mother’s Day and Christmas, and about all this I tell her.”
Being sponsored through Unbound means Angela is also part of a community of elders. They spend time together doing activities from dance classes to visiting the sick. Angela cherishes the activities she takes part in through Unbound.
“To me it means joy, because is something that I never had in my childhood,” Angela said. “My parents never celebrated my birthday, I never had the opportunity to go on trips and now with Unbound I have all this.”
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