Throughout his life, one of Alex’s biggest champions has been his grandfather Saniel. Growing up in Colombia, Alex was mostly raised by his grandfather, as his father left when he was still young and his mother works as a housemaid in a different city.
“My grandpa is the one who has always cared for me,” Alex said. “He has always been there for me. My mother works as a housemaid and we visit each other often. She comes here and I go there.”
Now 30, Alex learned a lot from Saniel. He learned how to overcome obstacles, about the importance of punctuality and encouraged Alex to take up sports. But most importantly, Saniel taught Alex not to let the fact that he was blind get in his way.
“I was happy [as a child],” Alex said. “I never let my disability to become an inferiority complex for me. People always told me that I had a smile on my face.”
Alex was sponsored through Unbound when he was 5 years old and retired from the program at the end of last year. Having spent the majority of his life as a member of the Unbound community, Alex has a lot of fond memories.
“My life has basically been in this foundation,” he said. “Unbound has always supported me in all aspects and has helped my family. … I have learned to be a better person, to treat others well, to be kind and gentle. In Unbound I also received shoes and clothing, but the most important things I received from Unbound are intangible.
“I am deeply grateful for the support [my sponsors] have given me. I am grateful for the letters they sent me. They shared with me about their family, their children, etc. Receiving their letters made me very happy because it meant that they cared for me and that made me very joyful.”
The support Alex received through Unbound helped his grandfather pay for things like clothing, better nutrition and schooling. Because he was blind, Alex started his education at a special school where he learned Braille, but what he really wanted was to attend a regular school. Going into sixth grade, that’s exactly what he was able to do, though it presented its own set of challenges.
“When I started attending regular schools, it was hard,” Alex said. “Not only for me, but for my classmates and teacher as well because they’d never had someone with special needs like me, so they didn’t know how to treat me. It made me feel bad because I suffered from bullying and it was hard.”
Alex persevered, and by the next school year things started to get better.
“I really wanted to study,” he said. “When I was in sixth grade it took lots of efforts to convince my classmates that I could do it. The following year, when I was in seventh grade, they would call me to be part of their homework groups. I showed them with my intelligence that I was capable.”
Alex also tried out for track, which he continues to participate in today. He competes in the 100 meter race, shot put and other events. He has won several medals, and hopes to represent Colombia in the Paralympic Games.
After graduating high school, Alex studied computers and hopes to find a job using the skills he gained. He also teaches Braille to fourth and fifth graders enrolled in a special program at Cartagena University.
Despite his blindness, Alex is an independent young man. He said that people in his town joke about how he must not really be blind because he’s able to walk around with so much confidence and knows where everything is.
“I do all my own things,” Alex said. “I even wash the dishes, my clothing, etc. Many people think that they are helping when they offer assistance to someone with special capacities, but in reality they are not. They are actually limiting them. When someone offers to help me because of my disability, it makes me feel bad because I can take care of myself.”
Alex has accomplished a lot in his life, and even when someone says he can’t do something because of his blindness, he just points to his successes.
“I finished high school,” Alex said. “I completed my computer training, I have won first-place medals in the 100-meter run, I play soccer, I have a girlfriend and I am totally blind. Don’t ever tell me that things are impossible!”
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