This is the last in a series of four stories about fathers of children sponsored through Unbound. We’ve been posting these leading up to the celebration of Father’s Day on June 19. Click here to watch the companion video.
Like the rest of us, people living in poverty sometimes benefit from the gift of hindsight. At the age of 43, Hugo looked back on his difficult life in Guatemala and thought about what he might have done differently if he knew then what he knows now.
“[At a young age] I told my father, ‘I want to get married,'” Hugo said. “He got very happy. He said, ‘I am glad you are getting married.’ Today, I would have liked that my father would have said, ‘Don’t get married yet.'”
Hugo’s regrets about marrying young are in no way a reflection on his relationship with his wife, Maria. In fact, after 22 years of marriage the couple is still very much in love. Rather, the regrets are a result of what Hugo has learned – the hard way – about starting a family before acquiring the skills he would need to support them.
Married just 19 months, Hugo and Maria already had two children. Eventually there would be four more. They live in a small cabin he and his father and brothers built by hand.
Hugo knew he needed to find a viable way to earn a living. He had learned sewing and carpentry from his father and was able to make some money with those skills. But the work was sporadic and the income meager.
Eventually he became an apprentice for an uncle who worked as a bricklayer. He learned the trade well and enjoyed it, but there were challenges.
“Unfortunately, my uncle was an alcoholic,” Hugo said. “I had no work when he got drunk. [Eventually] I went by myself and did the work. When my uncle came back he would ask, ‘Who did this?’ I said ‘I did it,’ and he got happy because he was drunk but the work continued. He gave me a raise.”
Today Hugo uses the various skills he has gained over the years whenever he has the opportunity to earn income. He is a gifted and hard worker, but life is always a struggle. His greatest source of strength is the love he shares with Maria.
“What I most value about my wife is her effort in life. Because she works and she takes care of the kids and she gives me time. She is a hardworking woman.
“She has helped me very much. She has supported me. She hasn’t liked all of my decisions but she has always been there for me.”
Unbound has been another source of support for Hugo and his family. His second son, Cesar, now 15, has been sponsored since 2006.
“My son is getting help from Unbound,” Hugo said. “He got shoes when he needed. He got clothes, school supplies and food supplies. The things are for him but when he got food, we all became beneficiaries. Thanks to Unbound for helping Cesar. He has grown, his sponsors have watched him grow and they continue helping him. We are very grateful.”
While he has some regrets in life, Hugo prefers to look forward. Four years ago he returned to school to complete the formal education he left behind in his youth. He wants to set an example for his children and he hopes they benefit from his experience.
“My goal for my kids is for them to graduate, all of them. I want… to buy a place to stay with my children because we will not fit [in this small house] anymore. That is one of my dreams. I would have done more if I would have gone to school [but] I have worked and I got support and I have now gone back to school. I am now in high school.
“I say to my kids that I will be something with the life I have left.”
We applaud Hugo’s ambition, but we believe he already is something. Like all the men we’ve featured in this series, he’s a father who loves and cares for his family no matter what challenges he faces in life.
Is that not one of the greatest things a man can be?