Maria is a calm and shy sponsored elder who loves to dance. She lives in El Salvador with her husband in an adobe home — surrounded by beautiful flowers and mango and avocado trees — with a dog, cat and even a few pet parrots. At age 80, she serves her community as a midwife and caretaker — a role she’s had for decades.
Maria joined the Unbound community in 2011, when she was sponsored by Gary from Missouri. The support from Unbound has been a great boost to her health and quality of life.
Maria started working in the family coffee fields when she was 9 years old. She never went to school and married her husband when she was 15 and he was 20. They’ve been married for 65 years and had nine children, with many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Maria’s mother was a midwife and taught Maria how to deliver babies, but Maria didn’t deliver a baby on her own until she was in her 30s. That was when her daughter was pregnant and the baby came unexpectedly.
“The time came for her and she said to me, ‘Mom, please help me. I think the baby is coming,.'” Maria recalled. “I said to her, ‘OK, my daughter. I will do the same thing that my mother taught me.'”
She had a successful delivery, which prompted Maria’s friends to ask for help delivering babies. She became known for it in her community of El Carmen, which is far from a hospital or clinic.
Later, she spent a year traveling back and forth to the nearest hospital to take classes in midwifery, learning from doctors about attending to new mothers and babies. She received a certificate for the course. Now, she has a small room in her home that’s set aside for her patients.
“I have seen everything that you can imagine,” Maria said. “I’ve attended to twins; I’ve attended to a child with disabilities. Once a child came with his umbilical cord around his neck. All of them are adults now.
“During the earthquake in 2001 I was attending a childbirth — the mother was only seven months pregnant when her labor started.”
When Maria isn’t serving as midwife to the families in El Carmen, she can often be found at the Unbound center in Santa Ana with her elders dance group. Dancing is a popular activity for elders in the sponsorship program in Santa Ana, and the dance group is Maria’s favorite thing about Unbound. She loves the health aspect of dancing — stretching, moving and relieving stress.
“I like everything [about the dance group],” she said. “Here you feel relief from all your pain. You feel better and have more energy.”
Maria believes her faith and her commitment to health keep her going. She has a formula for a long life that she wants to pass on to others: Make the most of every day, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and don’t stay up too late. She says that she has a hard time sticking to the latter, often staying up late into the night sewing and praying.
It’s her experience with Unbound that help her make the most of her days.
“What I like is coming to Unbound,” she said. “I like to dance. I feel relieved after the class; my pain is gone. All of my sadness disappears here.”
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