It’s Unbound’s 35th anniversary, and many members of our staff have been with us for most of those three-and-a-half decades. Carmen has been a social worker with Unbound in Guatemala for 22 years. She took some time to share her story with Luis Cocón, Unbound communications liaison.
Luis: Tell us about yourself.
Carmen: I am a social worker at Unbound in my hometown of San Martin Jilotepeque. I have worked for 22 years at Unbound. I am proud of my years of service and the development of my group of sponsored families.
I have four beautiful children, three boys and a girl. I married my wonderful husband when I was 23.
Luis: How did you join Unbound?
Carmen: I was 21 when I joined Unbound; it was a different name back then. [When I started] I took pictures of our first 25 sponsored members in this community. The following month I signed up 100 new members. And thank God the program started to grow and I became the first social worker for Unbound in this community. Now we have over 1,300 sponsored members in San Martin.
Luis: What has it been like to work for Unbound for so many years?
Carmen: There have been uphill moments, but with the support of my [sponsored] families and coworkers I have been able to move forward. I am happy to still be here because it is a child’s smile and a parent’s smile that move my day and my life.
I see my coworkers like friends and like my children because I have seen many of them grow within the Unbound program — and because they are all much younger! There are seven of us in this program office and some were sponsored and others were scholarship holders. We take care of each other; we have walked together for 22 years.
Luis: Tell us about your work.
Carmen: An Unbound social worker visits communities and homes, we help children with letters, we [assess] statistics, and we work with families to find ways for them to reach their dreams.
Luis: What do you enjoy most about your work?
Carmen: I like working with children and the youth, I enjoy visiting their homes. I also enjoy learning from the elderly people and from their faith. I have 282 kids and youth and 42 elderly [as part of my caseload], and I love them all.
Luis: How many sponsored members have you cared for?
Carmen: A lot! I have many wonderful stories but I will share one with you. I was in a restaurant with my husband and a young man sitting at another table was staring at me. My husband was getting uncomfortable, but I was sure that I remembered that face from somewhere. So I walked to the young man’s table and asked if he was Carlos — a former sponsored child I worked with. He said yes, and told me he is now the driver for monsignor (the local priest) and doing well. I gave him a big hug and he said something very simple but profound: “Thank you for being with me.”
I am happy that many of these kids are now young adults who are moving forward in a positive direction. Unbound has walked by their side perhaps in their most vulnerable years of life and now they are strong enough that they can continue their journey on their own.
Luis: What inspires and motivates you?
Carmen: My former sponsored kids who have graduated from the program and are now my colleagues [inspire me]. I am proud of them and they are the kind of people who make my work significant.
My Unbound community of children and youth motivate me because I have seen them grow out of adverse circumstances. A barefoot boy grown into a lawyer, an orphaned girl grown into a businesswoman, a malnourished boy grown into an accountant, and many, many others who inspire me every day.
Luis: What are your biggest challenges?
Carmen: I think staying up to date with technology is one of my greatest challenges. I am not kidding, computers change every day! But I learn from my coworkers; they are very supportive.
Luis: What are your dreams?
Carmen: I hope that I can be remembered and kept in the heart and prayers of many people. I hope that I can be remembered as a good person.
I also dream that my [sponsored] families can acquire a variety of skills that will help them achieve economic independence.
I dream of having my family healthy and see my children graduate from high school and college. I dream of celebrating 25 years of service with Unbound. I hope that God can give me good health and I reach that milestone.
Luis: Is there anything you would like to add?
Carmen: To my fellow social workers I want to say that we must work hard for our people. They are the joy of our work — the kids, the youth and the elderly. Many of our sponsored friends don’t have a family but they have Unbound. It’s a joy to be here.