Carlos, 73, dreams of returning to college to finish his education. He started studying when he was young, but the need to earn money at a young age to help his family kept him from consistently attending classes after primary school.
“I would ride my bicycle over a narrow dirt road for an hour to get to school,” Carlos said. “It was good exercise, I was in good shape. I had strong legs. Then I worked for years in a carpenter’s shop and at a gas station.”
Carlos’s mother faced the challenge of raising a family on her own, which added to the necessity of Carlos helping the family.
“I grew up without a father; my mother did her best to provide for me,” Carlos said. “My mother, Mariana, was a great person. She was a hard-working single mother, and her faith in God was big. She died at 96. She was my role model because she was always by our side, we always had a plate of food.”
Life was different when Carlos was young, and his mother had an easier time feeding her family than single parents do today.
“Humanity was a lot closer to nature, people grew their own food and there was no need for pesticides or fertilizers,” Carlos said. “We raised chickens in our back yard; we ate meat and eggs from home. Now we buy meat and eggs grown on huge farms with who knows what in them.”
As a teenager, Carlos found work driving children to school. He became a father at age 23 and moved to Guatemala City. But he didn’t give up on his education.
“As a young adult, I started living in Guatemala City [and] I worked as a delivery boy,” he said. “I walked and rode a bicycle. I got to know the city, and I went to middle school at night. I was 37 or so.”
When Carlos finished middle school, he started taking high school classes on weekends.
“I was able to finish high school and I even went to college for a couple of months,” he said. “I studied psychology. I had to drop out of college because I couldn’t pay for it.”
Now, Carlos lives alone in a rented room and works selling candy to stores in several towns. He also sells bottles, cans and cardboard to recycling centers.
“I had three partners, but things didn’t work out and now I am by myself,” he said. “I don’t know if I will stay alone. I have my heart open for love, but God will say what is best.
“I trust the Lord. I go to church, it is my favorite thing to do. I feel good and I find peace going to church. I also dream of returning to college.”
Like many of the sponsored elders in the Unbound program, Carlos loves the sense of community being part of Unbound brings.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people — my sponsor, staff, sponsored friends,” he said. “I feel that I belong to something special. I feel welcomed.”