Bolivian elder finds joy in woodworking
Every day, as the sun begins to rise in Bolivia, 69-year-old Enrique wakes up, eats an early breakfast and makes his way to his workshop where he cuts logs into smaller pieces — carving, sanding and drying the wood as spoons, bowls and cups take shape.
Sophisticated handiwork like Enrique’s can be challenging and time-consuming for anyone to learn. For him, woodworking was a natural fit. But it wasn’t Enrique’s first career.
Earlier in life, Enrique lived with his wife and two children and had success as a farmer, but one day was bitten on the foot by a rattlesnake. He received immediate medical attention, but said that his leg became infected and doctors told him it would have to be amputated. After the amputation, Enrique said he struggled with depression.
“How could I work and survive?” he said. “I got depressed. I was disappointed and I felt there was no reason to continue living. I thought of taking my life, but thank God for my wife and little kids, they provided strength and courage.”
One day, he realized he could take advantage of a valuable talent that his stepfather, a skilled woodworker, had taught him. He borrowed some tools from a neighbor and began practicing.
“My work keeps me alive.“ —Enrique, a sponsored elder in Bolivia Click To Tweet
“My wife was proud and spread the word with friends and neighbors, and that’s how I got into woodworking,” Enrique said. “My wife also started making and selling pies. We were able to provide for our family.”
His children are grown now, with families of their own. His wife passed away three years ago. The way Enrique spoke of photos of his wife and their wedding, it was clear the photos are among his most prized possessions.
His eyes welled up with tears as he said, “I was left alone. Now I live with my daughter, I have a room for myself and I have some space for my shop. I am happy.”
Enrique keeps busy with his woodworking and sees it as a valuable part of his life.
“My work keeps me alive,” he said. “If I did not have anything to do I would die of boredom. I want to be useful and provide for myself.”
He also spoke of the joy brought by the companionship of other Unbound sponsored elders.
“I like to meet and talk with other sponsored people,” Enrique said. “We get together every month. It’s one of my favorite things to do. We laugh, we tell jokes and talk about life.”
In addition to the appreciation he has for his peers, Enrique is grateful for the entire Unbound community. He had one final message to add:
“May God bless all the sponsors.”