By Corbett McKinney, student intern
To celebrate the U.N.-sponsored World Humanitarian Day Aug. 19, Unbound is highlighting inspiring members of our global community who’ve overcome obstacles to help others. In Peru, a tenacious mother named Sonia helps others by participating in the local Family Defense group, organized through our program in Lima.
Living in a rocky, dusty city south of the capital, Sonia is the mother of three girls, two of whom are sponsored through Unbound. She’s fiercely proud and protective of her girls. Lady and Heydi are her older children, who are sponsored. Her youngest daughter, Luna, is an infant. Together with her husband, daughters and the family dog, Sonia transforms their modest home into a joyful space filled with noise and laughter.
Sonia’s life wasn’t always so happy.
Though her strength and upbeat demeanor wouldn’t suggest it, Sonia faced many challenges in her youth. Growing up, she said, she and her four younger siblings suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her father.
Sonia said she had no choice but to work from a very young age. She worked hard around the house, in agriculture, selling goods on the streets and as a housemaid. She worked in the mornings — for very little money — and attended school in the afternoons.
“Now that I think about it, I realize how much exploitation I was a victim of,” Sonia said. “I never thought of it, how I worked so hard for so little, and lost my youth and energy. But, there is nothing I can do about it. So I don’t complain.”
When her family moved from the mountains to the city, the children she went to school with bullied her and made fun of the way she spoke. Those experiences taught her the importance of respecting and loving others, as she would never want to make other people feel how she felt.
When she was a teenager, Sonia heard a radio broadcast that urged people to let go of their anger and find peace. It gave her courage to stand up to a neighbor who was verbally abusing his wife, and it was a prelude to the kind of advocacy she now does through the “Defensoria de la Familia” group. Sonia’s own experience gave her the strength and the understanding to push back against violence.
In her role as a member of the Family Defense group, Sonia stands with other mothers from Unbound to protect children, elders and women affected by domestic violence. The mothers began their training by meeting with local authorities to learn how to protect others. They assist families in many ways, including advising them on legal topics, accompanying them to access social services, providing resources or just being there for those who need support.
In her role as a member of the Family Defense group, Sonia stands with other mothers from Unbound to protect children, elders and women affected by domestic violence.
“[The group] has helped me to be stronger, to be free, to talk openly in public, and to express myself better,” Sonia said. “I am no longer afraid. … If I would have had this knowledge and this strength when I was 15, I would be someone else at this moment.”
Sonia gladly shares her wisdom with her daughters to teach them how to go far in life. She also stresses education for them, and encourages them to work hard to achieve their dreams, and what she knows they are capable of doing. Sonia is grateful to Unbound and the people who sponsor her children, as they help provide her and her family with the opportunities they have today.
“They [sponsors] … are people with deep values of generosity, charity and a sense of sharing,” Sonia said.
When she’s not working with the Family Defense group, Sonia works to organize a weaving association with other mothers to sell their goods.
She wants all women to know that no matter their circumstances, it’s never too late to start learning, to be brave and change one’s path in life.
Browse our blog for more stories about the humanitarian efforts of Unbound community members.
[bctt tweet=”“I am no longer afraid.“ — Sonia in Peru #NotATarget”]