The conflict and violence that afflicted Medellin, Colombia, until the mid-1990s are well known. Many still think of Medellin as a dangerous area, but the people of Colombia are dedicated to showing the world that they live in a place that’s very different from the perceptions of many — a place of progress, hope and light.
Seventeen-year-old Unbound scholar Daniela is eager to share that Colombia and its communities are places of progress and determination.
Daniela and her family understand the realities of Colombia’s violent past as well as anyone. Her father was killed by an armed group when she was a baby, and she was raised by her grandmother while her mother spent long days and nights working. But this part of her history does not define her or her family. Instead, with the support of Unbound, she strives to set herself apart in her community.
“We have always been members of Unbound either within the community where we live or in the neighboring communities where Unbound has reached,” Daniela, who was sponsored at the age of 5, said. “The organization has helped me a lot. I practically lived my whole childhood with Unbound.”
Today, Daniela is studying human resources at a local vocational school. She dreamed of entering university and becoming a psychologist, but public universities in Colombia are highly competitive and she wasn’t able to get in on her first attempt. But she’s determined to keep trying.
As a scholar and sponsored member, Daniela is supported with enough funds to cover her vocational school tuition and supplies, which means she can use her sponsorship benefits for books and other needs and put some funds into savings so she can buy a computer.
Daniela has grown under the guidance of Unbound social workers like Laura Orozco. She says one of the things she’s learned from her time in Unbound is that everything has its own time and place, a lesson that surely encouraged her as she explored her options for continuing her education.
“[Daniela] has aspirations and a lot of capacity to face the difficulties that are presented in her life,” Laura said. “Although Daniela could not get into a university, she didn’t give up. She was there persisting and thinking, ‘Now what I am going to do?’”
That attitude is especially impactful where young adults face risks and temptations associated with drug use, prostitution and violence. But students like Daniela aim to show the world that there are people working hard to avoid those temptations and better their communities.
“I want to show that not everything that comes from my neighborhood is bad, because there are many good things, too,” Daniela said. “Please don’t stigmatize people just because of where they come from, or their backgrounds. I come from a stigmatized neighborhood, but I am a good human being. I like studying, I like meeting new people and I like treating them well — as every human deserves.”
Unbound has had the opportunity to be a part of that de-stigmatization in communities like Medellin. Providing platforms for young people, women and elders to better their lives has brought hope to communities that can sometimes be overwhelmed by hardship.
“Unbound is playing a very important role in the transition of this community, since it is empowering families to have solid and tangible goals,” Laura said.
“For example, there are more families that have goals like buying a washing machine, repairing the house or buying a computer for their children. Thanks to Unbound for continuing to give us hope of overcoming poverty and giving a better future to our children.”
For Daniela and many like her, education has been the long-term goal that has helped lift spirits and give endurance to shine as a light in the community.
“I feel that education is a way to escape, a way of overcoming poverty, and a way to keep moving forward,” she said.
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