A single father of 3 teen girls receives parenting and financial support through the work of international nonprofit Unbound.
Raising three teenage girls can be tough for any single father in any part of the world, but Diego’s doing it in the rural, southwestern highlands of Guatemala in the midst of a pandemic. To 16-year-old Maria and 14-year-old twins Juana and Ana, he’s been their sole provider and protector — and the personal embroiderer for their traditional “huipil” blouses for the last 10 years.
Diego is one of the millions of people in the developing world who risk falling back into extreme poverty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, he earned a living working as help in the kitchen of a local restaurant, but the virus has kept the restaurant closed since February.
For years, Diego had scaled up a side business raising and selling chickens, a business he said allowed him to continue earning income after the restaurant closed. As the lockdown has dragged on, resources and reserves have dwindled and he recently sold his last chicken. Watching the progress he had made to improve his situation slowly dissolve, he’s now working in food delivery where he’s earning the equivalent of up to $1.35 each day.
Diego was an adult before he ever entered a classroom as a student. Now, he serves on the education committee of a parent support group in his neighborhood.
The groups, traditionally made up of mothers, welcomed Diego in after learning his wife left the family years ago. Defying the traditional gender roles of most Guatemalan men has landed Diego in the center of town gossip, but he stays in the group because of the benefits it provides him and his girls.
All three of Diego’s girls have individual sponsors in the United States through the international nonprofit Unbound. The parent support group Diego participates in is facilitated through the organization.
“The mothers know about my situation and they value me,” Diego said. “Sometimes, I tell them that I cannot take it anymore, that I have gotten tired of living in this situation, but they tell me to be encouraged because my daughters are already advancing in their studies. My girls are about to reach their goals.”
Diego dreams that his daughters will be professionals and not go through the same struggles he’s faced. His oldest daughter, Maria, wants to be a nurse and the twins, Ana and Juana, have goals to be an accountant and an administrator. However, with the pandemic eating away at most of the progress he had made to give his daughters a better life, Diego says his faith in God helps him stay hopeful.
“Only God knows what will happen with this pandemic,” Diego said. “This is why we do not get depressed and we do not worry too much. I know that it will pass, it will only take some time before it does.”
In the meantime, Diego encourages the other members of his community to keep going. “Sometimes, we say that we cannot and that there are impossible things, but everything is possible if we fight,” he said. “With effort and dedication, we can achieve something. That is my message to fathers and mothers.”
Unbound helps support families like Diego’s with sponsorship benefits delivered through cash transfers. Additionally, families who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for additional assistance through Unbound’s Disaster Response fund.
In 2019, Unbound delivered more than $95 million in personalized support directly to families in 19 developing countries around the world.
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About the Author
Unbound is an international nonprofit founded by lay Catholics grounded in the Gospel call to put the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable first. We build relationships of mutual respect and support that bridge cultural, religious and economic divides. We bring people together to challenge poverty in 18 countries. We invite you to join us. Find us on Facebook or Twitter.