Youth devotes service to caring for environmentMaría Angélica tends to the garden she and her mother grow at home.
Teaching children to respect and care for the environment gives everyone a chance for a better future.
That wisdom came from Unbound scholar María Angélica of Colombia. The 21-year-old college student is a youth leader in EcoUnbound, an initiative of the Cartagena program that encourages recycling and other activities promoting care for the environment.
“I like to be an example and teach kids,” she said. “We don’t have to throw garbage into the street. My little niece knows that she doesn’t have to do it, and she teaches her friend. They are the future, so if they do what we teach maybe there can be a better future.”
For María Angélica, a commitment to recycling, gardening and educating others about protecting the environment is personal.
María Angélica proudly shows a button featuring the logo of EcoUnbound, an initiative of the Cartagena program that promotes care for the environment.
Since I was a kid, I have always liked nature. I don’t like to litter because I know that the Earth is ours, and we are the only ones who can take care of it. If we destroy it, we will be homeless.
— María Angélica, Unbound scholar
Reflecting on that simple truth can motivate people to change their behavior, María Angélica believes.
“I think we need to be aware that we are damaging something that is ours,” she said. “Everything will be lost if we don’t change.”
Inspired to serve her community
María Angélica has been sponsored by Lucienne in Massachusetts since 2008, and she has had a scholarship through Unbound since the 11th grade. That support, combined with a competitive government-funded scholarship for academics, helps with tuition, transportation and other costs of studying for a career in social work.
Part of her motivation to serve others comes from the example set by her sponsor and the local Unbound staff.
“Since I was little there was someone with a big heart who helped me so I could have a better life,” María Angélica said. “[Now] I want to be part of other kids’ lives.”
Unbound scholarship student María Angélica studies at her home in Cartagena, Colombia.
Community service is an integral part of the Unbound Scholarship Program. Scholars are expected to complete service hours, which also helps them develop job skills for future employment. In addition to her activities with EcoUnbound, María Angélica has helped sponsored children write letters and draw pictures for their sponsors.
Determined to help her family
The desire to make a better life for her family has also been a powerful motivator for María Angélica. Her parents divorced when she was young, and that led to economic hardship for her, her mom and two siblings. She also missed her father tremendously.
“Because of everything I have lived, I had to grow up fast,” María Angélica said. “I didn’t enjoy my childhood. I went to school without a meal, I didn’t take breakfast, and I didn’t have hope to find love at home, but I was so in love with my studies and I think that makes me special. I consider myself very brave.”
Single mothers serve as heads of households in most families served by Unbound in the community, said Cartagena staff member Carmen Josefa Segovia Herrera. The mothers have a lot on their plates, including trying to get their families out of debilitating poverty.
“[They are] single mothers who have to get ahead from the economic part, the values part, education and with few resources for their children,” Herrera said, noting that the community faces problems of unemployment, addiction, gang violence and lack of access to educational opportunities.
María Angélica said she has a relationship with her father now, and “decided to let [go of] all that anger from my heart and forgive.”
“When you set your heart free, you can love much more,” she said.
Part of that love for María Angélica is the love she has for her community. She sees her commitment to service as “a gift that God gave me, and I hope to be not only a good professional but also very human. I want to be empathetic with people.”
She described herself as “sensible,” like her mom, Noris, whose love of plants inspired María Angélica when she was just a little girl. She and her mother tend to a beautiful garden at home, where the seeds of her dream for the future took root.
That dream includes running her own foundation for the environment. She wants to help people learn to turn everyday items that damage the earth into useful items they can sell, creating a business opportunity for themselves. For example, she has learned to make planter pots from recycled materials and already teaches that skill to others.
“I see myself helping many people,” she said. “I know that if we change our space, we will change others’ spaces. I know that I will help my family to have a better future.”
Noris, María Angélica’s mom, waters plants in their garden. She inspired her daughter’s love of nature through her example.
How you can help
Global extreme poverty is expected to rise for the first time in more than 20 years. The World Bank estimates that by the end of 2020, the pandemic will push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty, meaning they will earn less than $1.90 a day. Access to education helps reduce global poverty, and your donation to the Unbound Scholarship Program gives aspiring students resources and support to achieve their educational goals and become leaders in their communities.