Unbound Blog http://blog.unbound.org Around the world Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:30:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Thank you for changing liveshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/26/thank-you-for-changing-lives/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/26/thank-you-for-changing-lives/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20615

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States. At Unbound, we have a lot to be thankful for, but our biggest thanks goes out to our sponsors, donors and supporters. Your efforts have changed lives around the world. Thank you from the entire Unbound community.

Share this video and help us spread our thankfulness.

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5 ways to celebrate Giving Tuesday as a familyhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/24/5-ways-to-celebrate-giving-tuesday-as-a-family/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/24/5-ways-to-celebrate-giving-tuesday-as-a-family/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:59 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20611 #GivingTuesday

Parents are always seeking ways to teach their kids about giving back. And never more so than around the holidays. In this festive, but often wish-list-centric time of year, we need opportunities to remind ourselves about what it means to be grateful, to cherish what we have and to serve others.

Giving Tuesday is on Dec. 2 this year, and it’s is the perfect time for families to focus on giving back. Here are a few ideas for how your family can participate with Unbound this Giving Tuesday:

1. Sponsor a child

There is no better way to connect your family to another family around the world. Find your sponsored child as a family. Together you’ll witness how just $30 a month can transform someone’s life.

2. Make a donation

As the weather turns bitterly cold in some areas of the U.S., many of us become more mindful of the gift of a warm, comfortable home. Many families in the Unbound program live in homes constructed of metal sheets, mud, cardboard or other found materials. Donating to Homes helps families have safer, sturdier homes.

3. Share Unbound

Lend us your Twitter! Help us reach our goal of 100 supporters for a simultaneous message sent on Dec. 2 through the crowd-speaking platform Thunderclap. You can support Unbound’s Giving Tuesday message through Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Visit our Thunderclap page to get involved.

4. Write a letter

If you sponsor someone through Unbound, sit down as a family and write him or her a letter. Your sponsored friend would love to receive a photo of you and a few simple words of encouragement.

5. Do some shopping

Add an item from the Unbound store to your Christmas list or send Unbound Christmas cards to your friends and family. Not only will you get some cool gear and cards, but you also spread awareness of Unbound’s fight against poverty. Better yet, all profits support Education.

Help shed a little light. Join us in celebrating Giving Tuesday.

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Small donations = Big changehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/21/small-donations-big-change/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/21/small-donations-big-change/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20591 Home in southern India New home for elder

Funding for Homes helps repair leaky roofs and collapsing structures and make other improvements families couldn’t otherwise afford. And if enough people contribute just a small amount, together we can change someone’s life.

Sponsored elder Pawn, 76, and her daughter, Pala, 31, live in India. Their small home had mud walls and a thatched roof. They slept on thin mats on the floor, and there was no running water or latrine.

Pala is mentally and physically disabled, and Pawn was concerned for her daughter’s well-being because of the lack of sanitation.

But the most immediate concern for Pawn was the roof. In southern India, heavy monsoon rains are a yearly occurrence and led to further deterioration of their home. The thatched roof was full of holes and on the verge of collapse. Termites infested the roof and walls, adding to the damage caused by heavy rains.

Unbound staff in Pawn’s community saw the condition of her home and knew something had to be done. With the home’s extreme state of disrepair, they found it would cost less and be far more efficient to build a new house rather than try to repair the old one. Because of donations to Homes, they were able to begin the process of building a new home for not only Pawn and Pala, but several other sponsored elders in the community whose homes were also in danger of collapsing.

Building homes for elders Building homes for elders

On a recent trip to India, Scott Wasserman, president and CEO of Unbound, took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly finished homes. He represented the many people whose donations have made it possible for Pawn and her daughter to move into a new home built with brick and concrete.

“Some of [the elders] had tears as they held my face in their wrinkled hands,” Scott said. “They never dreamed that they would live their final years with the dignity provided by their new homes.”

Pawn no longer has to worry about termites in the walls or monsoon rains pouring in. Because of support for Homes from generous people like you, Pawn is able to provide a more comfortable home for her daughter.

Giving Tuesday is just around the corner. This year, help a family achieve a more dignified living situation. Donate to Homes.

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World Toilet Day: Solving the sanitation crisishttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/19/world-toilet-day-solving-the-sanitation-crisis/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/19/world-toilet-day-solving-the-sanitation-crisis/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:00:20 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20588 World Toilet Day

This latrine in Uganda afforded no privacy and is no longer usable.

By Elizabeth Alex, community outreach and media relations director for Unbound

The United Nations has designated Wednesday, Nov. 19, as a day to talk about toilets.

At first glance it may seem an odd topic to dwell on for a day. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about toilets.

Unless you happen to be one of the people without access to one.

According to the United Nations, almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrheal diseases.

Lack of privacy puts women and girls at risk for being victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. Leaving their homes to access public facilities, especially at night, is dangerous.

One third of the world’s population — 2.5 billion people — do not have access to a toilet or a latrine, and that includes many children and families Unbound serves.

That number used to include Maliza and Moses, who live with their four children in a small house in Uganda. Their 11-year old daughter, Rosette, is sponsored through Unbound.

The family latrine, made of mud and thatched grass, was run-down and unusable. When possible the family used a toilet in a neighboring church, or they were forced to go into the bushes.

Their children were among many in Uganda who routinely became sick with waterborne illnesses. According to local program coordinator Alice Noel, the risk is especially high during the rainy season.

“The water flowing from the makeshift toilets runs into the wells making it [the drinking water] contaminated,” she said. “Many children suffer from diarrhea and other parasitic infections.”

World Toilet Day World Toilet Day

Personal outreach through our programs is creating healthy change. Unbound-Uganda conducts education campaigns through parent groups, and forms sanitation committees to monitor needs and help build latrines for families who need them.

Maliza and Moses are proof the program works.

When parent support group members saw the state of the family’s latrine, they joined together to provide the labor to build a new one. The family purchased the bricks and sand while Unbound provided iron sheets for the roofing.

“I am very happy,” Maliza said. “Now we have a latrine we can use just outside our house.”

Most people know sponsorship helps with food, education and housing assistance.

But by sponsoring a child you may be giving the most basic tool to ensure health and human dignity.

Unbound also has a Health initiative to address sanitation on a wider scale.

We invite you to sponsor a child or make a donation in support of sustainable sanitation and healthy communities on this World Toilet Day.

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How you can help Shiva stay in schoolhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/17/how-you-can-help-shiva-stay-in-school/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/17/how-you-can-help-shiva-stay-in-school/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20586 Sponsor a child

Shiva, 10, from India

He stands straight and tall for his picture. Looking sharp in a buttoned-up shirt, he sports a shy but hopeful smile.

A sixth-grader in India, Shiva just arrived at the Unbound office from prayer. The white lines on his forehead are called tikka and are part of the Hindu prayer tradition.

Shiva plays cricket, a national pastime in India, he celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights, and he enjoys poetry in his native language, Hindi.

This delightful boy respectfully requests you sponsor him.

Shiva is one of three children supported by their dad, Gopi, who rides a bike selling tea door-to- door in India. Gopi works long days but doesn’t bring home enough income to provide for a family of five.

Shiva has a passion for school. Especially math and science.

“I like playing with magnets,” he said. “I can show you how the North Pole and South Pole attract.”

But the future of Shiva’s education is a stress for his mother, Laxmi.

“Financial problems are haunting us,” she says. “We are struggling with the education expenses.”

With help that a sponsorship brings, Shiva will remain in school. His parents will see some of their financial burden lifted. Shiva can continue to develop his love of learning and reach a goal of improving his English skills.

You can help this bright young boy reach his full potential.

Editor’s note: Since this was posted, Shiva had found a sponsor. Check our website for other children still waiting for sponsors.

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Building homes with the help of pink flamingoshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/14/building-homes-with-the-help-of-pink-flamingoes/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/14/building-homes-with-the-help-of-pink-flamingoes/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20569 Flocking flamingos

A lawn visited by the Woodmont youth group’s “flocking flamingos.”

You wake up one morning, and as you’re going about your normal routine you glance out at your front lawn. But it looks a bit different than usual. Somehow, a flock of plastic flamingos has made its way to your lawn.

Over the last few months, members of the Woodmont Christian Church in Tennessee have experienced “flockings” courtesy of their youth group. It’s not a prank but one of the fundraising strategies the youth group developed for their “Guats Up” initiative.

Their goal? To build a house in Guatemala for a family that needs one.

Woodmont’s congregation has supported the work of Unbound for a number of years. In 2008, their youth group visited their sponsored friends in Guatemala and saw firsthand how the Unbound program works. After the trip they decided to return to Guatemala every three years. This summer, the 20 teens from Woodmont’s youth group took part in the third such trip.

While in Guatemala, the teens visited two families who were able to build new homes thanks to funds raised after Woodmont’s second trip. Hearing the families express their gratitude and seeing the impact the new homes had on the families inspired the Woodmont teens. On their last night in Guatemala they met to reflect on the experiences of the week and decided they also wanted to help a family in need build a new home.

“Our mission trip to Guatemala opened my eyes to the advantages I have,” said Ashley Buchanan, a high school senior who went on the trip. “I thought about what we could do to give back in some small way. Giving any of your gifts to others is a great way to help people, and Unbound gave us an amazing opportunity to help families in Guatemala.”

Woodmont youth group

The Woodmont youth group visits a home built in Guatemala using donations from their church.

Each of the teens pledged to raise at least $100, which the church would match, to raise the $4,000 needed to build a new home in Guatemala. The flocking flamingos were one of the ways they planned to raise money. Members of the church could buy flamingo insurance, including the option, for a small donation, to nominate another member to be “flocked.”

Because of the overwhelming generosity of Woodmont members, most of the teens were able to meet their $100 goal just by spending an evening moving flamingos.

In September, the youth group hosted a panel discussion to share their trip with the rest of the church. More than 100 people attended, with many offering donations at the end of the event.

The Woodmont Youth Group came back from Guatemala with a goal to build a new home for one family. Because of their enthusiasm, hard work and creativity, they have raised almost $20,000. Instead of one home, they’ll be able to fund five. This group of teens brought the daily reality of Guatemalan families home to their church, and the congregation responded in a big way.

“It was so inspiring to see a group of high school students go beyond themselves to see the world through another’s eyes,” said Trey Flowers, minister of youth for Woodmont. “When they got back home, it was clear the trip had left a remarkable impact on their lives. Through the Guats Up fundraising initiative, they were able to use their gifts and ideas creatively to see that they can make a real difference in someone else’s life.”

Want to help? Donations to Homes helps families repair or rebuild in Unbound communities around the world.

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Putting Gandhi’s wisdom into actionhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/12/putting-gandhis-wisdom-into-action/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/12/putting-gandhis-wisdom-into-action/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20561 Martin Kraus

Martin Kraus (second from right), director of finance for Unbound, with his family

By Martin Kraus, director of finance for Unbound

“You must become the change you want to see.”

As I walked through the Mumbai airport in India, I couldn’t help but notice this quote on a huge banner hanging overhead. Most of us, whether from India or not, easily recognize this quote as being from Mahatma Gandhi, one of India’s most influential and respected leaders. What struck me are the many ways in which I am privileged to see Gandhi’s quote being put into action all over the world.

At Unbound, our sponsors take this quote to heart by taking action. Their sponsorship allows them to “become the change” that this world so badly needs, and in doing so, they make significant changes in the worlds of others. Recently, while performing an audit of Unbound’s office in Manila, Philippines, I met two beautiful examples.

Sponsor an elder Sponsor a child

Meet Lilia.

Lilia is an 81-year-old woman who lives in Metro Manila. As part of Unbound’s normal audit procedures, I visited Lilia to discuss the sponsorship benefits she receives. Lilia was able to tell me and show me many things she has received because of the generosity of her Unbound sponsor, who lives in California. She told me of medications, food staples and clothing. But her eyes really sparkled when she described her new walker.

Just a few months ago, Lilia’s left leg had to be amputated just above the knee. Even within her own home, she could only crawl on the floor to get from room to room after the operation. Through their normal and ongoing exchange of letters, Lilia’s sponsor knew about her situation and sent money for the purchase of a walker. She now uses it with confidence and a huge smile.

When Lilia showed me the walker itself, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. It was a basic metal walker, albeit obviously new and shiny. My own mother has one. But to Lilia, it was truly a special gift because she was unable to afford it on her own.

As she showed it to me, Lilia insisted on giving me a demonstration of how it works. While watching her walk across the room, I thought nothing could surpass the sense of pride she obviously felt. But I was wrong.

A few minutes later, Lilia instructed her grandson to fetch her collection of letters. This was her true treasure. From a drawer in the kitchen, her grandson brought forth a plastic bag containing many letters that Lilia has received from her sponsor over the years. Looking at the postmarks, I could see that some letters dated back to at least 2007.

As much as Lilia loved the practical and needed gift of her walker, she clearly treasured the letters even more. Lilia’s sponsor from California became the change. The two have never met, but they have changed each other’s worlds.

I believe Gandhi would be proud.

Meet Jay Marie.

Like Lilia, Jay Marie is a success story, but in a different way. At 21 years old, Jay Marie recently graduated from school and also from Unbound’s sponsorship program. She received a degree in accounting and is now preparing for her country’s CPA exams.

While meeting with Jay Marie in her Manila home, it was clear that she is a confident, well-spoken, smart young woman. I was pleased that Jay Marie was able to clearly tell me the ways that her sponsorship benefits have made it possible to finish school. But once again, I was especially struck by the way she spoke of her sponsor.

In her excitement, Jay Marie ran to a back room of her home and returned with two small photo albums that she had assembled from photos her sponsor had sent over the years. Jay Marie knew the story behind each photo. Several of the photos showed the sponsor with family members or friends doing fun things such as a picnic or family reunion. Jay Marie recited all the details to me from memory as if she had shared it with her own family and friends many times before, (which, I think, she probably has).

Jay Marie’s world and her future have been changed forever because of the $30 a month provided by her sponsor and the letters and photos sent. Jay Marie was able to meet her sponsor a few years ago on an Unbound awareness trip. One of the photos showed the two of them together on the day they met. This was Jay Marie’s favorite. Jay Marie’s sponsor truly “became the change” that our world needs.

Hearing these stories and meeting Lilia and Jay Marie was a special experience for me. And I know these are but two stories of many. But we need more. Our world needs more people to “become the change.”

Become the change. Sponsor today.

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Fighting to be a good person in Hondurashttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/10/fight-to-be-a-good-person-in-life/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/10/fight-to-be-a-good-person-in-life/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:00:20 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20546 Sponsor a youth

Fernando and his mother, Maria.

by Alexandra Stonestreet, project manager for Unbound

In recent years, Honduras has become known for corruption, gang violence and drug trafficking. It holds the unfortunate distinction of being home to some of the worst statistics imaginable. Amid the poverty and mounting violence, a bright spot emerges.

His name is Fernando.

He’s growing  up in the country with the highest murder rate in the world. Joining a gang, in the hope of gaining protection, is a constant temptation for young men like Fernando.

Despite this, Fernando is kind. He attends school, plays soccer and loves to be with his friends and family. He’s a smart young man who dreams of becoming an accountant.

We should probably mention Fernando was born without arms. Believe it or not, most people don’t even notice his physical disabilities anymore.

Fortunately, this disability hasn’t stopped him from pursuing multiple opportunities in a place where they are few and far between.

In general, there isn’t much opportunity to assist those with special needs in Honduras. Private institutions are one way that Fernando can receive support, but these institutions are expensive and he and his family do not receive any government assistance to help offset those costs. Transportation to and from these places is costly and can take several hours both ways, especially when you have to go on foot.

He’s learned on his own to eat, write and use a computer. Some would say he’s adapting well to the circumstances that life dealt him. Others see him as the inspiring role model that he is.

Sponsor a youth Sponsor a youth

He faced discrimination when he was younger, but doesn’t let that define him now.

“When I was a child, I remember neighbors pointed and laughed at me,” he said. “My mom talked with them and it never happened again.”

His professor said when he first met Fernando, his physical differences were obvious. Over time, he has come to know him for the incredible young man he is today.

With this kind of support, Fernando is proud of who he is. “Now I accept myself just [for] who I am and who I am in my community and school. My teacher and my classmates treat me like I was one of them,” he said.

He’s become a role model for other students and children in his community and often speaks to groups to give advice.

“I always encourage them to study, keep moving forward and avoid bad habits,” he said. “Look at me, I don’t have arms. This isn’t an impediment to achieve your dreams. You have to fight to be a good person in life.”

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. He described his life before sponsorship in one word: poor.

“We didn’t have anything, even a bed where we can sleep, chairs for sitting,” Fernando said. “Now I have a better life. With Unbound we were able to improve our house and have tools for a better life.”

With his inherently kind disposition, Fernando is inspired to help others in his community.

“I’m going to start a new challenge at school. I’m going to give classes to people that can’t write or read so they can learn how. I feel prepared to teach them,” he said. “I’m going to work with other classmates and we already have prepared the material.”

Sponsor a youth

Fernando taking notes in class.

He’s brought some of his teaching styles home, too.

“My mother doesn’t know how to write,” he said. “But I taught her to how to write her name and now she can write it!”

Despite the obvious obstacles, Fernando has overcome more than anyone dreamed possible. He says Unbound has been an amazing support in continuing his fight to be a good person and looks forward to being able to study and have a nice job in the future.

We have a feeling Fernando is more than capable of achieving his goal of becoming economically independent and Unbound will be there to encourage him along the way.

Be the difference. Sponsor a young man like Fernando today.

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Setting ego aside to let music inhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/07/setting-ego-aside-to-let-music-in/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/07/setting-ego-aside-to-let-music-in/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20536 Voices of Unbound: Madagascar Voices of Unbound: Madagascar

By Barclay Martin, new channels coordinator for Unbound

It is an outlandish thing to make your living as a singer/songwriter, and one of the lessons it taught me early was that in order to make it, you have to hustle.

You have to release the notion that just because a morning of coffee and scratching in a notebook renders a song the world is compelled to respond. There’s a brawn to art, the idea that beneath the lustrous promise of a new creation there is muscle and metal driving it. With each release, there is a constant chirping in my brain, beckoning people to pay attention for a moment to what I’m doing. It is a daily battle for a sliver of presence in a world more infinitely layered than we could ever know.

Yet the battle is waged daily.

Voices of Unbound: Madagascar, a collection of songs I helped produce during a month-long visit to the island nation, gave me the chance to release that battle. There, I began the process of setting ego aside and letting some incredible music take hold in that space. Because I’ve learned that while the world may not need another sequence of my personal musings, it is in desperate need of connection.

The voices that have never had a platform to speak possess the vision to help us see ourselves from a different perspective. That is infinitely valuable.

Art can do this, if we let it.

I have always been inspired and awed by the folk heroes who used their songs to raise awareness, to speak of injustice and to deliver it in a way that people could access. If we are to understand each other, messengers like these are needed.

Folk singers, in the traditional sense, had no platform to impart their opinions in relative anonymity as we do now, but instead delivered their songs, without filter, in the presence of the audience. Flesh and bone, wood and steel. There’s an inescapable grace that comes with this kind of vulnerability, and our world needs more of it.

Voices of Unbound: Madagascar

Barclay turns a field into a recording studio for this Malagasy choir.

In search of that spirit, I stepped into the arena of those whose voices have never been heard. Their studio is in the streets, alleys and fields where they make their home. These songs were born of the gorgeous imperfection of a community resolute in the challenges they face – a place and people teeming with life.

Because for all of the ills harbored in our world, I choose to believe that the solution lies in each one of us. Spending a month with musicians and communities in Madagascar who offered their songs and space in their lives for us, gave me the resounding sense that this is true.

Just as human rights attorney Bryan Stevenson said that people are better than the worst thing they have ever done, so it is with society. When you look between the cracks that appear on the surface, you catch a glimpse of its heart.

I can assure you, it’s worth a look.

Having the courage to truly know one another might be our greatest response to the increasing impulse to disconnect and divide despite the crescendo of innovations that promise connection.

This music comes to us with no agenda, except an invitation to know those who made it. In a world more fiercely divided and fearful than ever, perhaps that’s what we need most.

Each song in this collection calls us to feel something, not to be distracted from feeling too much. It has become my opportunity to pause, and learn about what it means to make music and engage with the world at ground level. Throughout this collection, and across our world, you will find human courage in the form of song.

I am listening.

These are the folk singers of our time.

Hear the music of the Malagasy people. Visit unbound.org/music.

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Living through a typhoon in the Philippineshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/05/living-through-a-typhoon-in-the-philippines/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/05/living-through-a-typhoon-in-the-philippines/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:00:59 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20526 Jane, a sponsored youth Typhoon Rammasun

In an average year, 20 or more typhoons enter the Philippines. Half of those make landfall. Jane, who is sponsored through Unbound in the Philippines, shares her experiences from category 4 typhoon Rammasun, known locally as Glenda, which hit the Philippines earlier this year. The 17-year-old attends school in the Bicol region of the Philippines, and stays in a boarding house because of the school’s distance from her home.

It was July 15, 2014, when terrible typhoon Glenda hit our place in Bicol Region. The day before the typhoon made landfall, Albay Governor Joey Salceda suspended classes for all levels at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

I used the remaining hours of the day to prepare my things to go home to my family. But the next morning I wasn’t able to go home because the public transportation to my hometown was canceled due to heavy rains. I decided to go back to the boarding house and stay there with my roommate.

At 1 p.m. the power had already gone out and the rains were continuously pouring. By 5 p.m. there were already strong wind gusts which made me and my roommate run into the bathroom for safety. We stayed there for a couple of hours. We were afraid the Talisay tree out front might fall and damage the roof.

At 7:56 p.m., with just a piece of candle to provide light, we managed to come out and eat our dinner. As we were getting ready to sleep, the strong winds and heavy rain returned. We ran to the bathroom again, not even noticing that I brought my blanket! We prayed there, wishing that the winds and rains would be gone.

Around 10 p.m. we decided to venture out again and went to our bedroom. It made the two of us smile when we noticed that the wind and rain didn’t seem as strong anymore.

Typhoon Rammasun

The Talisay tree outside Jane’s boarding house fell in Typhoon Rammasun.

At 5:42 the next morning, a knock on the door woke us. It was people from our neighborhood, asking if we were fine. We nodded and thanked them for their concern.

I was shocked when I saw the big Talisay tree out front had fallen down. Its big branches were on our roof and had made a hole over the other room, letting in rains from the night’s devastation.

Our neighbors offered to help us remove the branches from the roof. We thanked them again, and I silently prayed, “Thank you Lord for this, another day of my life.”

Donations to Disaster Response help Unbound communities around the world rebuild after natural disasters. Donate today.

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Guatemalan mother shares turkey stew recipehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/03/guatemalan-mother-shares-turkey-stew-recipe/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/11/03/guatemalan-mother-shares-turkey-stew-recipe/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20508 Guatemalan turkey dish Guatemalan turkey dish

Doña Jesus started raising turkeys about seven years ago to help support her family. It was right around the time her son Diego was sponsored through Unbound. When all of her turkeys got sick and died, she received lots of encouragement from the Unbound staff not to give up. She also got seven turkeys from Unbound to help her restart her business.

To say thank you for all the support and encouragement her family has received, Doña Jesus shared her recipe for turkey stew, which she makes for her family every Christmas.

Turkey stew recipe

Serves approximately 10 people

Preparation note: This recipe requires a two-day preparation process to allow time for the meat to tenderize and season.

5 1/3 pounds raw turkey meat cut into pieces the size of a drumstick or smaller
For seasoning (Day 1):

1 ½ large onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, diced
2 pimiento peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons pepper powder
3 ½ tablespoons of powdered meat tenderizer (non-flavored)
For stew (Day 2):
5 tablespoons corn (or vegetable) oil
4 teaspoons huaque pepper (Guatemalan chili)
4 teaspoons “pasa” or “pasilla” peppers
2 pounds pimiento peppers
6 2/3 pounds tomatoes, quartered
1 1/3 cup onions
2 garlic cloves
Dash of laurel
Dash of thyme
2 ½ tablespoons red wine
1 ½ tablespoons vinegar
8 teaspoons Coca-Cola
1 cup pineapple, pureed
Salt to taste


1. Add meat and seasoning ingredients in large container. Mix well, ensuring turkey meat is well covered. Cover and refrigerate, letting meat season overnight, or at least 8 hours.
2. In a good-sized skillet, heat a small amount of oil, about half a tablespoon per piece of meat in the pan. Over medium heat, fry each piece of turkey 5 minutes or until it achieves a nice golden color. Discard remaining seasoning. Set turkey aside.
3. In separate skillet, sauté huaque peppers, pasa peppers, pimiento peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, laurel and thyme over low heat. Stirring frequently, cook the vegetables until they are lightly browned. Add cooked vegetables to a food processor or blender and blend. (Note: You may have to repeat step three multiple times, depending on the size of your cookware.)
4. Add turkey, blended vegetables and remaining ingredients to a large pot. Cook stew over medium-high heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

From Doña Jesus: “You can serve the stew with rice and a green hot sauce. I also like to serve it with a cold hibiscus (wild berry) tea.”

Editor’s note: This recipe has been reduced. The original recipe served 30 people.

Doña Jesus’ green hot sauce

Serves 4-6 people

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 pound green tomatoes, chopped
1 pound tomatillos, husked and chopped (tomatillos look like small green tomatoes in papery husks)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1½ cups of water
1-6 jalapeño peppers, crushed (depending on how hot you like it)
¼ cup of chopped cilantro


1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes. Cover and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomatillos, oregano and cumin. Lower the heat, add water and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is thickened and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Add the jalapeño peppers and simmer 10 minutes longer, adding water if necessary to keep the sauce from becoming too dry. Top with the chopped cilantro and serve.

Read Doña Jesus’ story.

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Guatemalan families honor their deadhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/31/guatemalan-families-honor-their-dead/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/31/guatemalan-families-honor-their-dead/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20495 Day of the Dead

A Guatemalan cemetery decorated on Day of the Dead.

Guatemalans celebrate Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 and 2, coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The celebrations are a way to remember loved ones who have passed away.

“We celebrate with a mixture of traditions from the Maya and the Spaniards,” said Norma, whose son, Rodvin, is sponsored through Unbound in Guatemala. “My mother showed me to offer fruits, food, flowers and any other things that our deceased liked when alive. We believe that they visit us on this day to share the offerings that we prepare for them. We also believe in prayers as a way of talking with them and asking God for their eternal rest.”

Similar to Day of the Dead customs in other countries, Guatemalan families celebrate the holiday by spending time in the cemeteries tending to and decorating the graves of their family members, as well as offering gifts of food. They paint headstones and put fresh flowers at graves, adding vibrant color to the landscape.

Day of the Dead

Sponsored youth Rodvin and his family visit the cemetery to decorate the graves of family members.

Families bring picnics with a traditional food called fiambre, which is a type of salad made with cold cuts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and many different types of vegetables. Fiambre is eaten only at this time of year, and each family has their own recipe.

One of the most unique aspects of Guatemala’s Day of the Dead celebrations is the flying of kites.

Photo by Nimrod Zaphnath via Wikimedia Commons

“At the cemetery as a child I flew kites because my grandmother said that this is how we could talk to the spirits,” sponsored youth Rodvin said. “Now we go to offer flowers and candles; we talk to our loved ones through prayers.”

The kites are made using bamboo and paper, and some are more than 70 feet in diameter. On the Day of the Dead, you can see hundreds of kites flying in most Guatemalan towns, ranging from the normal sizes to the giant kites.

According to Luis Cocon, Unbound’s communications liaison in Guatemala, “the kites are a combination of art and mysticism, and their purpose is to connect with the souls of the dead.”

For Guatemalan families like Rodvin’s, the Day of the Dead is about remembering their loved ones and connecting with them through traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Help keep cultural traditions alive by sponsoring today.

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Staffer shares Philippine tradition honoring deadhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/29/staffer-shares-philippine-tradition-honoring-dead/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/29/staffer-shares-philippine-tradition-honoring-dead/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20493 Unbound Filipino traditions

By Tristan John Cabrera, communications liaison for Unbound in the Philippines

Tristan John Cabrera is the communications liaison for Unbound in the Philippines. Each year, Filipino families spend Nov. 1 and 2 at the gravesites of their family members who have passed away. The two days are referred to as Undás. Tristan shared with us his experiences of the tradition.

Every year for Undás, observed Nov. 1 and 2, my family and I visit the graves of our loved ones who have passed away. On Oct. 31 we start building a tent to serve as our shelter for our two-day stay in the cemetery. We start early because of the large number of people who will also build their tents and visit their deceased loved ones.

It’s a time to offer prayers for our loved ones and remember them during All Souls Day on Nov. 2. It’s also a chance for us to spend time with all the members of our families and catch up on things from the previous year. It’s exciting because you see your relatives again and bond with them like on Christmas Day.

We prepare a lot of food for our two-day stay. There’s even a bathroom in the cemetery where you can take a bath.

Not everybody can sleep in the tent at the same time, so if there’s an available space somebody can take a nap or they can go home for a while if the cemetery is close enough, just as long as someone is always at the tent.

Aside from offering prayers, there’s a lot of conversation on different topics and we play cards or table games to entertain ourselves. But most especially we collect melted candles from nearby graves.

Some kids use them for art displays in their homes, but you can also exchange the wax for money from those who accept melted candles to turn into new candles or floor wax. The activity is very enjoyable for kids and adults.

Filipino tradition Filipino tradition

I remember my grandmother scolding me and my cousins because we took the candles even if they weren’t completely melted yet just to be the first ones to form a bigger ball of wax. We were all laughing during that moment with our grandmother.

It has been two years now since she passed away. This year, we will all be there at the grave of our grandfather and grandmother. There’s still a little sadness in our hearts for their loss, but we already accepted it. That’s why we see to it that we will all be there to remember them, especially during Undás.

On our last day, all the families clean up the grave areas of our loved ones and make a fence using straw and bamboo to cover the grave. We keep candles lit until the end of Undás, and the flowers stay until our next visit.

Check back on Friday to learn about Guatemala’s Day of the Dead traditions.

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Happy Chocolate Day!http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/27/happy-chocolate-day/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/27/happy-chocolate-day/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20477 Chocolate day Chocolate day

Happy (almost) Chocolate Day! Tomorrow, Oct. 28, is National Chocolate Day. To celebrate, we’re sharing the story of Margarita in Guatemala. Chocolate is an important part of Margarita’s life. And not just hers, but her community’s as well.

“[Chocolate is] the way that I earn for my family’s food expenses and my children’s school expenses,” Margarita said. “When customers place an order, I know how much I will earn for my children. …”

Chocolate is also important for others in my community because sometimes I need help and I give them work. I ask for their help to peel and roast cocoa beans. It takes about 10 people to peel 100 pounds of cocoa beans in one or two days.”

Margarita’s son Selvin is sponsored through Unbound. Six years ago Margarita attended an Unbound mothers group meeting in which one of the mothers shared her expertise in making chocolate.

Margarita was inspired by the presentation and decided to start making chocolate herself. With a startup loan from the mothers group, Margarita was able to purchase the raw materials needed, such as cocoa beans, sugar and cinnamon.

Though she was able to repay the loan within a year, Margarita had a few bumps along the way.

“When I was starting,” Margarita said, “I did not remember that the beans had to be sundried before roasting. When I roasted and ground the beans, I realized that the color was red. I got scared and said to myself, ‘what happened to my chocolate, it’s not chocolate, it’s red!’ So, I sold red chocolate, same delicious flavor, but red.”

Chocolate day

Margarita cleans the cocoa beans before roasting them.

She typically earns $65 a month from her chocolate business, after the cost of production. She plans to continue expanding the business and hopes to someday grow her own cocoa beans and have her own grinder. The grinder alone can cost up to $2,000, but Margarita knows that with hard work and careful savings, she’ll succeed.

The chocolate Margarita makes is used for many things, and several Unbound programs in Guatemala are among her customers. They purchase the chocolate to include with benefits provided to sponsored children and their families.

“The chocolate I make is used to make a hot chocolate drink,” Margarita said. “For special orders I can also make powdered chocolate. People use it to make bread, cakes, candy and tamales.”

Margarita sees chocolate as a path toward a better life.

“I hope that chocolate can bring happiness and prosperity to more families in Guatemala,” she said. “Thanks to Unbound and my chocolate business, this year Selvin will graduate from high school as a mechanic.”

Help mothers like Margarita by supporting Microfunding.

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Sponsor’s family photo bridges the distancehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/24/sponsors-family-photo-bridges-the-distance/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/24/sponsors-family-photo-bridges-the-distance/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20465 Unbound sponsors

This photo of Kathy, her children, Kristen, Alex and Gabriel (front), and her husband, Bob, gave new meaning to the relationship they had with their sponsored friend, Jay.

By Kathy Ackerman, Unbound sponsor

Kathy Ackerman has been an Unbound sponsor for 12 years. She has been sponsoring Jay for half that time. She shares how one family photo changed the relationship between her family and Jay.

For many years my family has sponsored a child through Unbound. Jay is the second child from the Philippines we have been able to help by providing financial support through this organization.

It is very easy to write a check and feel good about making a difference. We frequently received update letters from Jay. I occasionally sent a short note or card back, but honestly, I didn’t fully invest myself in trying to establish a relationship with this child so far away.

I recall getting a letter from Jay a couple of years ago that was like the others I had received. It thanked me profusely for providing support, detailed his school activities and grades, and told about the way the program has helped him and his family.

Only this letter ended with a request — he asked for a photo of me and my family. Since we had just taken a family photo for our Christmas cards, I sent one off to Jay, again with a short note.

The months went by and I kind of forgot about the photo. However, when I received my next letter from Jay, the tone was definitely different. I could read the thrill in his greeting to me (Hi!!!).

He now had a photo to connect to my name. I could picture him sitting there writing to me with a huge smile on his face, and I realized that the money we’d been sending was nothing compared to the relationship this young man so desperately wanted to establish with me.

“I am so happy because you took the time to write to me when you are so busy,” he wrote.

When I read his words I was deeply humbled. It reminded me that even the smallest acts of kindness are appreciated and treasured by some. It also made me re-evaluate my “busy” life and try harder to convey a sense of gratitude for the many blessings I’ve been given.

We live in this electronic age that has completely changed the way we communicate with each other. Receiving that letter from Jay and reading the joy in his words took me back to my own childhood days of anxiously awaiting a letter in the mailbox from my pen pal.

I hope that every word I write to him from here on out will affirm the great gift he has been to me and my family … and that he will be able to read the joy I now feel when I see a letter from him.

Start the conversation by sponsoring today.

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Support keeps student in school, out of factoryhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/22/support-keeps-student-in-school-out-of-factory/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/22/support-keeps-student-in-school-out-of-factory/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20463 Unbound scholar

Mamisoa receives a scholarship through Unbound in Madagascar. His scholarship is funded by donations to Education.

By Barclay Martin, new channels coordinator

I met Mamisoa at the Unbound-Madagascar central office while he was helping out with an event for aging members of the Unbound community. He’s studying earth sciences and wants to work to improve the water quality for people in Madagascar. He was introduced as one of the scholarship recipients. Unbound scholarships are funded by donations to Education. Luckily, I had a chance to pose some questions to Mamisoa.

Q. Why did you apply for an Unbound scholarship?

A. After high school, many young people who don’t get scholarships look for work in clothing factories or try to find odd jobs here in Antsirabe. My parents are already old, and couldn’t earn enough to support my education. Without a change, I wouldn’t be able to continue studying.

Q. What options do people in your position typically have?

A. Many people who finish high school look first for work in the clothing factories, but if they’re not accepted in the factory, they often try to get a job as a bus conductor, taking the tickets of passengers.

Q. What would it be like working in a clothing factory?

A. I have many friends who work in factories, and they say the environment is not so good. One of my friends works 11 hours a day cutting fabric to be used for clothing.

Q. What would have happened if you hadn’t received this scholarship?

A. I would look for odd jobs in hopes that I would be able to save enough money to return to school.

Q. Why do you value education so much?

A. I had a teacher that told me, “If you study well, you will never lose your way.” In Madagascar, the belief is that if you have education, you will always find a way to make a living.

Q. Do you have a message for those who give to Education through Unbound?

A. Once I learned that I had received the scholarship, I knew I had a huge responsibility to work hard because people are paying for my education. Studying hard is my accountability to their generosity.

Help support scholars like Mamisoa. Donate to Education.

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Hardworking family finds it hard to get aheadhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/20/hardworking-family-finds-it-hard-to-get-ahead/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/20/hardworking-family-finds-it-hard-to-get-ahead/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20453 sponsor a child

Heymi, 10, from El Salvador

Step inside 10-year-old Heymi’s house and you immediately take in the smell of wet wood. The sounds of chickens clucking and dogs barking outside fill the room.

The house, made of adobe and sheet metal, is home to seven people. But they only have three beds.

Heymi and her sister Esmerelda have one doll to share between them. The biggest challenge in life, Heymi said, is that “sometimes we don’t have food.”

This is the life for many families in El Salvador, with parents who struggle to provide just one meal for their children every day.

It’s not because they don’t work hard.

Like most families in the community, Heymi’s father, Manuel, is a laborer on land that belongs to someone else.

“My father works in the mountains,” Heymi said. “He sows maize, beans and micillio (millet).”

In the summer, the whole family works on a peanut farm. They plant, harvest and peel peanuts from the shells. But they only bring in a little money.

No wonder it’s so hard to get ahead.

sponsor a child sponsor a child

But Heymi’s not complaining.

In fact, she has an infectious enthusiasm for life. Heymi likes to sing and draw. She loves school and soccer. Her favorite color is purple.

Her eyes open wide when she talks about her dreams: “To continue studying. Know more about mathematics. Finish high school.”

Heymi hopes Unbound can help her find a sponsor to help achieve these dreams.

“I heard they support children and elderly. I would like to receive some of that,” she said earnestly.

Finding a sponsor will not only help Heymi, but also her mother, Marlene, who takes care of the house and children, hauls water and works in the fields.

The support from a sponsor could help Heymi’s family improve their living conditions, access health care and ensure Heymi stays in school. Plus, sponsorship will provide much-needed food.

You can be the person who helps the family’s hard work pay off.

Editor’s note: Since this post was published, Heymi has been sponsored. Click here to see other children waiting for sponsors.

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Unbound alumnus a man for othershttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/17/unbound-alumnus-a-man-for-others/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/17/unbound-alumnus-a-man-for-others/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20414 Unbound scholar Unbound scholar

Pay it forward. It’s what Cieleto Fernandez does every day.

Cieleto is an alumnus of Unbound’s Quezon program in Agoo, La Union, in the Philippines. He was part of Unbound for 14 years and finished his education in computer technology. Now he works in a computer shop owned by a friend.

For a few years Cieleto had his own shop, which he operated out of his house. He assembled desktop computers from spare parts gathered from his neighborhood and friends. He made enough money to send his sister to school for a two-year hotel and restaurant management course.

The enterprising young man also went back school to earn a teaching certificate so he can teach computer courses and share his knowledge with youth.

While computers power Cieleto’s dreams today, growing up he had another path in mind.

“My childhood dream was really to be a priest someday,” Cieleto said.

But he needed to be able to work and earn money for his family.

“That’s why I decided to pursue my studies in computer technology and eventually be a teacher someday,” he said.

Cieleto’s father passed away of a heart attack in 1997 and his eldest sibling died in a motor-vehicle accident in 2010.

Unbound scholar

Cieleto and his mother, Bernardina, outside their home.

“I stand as a father in our family and the eldest child among my siblings,” Cieleto said. “I also shoulder the expenses to send my two nephews to elementary school.”

His mother earns income making rags, and Cieleto is grateful to her for her hard work and sacrifices.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” Cieleto said to his mother. “I promise to do my best to help you and our family.”

Support from Unbound played a big part in forming Cieleto to be the person he is today.

“I wanted to say thank you to all the staff of Unbound locally and internationally and to my sponsors,” he said. “You opened up a lot of opportunity for me to succeed in life.

“I will never forget all the things that I’ve learned from the foundation. You are my personal foundation that opens my eyes in the real world.

“For all the sponsored youth today, treasure this rare opportunity to be part of Unbound. They are our inspiration, so we should also inspire others.”

At age 22, Cieleto has inspired the Unbound staff with his love of family and perseverance.

“He is a very strong man and full of hopes,” said Tristan John Cabrera, communications liaison for Unbound in the Philippines. “At his early age, he truly thinks like a 30- to 40-year-old man who doesn’t think only for himself, but for the good of his family.

“A million claps for you, Cieleto.”

Support someone’s dreams. Sponsor today.

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Meeting Migasyhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/15/meeting-migasy/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/15/meeting-migasy/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20417 Voices of Unbound: Madagascar Voices of Unbound: Madagascar Voices of Unbound: Madagascar Voices of Unbound: Madagascar

By Barclay Martin, new channels coordinator

For those compelled to think that people who live in poverty have nothing but their need to offer the world, I might begin by offering them the example of the extraordinary group, Migasy. This ensemble of musicians from the Unbound Madagascar community has developed a sophisticated sound with thoughtful messages. Messages that move humanity forward. These are engaged people who, amidst struggle, have committed themselves to creating works of art.

As they played song after song for us, I thought about the instruments that they played — some of them borrowed, some of them held together with rubber bands and plastic. These are the stories that don’t come through the music at first listen. They must be told. So should the very fact that they shared their music with us so others might have opportunity to go to school through Unbound scholarships. They were proud to do it.

As we recorded, the spirit in the room was of generosity. For each of the artists in Migasy, the desire to grow as musicians and offer something of substance moves them forward. For my part, I simply felt lucky to be in the presence of beautiful artists who had managed to do so much with so little.

It is the best of our human spirit set to music. It’s their gift to us.

Learn more about Voices of Unbound: Madagascar at unbound.org/music.

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A learning journeyhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/13/a-learning-journey/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/13/a-learning-journey/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20419 Unbound Awareness Trips 2014

Caitlyn meets Ever and his family for the first time.

By Naresli Calito, correspondent for Unbound in El Salvador

Caitlyn had the opportunity to meet her sponsored friend, Ever, on an awareness trip to El Salvador. She is 16 years old, likes to read and enjoys sharing time with her family. They are very close to their faith and frequently attend church.

Although she is young, she has a very strong feeling about helping others. She babysits to pay for Ever’s sponsorship.

“[Sponsorship] makes me feel I need and want to be involved,” Caitlyn said. “It’s a great feeling. I love Ever. It’s about forming a bond with someone from another culture.”

Accompanied by her mother, Cathy, they visited communities in El Salvador. Most of these communities are in rural areas, with rocky roads and houses made of adobe and metal sheets.

“I heard from a mothers group how women work in the field, that really impresses me,” said Caitlyn.

Caitlyn`s mother helped her meet her sponsored friend. Cathy thought having the opportunity to know a different reality and appreciate the beauty of people living in poverty could be a good experience for her daughter. Caitlyn and her mother felt and saw the impact that Unbound has on sponsored families.

“Seeing these people happy with the few things they have and so proud of what they have, I wish I could be like that,” said Caitlyn.
When Caitlyn met Ever, she said her legs were shaking from nervousness. After a short time, they were jumping, laughing and hugging each other.

“He said he loves me and he wants to spend every day with me, and I felt the same way,” Caitlyn shared. “We became that close in less than a day. It was awesome.”

Unbound Awareness Trips 2014 Unbound Awareness Trips 2014

Caitlyn wishes to be there for Ever. Both of them enjoy the letters they write to one another. They share their daily lives through words. And just like Ever, Caitlyn has dreams of her own. She would like to be a teacher for little children or kids with special needs.

“This trip really changed me,” Caitlyn said. “I just can’t wait to see Ever growing up and see that he can accomplish so many things.”

Make your own connection. Learn more about Awareness Trips.

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Communities of joy abound in Costa Ricahttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/10/communities-of-joy-abound-in-costa-rica/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/10/communities-of-joy-abound-in-costa-rica/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:00:31 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20368 Unbound Awareness Trip Unbound awareness trip

By Nicole Miller, support specialist for Unbound

Recently Nicole Miller traveled to Costa Rica on an awareness trip. Nicole has worked for Unbound for 10 years, and this was her first time visiting an Unbound program office. She shared with us her experiences during the trip.

I recently had the privilege of going to Costa Rica for my first field experience through Unbound. My mom, who also works for Unbound, joined me for this adventure.

I was full of nerves and excitement for my first trip overseas. I was ready to experience the culture of the Costa Rican communities and meet my sponsored child, Dylan, for the first time since I started sponsoring a year ago. Dylan is 8, in the second grade and still learning to read and write, so I write to his mother, Evelyn, until he can write for himself.

On the second day of the trip we were visiting the Heredia community. While listening to different mothers groups, I realized that I was surrounded by families who, though living in poverty, were so full of joy and happiness.

These mothers were so grateful for the sponsorship that helps their children attend school, giving them an opportunity to find their dreams for themselves and their families. My heart started to melt with all the emotions from the smiling faces and powerful words coming from the mothers.

Throughout the trip we saw many communities and made home visits. It was a lot to take in.

Unbound Awareness Trip Unbound Awareness Trip

On the last day of the trip I was sitting in the common area watching the video the staff had put together from the week’s events, with music from Unbound’s late co-founder Bob Hentzen drifting from the speakers, and I felt this sudden sadness. It hit me that I would be leaving this beautiful country and wouldn’t be able to interact with the staff, the sponsors on the trip or the local families.

What I took from this trip is the overwhelming love I experienced from the sponsors and the families. We are truly all in this together in this world of compassion. Seeing the joy when the sponsors saw their sponsored friends for the first time (or the second or third), you could tell how much they enjoyed their relationships with each other.

It doesn’t matter where you are from or where you are raised, we are all the same people at heart.

Find your own adventure. Visit unbound.org/trips for more info.

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In memory of ‘Sir Bob’http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/08/in-memory-of-sir-bob/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/08/in-memory-of-sir-bob/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:00:11 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20384 Robert Hentzen Robert Hentzen

On October 8, 2013, Unbound co-founder Bob Hentzen passed away. He was a true advocate for those struggling against poverty, and he touched the lives of many. Among those impacted was Shaima from Zamboanga, Philippines. She was one of Bob’s sponsored friends and built a relationship with him through letters.

After Bob’s passing, Shaima wrote a letter celebrating his role in her life. We’re sharing excerpts from her letter in honor of Bob on the anniversary of his passing.

… [Sir Bob is] not only a sponsor to me, but to my whole family. He’s a father who’ll always be there to care and love you, encouraging you to live a happy life, to be content with what you have. He guides me to the most upright way of life. He has a source of patience, courage, hope and confidence. He always comforts you.

Sir Bob is a great loss to all of us. A very energetic man and a man with strong will, yet so warm and generous. The welfare and needs of the indigent people are his top priority. …

He would always tell us this, “Remember you don’t have to be wealthy in order to be happy, as long as you live together with your family. …”

Now that you’re gone, I’ll put in mind all of your advice, your teaching the mission, core and values of [Unbound]. …

Sir Bob, you always tell me this, “Remember, Shaima, wherever I go you and your family will always be in my heart.” Sir Bob, although I am weak, I don’t give up; I hope, I pray for love and life. …

I always wished that someday you could see me on my graduation day. If ever I earn a medal, I would give it to you because all of my achievements I owe to you and to Ma’am Cristina and you deserve to have it. …

Everything was changed when you and Ma’am Cristina came along … You were there for us, a teacher till the end of time.

Help keep Bob’s dream alive. Sponsor today.

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Reflect, rejoice, pray: A cancer survivor’s storyhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/06/reflect-rejoice-pray-a-cancer-survivors-story/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/06/reflect-rejoice-pray-a-cancer-survivors-story/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20381 Janelle Stamm

Janelle Stamm, who works in accounting for Unbound, is an avid runner and cancer survivor.

By Janelle Stamm, accounting specialist for Unbound

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Janelle Stamm, who works at Unbound’s headquarters in Kansas City, shared her story of how focusing on gratitude and compassion helped her cope with cancer.

If someone told me in August 2013 that I’d run a half-marathon for Unbound in June of the next year, I would have believed them. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities. I’ve run two other half- marathons. Now, if someone were to tell me that I would have to deal with breast cancer before that run I would have said, “What??”

You see, I took my health for granted. I’m 47, rarely sick, an avid runner, a cardio-junkie of sorts and I love yoga.
Here’s my story and how Unbound helped me through my journey.

In September 2013 I found a suspicious mass. I watched it for a while hoping it was nothing and that it would just go away. But it didn’t. In November, after I finally acknowledged that this was something that needed attention, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor.

Immediately before my appointment I went on a 6-mile run and cried the whole time. I just knew I had cancer. Using running as my therapy that morning I let God know how scared I was and prayed that he be with me throughout whatever was ahead. That’s one aspect of running I truly appreciate – freely expressing however I am feeling at the time and talking with God as if he’s right there running with me.

The doctor confirmed my concern and ordered a biopsy. After sharing that news with one of my best friends, she bought me a book of daily devotions entitled “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young. It was a great comfort to her and she hoped it would be for me, too. The passage for the date of my biopsy read as follows:

Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me.

You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.

Letting God lead the way

I couldn’t believe how closely this passage matched what was going on in my life. I took this as a stark reminder that I needed to approach this upcoming journey on a day-by-day basis, following God’s desired plan for me. (Which, by the way, is how I’ve always wanted to be but this was the first time in my life that I actually tried it.) Furthermore, I believe in the ultimate reward of getting into heaven.

Given this, I realized that my focus needed to be more on how I was going to handle this cancer journey vs. the journey itself. In other words, it doesn’t really matter if I win or lose, it’ll be how I play the game. The question that I had was “How do I handle this?”

Once it was confirmed that the mass was cancer, I proceeded down the path of selecting experts to help me on the journey. Armed with a supportive husband, family and friends, workplace, great medical insurance and a host of other blessings, I felt empowered. Although I didn’t know if the cancer had spread or what my treatment plan would be, I felt confident no stone would be left unturned and I would be able to do whatever was best for me.

I did lots of things to help me cope. My husband and I went ahead with a long-awaited kitchen remodel and we had our family picture taken. While these things did help me feel better, I knew I wanted to do something more.

Living with gratitude and compassion

My cousin is a gifted writer and wrote a blog post about breast cancer. Rejoicing in her good health, she wrote that “being ungrateful is the most offensive thing we can do to those who would love to have what we have.” After reading that sentence I thought, – “That’s it! That’s how I want to approach this journey.” An attitude of gratitude became the constant state of mind I desired.

Meanwhile, at work, the theme of compassion was emphasized to carry out our organization’s mission. Here is an excerpt I copied from an email sent to our work community in December:

We are on the adventure of discovery, walking together. A key element of that adventure is the compassion we live out each and every day. An important part of that living out of compassion is to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there. That will open our eyes to the beauty of each individual and to the magnificence of all of us together.

The idea of “dethroning ourselves from the center of our world and putting another one there” resonated with me. Gradually my thoughts expanded from gratitude to an awareness of others who might not have access to the health care that I have. Clothed in these feelings of gratitude and compassion, I worked through more doctor appointments, more testing, another biopsy, and confirmation of another cancer mass that ultimately meant a mastectomy was necessary.

Remaining committed to taking this journey one day at a time, with God leading the way and with heaven as my ultimate destination, I never felt anxious. I felt at peace. This gave me the confidence to make all the decisions necessary for my overall health plan.

Furthermore, the theme of compassion helped me figure out what else to do. In the spirit of wanting my journey to be more than just about the cancer itself, I sponsored an aging woman. I had already been thinking about it for a year, and I finally acted on it. I prayed I could find the right person for me. My prayer was quickly answered.

Lucinda is 84 years young and is from Guatemala. What drew me to Lucinda was that “she is so religious even though she is so sick,” according to the local staff. When I read this I thought we were in similar situations. But what inspired me to sponsor her was something else I read in her profile: “She visits sick people.” I immediately knew I wanted to sponsor her. She is a living example of someone who implements compassion in her everyday life.

My surgery was in January 2014. Thankfully the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes, so the physical toil of my cancer journey was substantially over. I’m back doing all the things I loved to do before like running and yoga. But I am forever changed physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I recognize that I have a choice in how I embrace this change each and every day. I desire to remain grateful and compassionate. And when I do, I feel at peace.

Lucinda’s practice of helping others inspires me to do the same. I look forward to sharing with her how she inspires me; right now we are just getting to know each other. Just knowing we are praying for each other makes me smile. No matter what is going on in my daily life or hers, we’ll have this connection. This shared connection helps ground me in the knowledge that God is with us all.

Cancer wasn’t the first cross I had to bear and it won’t be the last. But it was the first time that I actively tried to live day to day with gratitude and compassion, letting God lead the way. And by doing so I am forever changed in how I want to handle the crosses that come my way.

What inspired me to share my story is the prevalence of breast cancer. I hope how I managed through this journey can help others with whatever their challenge might be.

I look forward to representing Unbound in upcoming races because I believe in the Unbound movement and I am so grateful to be a part of it. I feel it will be the perfect time to reflect, rejoice and pray my “Thank you.”

Give hope to others on the journey to getting better by supporting Health.

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Teachers inspire love of learninghttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/03/teachers-inspire-love-of-learning/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/03/teachers-inspire-love-of-learning/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:00:01 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20349 Daniel from El Salvador

Daniel, 21, from El Salvador

By Larry Livingston, senior writer at Unbound

Think about a favorite teacher from when you were a child. What do you remember most about that person? I would bet that, for most of us, what we remember has more to do with the character of the teacher than the particulars of what they taught.

Teachers are, first and foremost, role models for the love of learning. Their passion for knowledge — and, more importantly, the meaning that underlies knowledge — stimulates students to begin to ask the kind of questions that can change their lives and take them on a never-ending journey of discovery.

Daniel, an Unbound scholar living in El Salvador, wants to be that kind of teacher. Inspired by the love of mathematics that he witnessed in his own teachers, Daniel has discovered within himself the heart of an educator. He wants to give to others what was first given to him.

Daniel from El Salvador Daniel from El Salvador

On a normal day, Daniel rises at 3:30 a.m., prays with his family and then sets out for the two-hour truck ride to the university in Santa Ana.

“Here I receive a theory class because I’m an instructor for a group of students,” he shared. “I go to my classroom and wait for my students; I give the class as an instructor of math. When I finish class I spend a few minutes trying to resolve doubts they may have. Sometimes I have to go to a cyber cafe to get information that I’m going to use in the next class or stay with my classmate resolving exercises.”

By the time he returns home it is late at night, but for Daniel the long day is worth it because of the fulfillment he receives from being able to share his gifts with others who hunger to learn.

As we observe World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5, we celebrate Daniel and all the members of the Unbound community who have a passion to learn and to teach. They are a blessing for the young people of their communities and a reminder for all of us of the priceless treasure that education truly is.

Help support scholars like Daniel. Donate to Education today.

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Introducing Voices of Unbound: Madagascarhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/02/introducing-voices-of-unbound-madagascar/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/10/02/introducing-voices-of-unbound-madagascar/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 18:00:27 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20345 Voices of Unbound: Madagascar

Recently our resident musician and new channels coordinator, Barclay Martin, traveled to Madagascar. While there he collaborated with members of the Unbound community to record songs that are unique to the Malagasy people. Through instrument and song, the Voices of Unbound: Madagascar CD tells a story that leaves the listener with a sense of the gifts, capacities and cultures of the people with whom we work.

Watch this video to learn more:

Want a copy of the CD? Check out unbound.org/music for more information.

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“Disability is not inability”http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/29/disability-is-not-inability/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/29/disability-is-not-inability/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20334 Joseph teaches math to students in classes eight and nine.

Joseph teaches math to students in classes eight and nine.

Joseph, 22, is a sponsored student in Kenya. When he was 2, Joseph’s parents noticed that he wasn’t able to do some of the same things other children his age could. By the time he was 3, he was unable to walk or move around.

His parents took him to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that impairs movement and is caused by brain damage during development.

Joseph underwent surgery to help straighten his legs. He also received physical therapy and used crutches for some time. In all, he spent four years in the hospital being treated for his condition.

Joseph was finally able to join primary school at the age of 7. He was one of the best students in the class.

Joseph’s parents found it hard to get by with Joseph’s medical expenses, four children in school and no steady income. Unbound staff in their area learned of the family’s situation, and in 2002 Joseph was sponsored. The support he received from his sponsor meant his parents could continue paying for his education.

Joseph’s schooling, however,  was interrupted in fourth grade when he had to have another surgery.. He spent another year in the hospital, which meant he had to repeat fourth grade. Despite the difficulties, he continued to excel when he returned to school and even managed to score highly on the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.

With his high scores, Joseph received a scholarship from the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, which combined with his sponsorship benefits meant his parents could send him to a better secondary school.

The first secondary school Joseph attended wasn’t the best fit. His condition made it difficult for him to write, which made it hard to keep up with the other students. But it was the negative treatment he received from some of his classmates that was the biggest challenge.

Seeing his struggles, Joseph’s parents decided to transfer him to a school that specialized in teaching students with disabilities. Being among others who faced similar challenges boosted Joseph’s self-confidence.

Joseph, from Kenya

Joseph walks around his classroom full of students.

Joseph recently graduated secondary school with good grades, and plans to pursue a degree in business administration from Kenyatta University. While he waits to get into the university, Joseph puts his time to good use.

He volunteers at his old primary school teaching math and Kiswahili, and he helps out at the Unbound office near his home.

When giving advice to younger students, he keeps it simple. “Disability is not inability,” Joseph said. “Work hard and stay focused.”

Donations to Health help provide equipment and therapeutic devices to sponsored friends with disabilities, along with many other health related initiatives.

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A champion rises above health obstaclehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/26/keep-swimming/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/26/keep-swimming/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20289 Swimming

Juan Jose practices regularly to improve his swimming.

Juan Jose is your typical 13-year-old. He lives with his mom and grandmother in Antioquia, Colombia. He attends school, loves hanging out with his friends and has dreams of becoming a famous Olympian.

But Juan Jose has a little secret.

He only has one kidney. It keeps him from playing contact sports, like football, basketball and soccer, with his friends.
Instead of letting this hold him back, he channels his energy and efforts into swimming.

“I love to swim now!” he said. “I like swimming because we get resistance and we work out with all the muscles. I feel that I am free, and I have discovered that I am a good and fast swimmer.”

Through his chosen sport, Juan Jose has overcome other medical problems.

“I have asthma but I do not give up when I have competitions and I continue until I finish. I always want to be the best despite my health limitations,” he answered when asked about any obstacles in his life.

Even though training is from 6 am to 8:30 am, Juan Jose still said, “I enjoy training because it has helped me to get my health problems under control.”

Though he is a shy boy, his grandmother remarked that he is “disciplined and a fighter for his dream [of reaching the Olympics] and does not care about his health limitations.” Like most grandmothers, she is incredibly proud of him and his accomplishments.

With his most memorable moment listed as signing up for a swimming league, Juan Jose has even bigger dreams for the future. He hopes to “have the chance to represent my town in other cities. Maybe someday I will have the chance to participate in the Olympic Games to represent my country.”

We here at Unbound will be rooting for you, Juan Jose!

Contributions to Health help support many services, including therapeutic services for sponsored friends with special needs. Donate today!

Swimming Sponsor a child
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18 ways to say I believe in youhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/24/18-ways-to-say-i-believe-in-you/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/24/18-ways-to-say-i-believe-in-you/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20084 Sponsor a child

“I believe in you.”

A powerful statement not often spoken. It offers up a pure form of confidence in the people who need it most.
In this blog post, we will show you how to write this powerful statement in 18 languages. You can even send one of these translations in a note to your sponsored friend.


Luganda is a major language spoken in Uganda. In Luganda, “I believe in you” translates to “Nkukiririzaamu.”

Ugandan parents

Michael and Proscovia, whose son is sponsored through Unbound, are native Lugandan speakers.


In India, several main languages and numerous indigenous languages are spoken. Telugu is spoken in the southeastern region of India, and Tamil is spoken throughout South India as well as in neighboring Sri Lanka and other countries. Hindi is spoken primarily in Northern and Central India, and is the primary official language of the Indian government, along with English.

Telugu: Nenu Ninnu Nammutunnanu

Tamil: நான் உன்னை நம்புகிறேன் (Naan unnai nambugiraen)

Hindi: मैं तुम पर विश्वास करता हूं (Mein tum per vishwas kartha hoon)

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal in India draws people from around the country and world. Visitors to the famed monument hear many languages spoken there.

The Philippines:

In the Philippines, there are more than 150 languages spoken. Most of them are part of the Malayo-Polynesian language family, including the national language of Filipino. Filipino is mostly based on Tagalog, the language spoken in and around Metro Manila. English, Spanish, Arabic and Chavacano, a Spanish Creole created through the many years of Spanish influence in the Philippines, are also among the languages spoken.

Filipino: Naniniwala ako sa iyo

Bisaya: Gapati ako sa imo

Chavacano: Ta cre yo contigo

Filipino students

Children in the Philippines are taught in English and Filipino.


There are many ethnic groups in Kenya, and most of them have their own language. In fact, more than 50 different languages are spoken in Kenya. To help make communications among fellow countrymen and countrywomen easier, schools use English as the primary language of learning.

Kikuyu: Ninguitikitie

Swahili: Nakuaminia

Dholuo: An gi yie kuomi/kuomu

Kalenjin: Ayani en inye

Luhya: Nakhwamini/Nakhusubila

Kimeru: I ngu ngwtikia

Kenyan students

Classmates and sponsored children Diana and Celestine work on homework together.

Central and South America:

While Spanish is spoken throughout much of Central and South America, with Portuguese spoken in Brazil and other areas, Guatemala has another distinct language among those of Mayan descent. Kaqchikel is an indigenous Mesoamerican language and a member of the Mayan languages family. It is spoken by the indigenous Kaqchikel people in central Guatemala.

Spanish: Yo creo en ti

Portuguese: Eu acredito em você

Kaqchikel: Ya ti nimaj

Sponsor a child

Jennifer is a sponsored girl in an area of Guatemala where the Kaqchikel language is spoken.

Jennifer and others teach you how to say “hello” in Kaqchikel in this video.


As a former French colony, there is still plenty of French to be found in Madagascar. But the main language spoken today is Malagasy, which is part of the Malayo-Polynesian family.

Malagasy: Matoky anao aho

French: Je crois en vous

Check back on October 1 for information about our new Voices of Unbound: Madagascar CD.

Malagasy singers

The Malagasy language is even more beautiful when lifted in song.

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Success out of sacrificehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/22/success-out-of-sacrifice/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/22/success-out-of-sacrifice/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20285 Salvadoran scholar

Erika, 24, from El Salvador

Erika grew up in a rural part of El Salvador, where the majority of jobs come from farming. Erika’s father, Daniel, relied on farming to support his wife and six children. Unfortunately, the income was not steady.

As a young girl, Erika attended a school where many of her classmates were sponsored through Unbound. As the second oldest, she saw how much her parents struggled to meet her education expenses and those of her siblings. Erika knew sponsorship would help her family financially. But she got so much more out of it than that.

“I used to watch all the other children get very excited because they were sponsored, they said ‘I’m sponsored, I’m sponsored,'” Erika shared.

When she was 13, a group of Unbound sponsors visited Erika’s school to see where their own sponsored children learned. A young woman named Misty was also on the trip, though it wasn’t until she met Erika that she decided to become a sponsor.

“When I received the news that I was sponsored,” Erika said, “I felt so happy because I was part of [Unbound] and that someone chose me to be her sponsored child. When I remember that day, I still feel excited. It makes you feel special.”

Now 24, Erika is getting ready to finish her college degree in English, a goal she wasn’t always sure she would achieve. Higher education is expensive, and even with support from sponsorship her family wasn’t always able to meet their needs.

“There was extra sacrifice for my parents and even for my siblings,” Erika said. “Sometimes they didn’t have a complete meal to support me. Having those kinds of limitations is difficult.”

In El Salvador, having only a high school diploma means fewer opportunities and a decreased chance of finding a job. Erika knew that to help her family in the future, she would need to get a college degree.

Salvadoran scholar Salvadoran scholar

“For a family that lives in a rural area and with low income, it seems like you can’t achieve [your goals],” Erika said. “Sometimes you have to make the decision and understand that, even if you don’t have the basic things or clothes or a good pair of shoes, you need to try it anyway. You have to trust and believe that God is going to provide.”

When Erika first started at the University of El Salvador, things were even tighter for her family. Already an active participant in the Unbound program because of her sponsorship, Erika decided to apply for an Unbound scholarship, which are funded by donations to Education.

Because of her hard work, leadership skills and dedication to serving others, Erika was granted the scholarship. It helps pay for the cost of transportation to and from campus, which is a couple of hours each way, books and other materials needed to complete her education.

As part of the service hours required of all scholarship recipients, Erika is teaching English in the same school where she first met her sponsor. Not only is it good experience for her goal of becoming a professional English teacher, but she says it has also helped her grow personally.

“The beauty of [Unbound] is not just about receiving money,” Erika said, “but they also have an interest in your personal growth and self-esteem.

“I want to say thank you to the sponsors and Education donors for their support of young people, like me, that have a desire to move forward.”

Help support Education and give hope to students like Erika.

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Flooding in the Philippines updatehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/20/flooding-in-the-philippines-update/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/20/flooding-in-the-philippines-update/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 23:51:31 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20314 Malou collects information about sponsored members and their families impacted by flooding from tropical storm Fung-Wong. Flooding-in-Manila-2

From Malou Navio, coordinator Unbound’s Antipolo program

This is to update you here from [Tropical Storm] Mario [Fung-Wong] yesterday.

Mario affects the quality and sources of drinking water of the Dumagat Indigenous Cultural Communities. They are exerting so much effort to keep their drinking water potable. Another some are still marooned in their colony. They could not cross rivers as the rivers are with strong current and deep.

In other towns, all families affected by the [storm] are grateful as the weather, though with cloudy skies, has no hard rain. The floodwaters of yesterday are now subsiding. More and more families are returning home. They are fixing their wet belongings from rains and flood.

All at this moment are thankful that there was no injury or lost life among our families.


Want to help? Donate to Disaster Response.

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Flooding forces Philippine families to evacuatehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/19/flooding-forces-philippine-families-to-evacuate/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/19/flooding-forces-philippine-families-to-evacuate/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:12:00 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20294 Manila flooding

Antipolo staff members go house to house checking on Unbound families.

Tropical storm Fung-Wong dumped heavy rains on the Metro Manila region of the Philippines, where more than 33,000 families in our programs live. Flooding forced evacuations and schools and offices to close. Unbound staff members in the area are sending us reports as the storm sweeps through the nation’s capital region, home to more than 11 million people.

Want to help? Donate to Disaster Response.

Unbound staff Manila flooding

From Tristan John Cabrera, Unbound’s communications liaison in the Philippines

I’ve sent another batch of photos from my field coverage of Typhoon Fung-Wong. It is so hard to see our brothers and sisters in the evacuation centers. Even if they are inside the covered court [a covered outdoor area], they still get wet because of the wind carrying rain entering the court.

The mother of Patrick told me they have not eaten their lunch and dinner yet. They are only hoping for the assistance coming from the local government unit and from the volunteers. They are in the second floor of the school building, aside from the crowded area, and there is no electricity.

“We cannot go back to our home yet because it is still in a deep flood,” Patrick said.

Every time this heavy flooding happens, they usually stay at the evacuation center for three days, sometimes for almost a week. The Unbound Manila, Antipolo and Quezon programs assure that there will be immediate food assistance given to all our affected families [of sponsored children and elders] early in the morning tomorrow.

The weather bureau reported that the rain will continue to fall until tomorrow morning. The typhoon will exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Sunday morning. Officials have declared a state of calamity in Cainta, Rizal and Dagupan, Pangasinan and in Marikina City where heavy flooding has been reported.

Aside from overflowing rivers, two dams are also above spilling level as of 4 p.m. [Philippine time], according to Manila Water. Ipo dam water level at Norzagaray, Bulacan is at least 1.73 meters above spilling level while La Mesa dam water level in Quezon City is above spilling level of 80.15 meters. That intensifies the flooding in the low-lying areas like Rizal and Marikina.

Monitoring continues … tomorrow for the relief operation.

Malou collects information about sponsored members and their families impacted by flooding from tropical storm Fung-Wong.

Malou collects information about sponsored members and their families impacted by flooding from tropical storm Fung-Wong.

From Malou Navio, coordinator Unbound’s Antipolo program

The Unbound Antipolo’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Team began roaming at early dawn (4 a.m.) around the communities where sponsored [members] live to see their situation and check their preparedness on calamity. We advised those in flooded and flood-prone areas to evacuate and leave their homes.

We were able to reach out this whole day to the eight towns of Rizal Province and Pasig that have communities with sponsored families. Three towns we cannot reach due to [roads] being non-passable.

The number of sponsored families whose homes were at different heights of floodwaters were: up to knee high, 515; waist high, 241; chest high, 83; neck high, 74; and roof high, 21. Other families lost their belongings in the current of the floodwaters. There are 262 who are at the evacuation centers (public school or basketball courts.)

At this moment (night) some of our DRRM team has just arrived from rescuing a sponsored family and an aging at the boundary of Pasig and Cainta. They were marooned by chest-high floodwaters.

There were some families who said that they have not yet recovered from fatigue from when Typhoons Glenda and Luis hit them.

Our DRRM team was able to feed with hot champorado (chocolate rice porridge) the 203 sponsored and non-sponsored children at the two evacuation centers and provide rice to 15 families who could cook at the evacuation sites.

Our DRRM team is a combined force of ERPATs [fathers of sponsored children trained disaster response], staff and some mother leaders, and is spearheaded by the ERPATs. In times of calamity, we stop from our office routine for DRRM work.

The news says that more rain will fall tomorrow. Let’s pray for the sun to appear intermittently.

Together in constant thoughts and prayers,
Malou and the DRRM team

Manila flooding Manila flooding

From Mavic Ihap, coordinator of Unbound’s Quezon program

Just to give you an update today about [tropical storm] Mario with international name Fung-Wong. … Around 9 a.m. the national government declared suspension of classes and work in Metro Manila, but our Pambuhay leaders keep us posted through their cellphones.

All of our subprojects [program areas] in Metro Manila are affected by the flood. To date, we have 1,060 sponsored families evacuated in the nearest public schools while others moved to higher ground.

The flood reaches their homes approximately more than 10 feet.

Our Pambuhay Parents Council will initiate providing porridge, macaroni soup and bread for those who stay in the evacuation center tomorrow while our staff will provide relief assistance to our affected families.

Unbound helps families impacted by natural disasters through our Disaster Response. Donate today to help with relief and recovery efforts for families affected by Fung-Wong and other emergencies.

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Attending the Pan African Conferencehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/19/attending-the-pan-african-conference/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/19/attending-the-pan-african-conference/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20261 Pan African Conference

Unbound staff from program offices around Africa came together to share ideas and challenges at this year’s Pan African Conference in Uganda.

By Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa

Each Unbound program office has their own unique way of doing things, tailored to meet the needs of the sponsored friends in their area. But learning from other offices is invaluable to keeping the program evolving.

Every few years, our program offices in Africa hold a Pan African Conference where they can share ideas and challenges. This year the conference was hosted by our Uganda office. Regina Mburu, our communications liaison in Africa, shares her experiences during the conference.

The preparations to visit Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, for the Pan African Conference started months ago. Each of the African projects started preparing their presentations and submitting topics that needed to be discussed.

As the date to the conference drew closer, the mood amongst the staff heightened. For some, it was the first time to travel to a different country and excitement filled the air.

On July 20th, Unbound staff from around Africa started streaming in to the hotel where the conference was held. The long hours of travel clearly showed on their faces. With luggage in their hands and beads of sweat on their foreheads, they made way to their rooms.

This marked the first day of the conference.

It was a sea of blue on the second day with each staff member wearing an Unbound T-shirt. Scott Wasserman, Unbound’s president and CEO, gave the opening remarks and officially set the ball rolling for the next few days in Entebbe.

Many different topics were covered, and each presenter did their best to convey their message. Challenges were discussed and possible solutions offered.

“It is great learning from other offices,” said Teddy Naluwu, the Uganda program coordinator. “Their experiences working with the families and the concepts they are coming up with in their day to day work at Unbound is amazing.”

Group work during the conference was also a way that the participants got to interact and share information amongst each other.

“It is not very often that we have a chance to meet with staff members from other countries,” said Aika Temu, correspondence specialist from Tanzania. “This was a great forum to borrow good practices from each other as well as try to find better ways to serve at Unbound. It was an awesome experience.”

Pan African Conference

Staffers put a lot of creativity into their fashion show outfits.

With all the serious discussion, there was still time for everyone to have some fun and get to know each other. The Uganda office organized a fashion contest, with staff members from the various program offices coming up with an outfit and modeling it. Participants literally put their best feet forward as they walked the catwalk in different designs, ranging from casual wear to formal wear, each one of them trying to clinch the award in their respective category.

Amidst cheers, claps and whistles from their colleagues, they walked the runway confidently, wearing big smiles across their faces.

“This is my first time walking the catwalk. I think if I wasn’t working as a program counselor, I could make a good model. I really enjoyed myself,” said a happy Samuel Njoroge, Nairobi program counselor.

The true spirit of Unbound could be felt amongst each one. The fact that we all came from different countries and have different cultures did not stand in the way of healthy interactions and debates.

As the curtains closed down on the Pan African conference, each one of us walked away a little wiser and informed.

Truly, the Unbound family stands strong and woven together beautifully by the thread of love.

Become part of the Unbound family. Sponsor today.

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My name is Mariahttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/17/my-name-is-maria/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/17/my-name-is-maria/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:00:49 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20246 Sponsor a child

Ten-year-old Maria from Guatemala.

By Elizabeth Alex, community outreach and media relations director for Unbound

“My name is Maria and my favorite thing in life is going to school.”

The simple, straightforward statement from a third grader in Guatemala represents the dream of children in the developing world.

Maria lives in a small house in a rural area of Guatemala. Her father is sick and hasn’t been able to work. Her family survives because of the kindness of neighbors, friends and their church. On most days, meals consist of salted tortillas and water.

Like many kids who live in poverty, Maria is lacking in nutrition. But she has plenty of energy for life.

“I like to sing and dance to marimba music and play hide and seek with my neighbors.”

She prays every morning for some “good food, like chicken or fish,” and for the chance to continue in school.

Unbound works in 21 countries, including many in Latin America, helping children find sponsors in the United States who are willing to donate 30 dollars a month towards their education and wellbeing. We serve around 76,500 school age children in Guatemala alone.

But in Guatemala, school is never a certainty.

Guatemala has the lowest primary school completion rate in Central America according to the USAID. More than 30 percent of students did not complete first grade in 2013. In addition, one quarter of primary school students did not complete the 6th grade. And an even bleaker statistic shows the enrollment rate for middle school is less than 40 percent.

Unfortunately, the educational situation in Guatemala is dire, especially in the rural and indigenous communities where Unbound has the largest concentration of sponsored kids. The average Guatemalan has less than a 5th grade education, and very little prospect for work.

But sponsorship helps change the story. Results from our recent study are encouraging. Nearly 64 percent of kids in the Unbound program in Guatemala complete at least some secondary education. More than 20 percent graduate from high school, and the percentage of Unbound students who attend university far exceeds the national average.

The key ingredient, according to Unbound President and CEO Scott Wasserman, is hope.

“Education not only develops minds,” Wasserman said, “it also creates hope. That hope spreads from the child to the child’s family; and from there, to the entire community.”

Maria has friends who are sponsored through Unbound. She sees they receive school supplies, food and letters.

“I hope I can get milk and letters from a sponsor,” she said.

Food and school supplies shouldn’t be the first concern for third graders anywhere. For Maria, it’s reality. But that doesn’t stop her from dreaming.

“I want to be a lawyer,” she said, “and I want to help my family and my father so he will be healthy again.”

Maria has a simple, straightforward message for the person who decides to sponsor her:

“I wish you could see my happiness when I get the news that you have sponsored me. Thank you.”

Editor’s note: Since this post was published, Maria has been sponsored. Click here to see other children waiting for sponsors.

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Share your Unbound Selfiehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/15/share-your-unbound-selfie/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/15/share-your-unbound-selfie/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20232 #Unboundselfie

Unbound staff members take a group selfie with their sponsored friends’ photos.

Do you or your kids take selfies? Take one on September 21st for our first Unbound Selfie Day!

Snap a photo of you with your sponsored friend. Then, post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the social media channel of your choice.

When you share your picture, add the hashtag #UnboundSelfie and tag Unbound if you can, so other Unbound supporters can easily see your photo, and you can see other #UnboundSelfie photos.

If you don’t feel comfortable getting in front of the camera, then share a photo of your sponsored friend. Please only use your sponsored friend’s first name. See our privacy and child protection policy for more information.

Why do we ask you to participate? Because it’s a great way for you to help raise awareness of Unbound and recognize our sponsored friends who are working hard to build paths out of poverty. By participating and spreading the word, you can help even more children, youth and elderly find sponsors.

We may even share your photo on the Unbound social media channels.

Plus, this is the perfect opportunity for you to log on to your Unbound online account and upload your selfie. Then, you can say a few words or just send the photo in an eLetter to your sponsored friend. Your sponsored friend will enjoy it!

If you’re not a sponsor, that’s OK. You can still share an #UnboundSelfie. Make an Unbound sign and snap a photo with it. Be creative and have fun.

Don’t forget, Unbound Selfie Day is on September 21st!

Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

#Unboundselfie #Unboundselfie #Unboundselfie #Unboundselfie
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Fashion Week: Photos from around the worldhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/12/fashion-week-photos-from-around-the-world/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/12/fashion-week-photos-from-around-the-world/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20201 Fashion around the world

By Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor for Unbound

Unbound works with families from many different cultures and traditions. Inspired by New York Fashion Week, we want to explore the different fashions that are found within those cultures. Today we’re sharing photos depicting the many different fashions found in Unbound communities.

Indian fashion Ugandan fashion Indian fashion Filipino fashion Filipino fashion Salvadoran fashion Filipino fashion Indian fashion Pattu saris Salvadoran fashion Indian lancha These sponsored elders from Bolivia are wearing Cholas, a clothing style that has evolved from styles brought by Spaniards when they first visited South America. Indian fashion Salvadoran fashion Filipino fashion Salvadoran fashion Indian henna Filipino malong Maasai fashion Maasai fashion Muslim fashion Indian fashion Indian sari Laad bangles Indian fashion Indian fashion Guatemalan fashion Indian duppata Guatemalan fashion

Explore a new culture through sponsorship.

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Fashion Week: Tribal fashionshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/10/fashion-week-tribal-fashions/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/10/fashion-week-tribal-fashions/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:00:31 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20194 Lambadi fashion Maasai fashion Dumagat fashion

By Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor for Unbound

Unbound works with families from many different cultures and traditions. Inspired by New York Fashion Week, we want to explore the different fashions that are found within those cultures. Today we take a closer look at tribal fashions worn by the Maasai in Kenya, the Lambadi in India and the Dumagats in the Philippines.

Maasai of Kenya

Maasai fashion

The Maasai wear many layers of clothing. From cotton cloth to beaded belts, each piece is colorful and vibrant. In this photo, Malee, whose son Abraham is sponsored through Unbound, is putting on the last piece of the outfit, a shuka. There are two types of shuka. One is a full length tube of fabric tied over one shoulder and the other a blanket-sized cloth that wraps around the shoulders and ties in front, if worn by a woman. Men wrap the outer shuka around their bodies.

“[These clothes] make me feel like a true Maasai woman in a world that no longer values culture,” Malee said. “I feel so honored to represent my culture through my Maasai attire.”

Maasai fashion Maasai fashion Maasai fashion

Lambadi of India

Lambadi fashion Indian fashion Lambadi fashion

The Lambadi are a semi-nomadic tribe in India. This is reflected in their fashion by the durability and multi-use function of their clothes.

“Every piece of clothing has some utility or another,” said Kamili, whose son is sponsored through Unbound. “The ‘ghungto’, the head cover, can turn into a bag when needed. We also use different kind of stitches in our clothing to make it strong and durable. Our clothes are designed for a nomadic lifestyle.”

Along with durability, the Lambadi women decorate their clothes with great intricacy. They use beads, mirrors, embroidery and shells to turn their garments into works of art.

Lambadi women

Watch this video to see a traditional Lambadi folk dance and song.

Dumagats of the Philippines

Dumagat children

The Dumagats are considered among the earliest natives of the Philippines. Their clothing style has been influenced by what they found in the mountains and has been handed down through the generations, including the red coloring.

Earlier generations of Dumagats dyed their cloth using sap from a local tree called Polok-polok. This tree grows in abundance, making it easily accessible for use. The Dumagats also consider red to be the prettiest color and wearing it means they are part of what makes the mountain beautiful.

The beads used to make their jewelry are called tigbi. The beads are made using seeds from a local plant bearing the same name. The Dumagats believe their jewelry is priceless, and preferable to gold or silver. Their headdress symbolizes a crown of goodwill, and the Dumagats will offer the headdress from their own head to a guest.

Dumagat blessing Dumagat fashion Dumagat cultural presentation

Help indigenous families preserve their culture. Sponsor today.

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Fashion Week: Guatemalahttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/08/fashion-week-guatemala/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/08/fashion-week-guatemala/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20187 Guatemalan fashion

Josefa and her parents are proud of their cultural heritage.

By Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor for Unbound

Unbound works with families from many different cultures and traditions. Inspired by New York Fashion Week, we want to explore the different fashions that are found within those cultures. Today we’re sharing an interview with Josefa and her parents from the Santiago Atitlan area in Guatemala.

For those living in the Santiago Atitlan area of Guatemala, there is a specific style of clothing with roots in the Mayan culture. Sponsored child Josefa and her parents, Juan and Magdalena, shared with us the special meaning behind their traditional garments.

Q. Why are these clothes special to your culture?

Josefa: The outfit says that I am from Santiago Atitlan. There are several pieces to my outfit. The corte is the traditional skirt, the faja a traditional belt, the huipil is the traditional blouse and the reboso is the traditional shawl. The tocoyal is the traditional hair and head piece for Mayan girls.

Juan: The tocoyal is characteristic to the women of Santiago Atitlan; it is unique to our women. The length of the tocoyal represents life. An elder woman uses a tocoyal up to 75 feet long. The designs on the huipil represent nature; there are birds, flowers and patterns in the shape of volcanoes.

Our ancestors called Santiago Atitlan “birds’ house” because people built their homes with straw and there are many birds in the mountains. And that is why we decorate our clothes with bird figures. Atitlan is a beautiful town. Our ancestors decided to decorate our clothing with the things that represent that beauty.

Guatemalan fashion Guatemalan fashion

Magdalena: Our outfits are handmade, all of it. Even the weaving of the thread and the embroidery are done by us.

Q. How does it make you feel to wear something that represents your unique culture?

Josefa: I like my outfit because this is who I am, it represents my culture. Not wearing this outfit is like saying “I am not from Atitlan.” I like the birds and the flowers on my huipil.

Q. How do you take care of your clothes?

Magdalena: I hand wash our clothes carefully. I only wash our traditional outfit perhaps every two or three months because I don’t want the colors to fade. To wash the items I turn them inside out and do gentle circular fingertip moves to apply soap. I sun dry the items, but not under direct sunlight; they dry in the shade.

Q. What has sponsorship meant for your family?

Juan: The outfit for my daughter is not cheap. With sponsorship, we receive help with food supplies, school supplies, shoes and other home expenses. This helps us save for things like clothing. Sponsorship is helping us preserve our traditions.

Watch this video and check out our step-by-step tutorial to learn how to wrap a tocoyal.

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Fighting poverty with literacyhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/05/fighting-poverty-with-literacy/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/05/fighting-poverty-with-literacy/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 13:00:36 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20117 Guatemalan children reading

Sponsored children in Guatemala practice their reading skills.

International Literacy Day is Sept. 8. It was started by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and first celebrated in 1966. The observance helps raise awareness that there are millions of people worldwide who lack basic reading and writing skills. Numerous studies have shown a direct link between illiteracy and poverty, especially as more jobs require reading skills.

What do you think your life would be like if you couldn’t read?

Many mothers who are part of the Unbound program already know what it’s like. Primitiva in Bolivia is one of them.

“I felt helpless,” said Primitiva, who has two children sponsored through Unbound. “I used to cry because I could not help my younger children [with schoolwork]. My older children couldn’t help because they were in class.”

Though Bolivia has a high adult literacy rate, 94.5 percent as of 2012 according to the World Bank, there are many whose situations prevented them from learning to read and write.

For Primitiva, going to school wasn’t much of an option when she was a child. She had an abusive stepfather and left her home at 8 years old to live with her uncles in the Cochabamba area of Bolivia.

Unfortunately, her uncles didn’t see education as a priority. Primitiva acted as their maid, working without pay. When she was 18, she was finally able to move out and got a job at a restaurant where she met her husband, Felipe.

They were married for more than 20 years until Felipe’s passing in 2006. Since then, Primitiva has struggled to support their seven children, a task made more difficult by her lack of formal education and inability to read and write.

With children sponsored through Unbound, Primitiva participates in group discussions with other mothers. It was during one of these meetings that she learned about a special opportunity.

“The program coordinator Lilian Sola talked to us about literacy courses,” Primitiva said. “She was the one to teach us in the first level. With the support of the local education ministry, we received all the materials, books and notebooks we needed for the learning process. The class took five months.”

Bolivian mother Primitiva Writing workbook

After completing the first level of the course alongside 10 other mothers, Primitiva continued on with her literacy training. Every Tuesday and Thursday she travels more than an hour to attend a class taught by an Unbound scholarship student in the area.

“I am so happy to be able to read and write; I have to learn more,” she said.

Becoming literate has been a personal success for Primitiva, boosting her confidence and self-esteem. Most importantly, she now has the tools she needs to help her children with schoolwork.

“I can help my youngest daughter do her homework,” Primitiva said. “Sometimes I correct her and this makes me so happy. Sometimes I read books with her.”

By encouraging her children to learn, Primitiva is helping ensure illiteracy doesn’t become a multi-generational issue, as is often the case. And at 52, she’s taking on the challenge of educating herself.

“It’s never too late to learn,” Primitiva said. “With effort and willingness you can learn many things.”

Support a family’s dreams. Sponsor today.

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We need to be standing on the brink with these familieshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/03/we-need-to-be-standing-on-the-brink-with-these-families/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/03/we-need-to-be-standing-on-the-brink-with-these-families/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:00:32 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20098 cv_sa (128)_2

by Cara VanNice, communications director for Unbound

Our recent coverage of the violence in Kenya, the plight of girls in India and the Central American children at the U.S. border highlight a common thread that runs throughout the communities where Unbound works – urgency. We are where we are because we are needed there. Help is needed there.

The families Unbound partners with are working against poverty, struggling to meet their daily needs in the face of tremendous odds. And, with a little support from Unbound and our generous sponsors, our families succeed.

Sponsorship offers families enough stable ground to work from to enable them to focus more on the future instead of just their next meal. Over time, many build businesses to support their families on this stable ground. And they’re able to keep their children in school, thus ensuring the next generation is equipped with the tools to succeed despite living in regions that are generations-deep in poverty and oppression.

Struggling against poverty is challenging on its own. But when people also face the daily threat of organized crime, violence, corruption or discrimination, their fight, and our fight to help them, becomes unimaginably difficult. And it is a fight.

Traveling with us, sponsors see firsthand the lives of people in the communities Unbound serves and the elements they struggle against. Many are inspired to sponsor another child, young adult or elder.

After meeting some Unbound staff and families in Central America, I won’t say that I was, at first, inspired. That came later. At first, I was angry. Angry at the living conditions I saw, the stories of violence and intimidation I heard, and the lack of opportunities families have to escape these realities. And I continue to struggle with that anger. Now more than ever, I see it as a fight, against incredible forces, for one person, one family, at a time.

At first, I saw sponsorship as a chance to offer a little assistance to a child and her family. It has become my way of saying: “You’re going to have to fight me for this one. This child is amazing and deserves a good life. And I will not just let her violent, unhealthy, precarious environment swallow her up.”

In our communications with you, we like to tell the beautiful stories we receive from our teams in the field. Stories of triumph, hope and celebration. Our publications, like this blog, are platforms to showcase the magnificent beauty of the families we partner with and the communities where they live. It is our way of honoring the work of our families and staff. But we never want to lose sight of the urgency behind what we are doing.

Many of our families aren’t just living on the margins – they’re living on the brink. They’re in constant danger. They work all day, every day, just so their children can eat. Their children fight to stay in school, struggling against the gnawing urge to drop out in order to help support their families in some way. If they drop out, they may continue this cycle of poverty with their own children.

That crossroads is exactly where Unbound and our sponsors need to be. We need to be standing on the brink with these families and their children, helping to pull them back from disaster and chaos. The support you provide will help. Of that you can be sure.

As we continue to wrestle with the news abroad, we can be angry. But we cannot be idle. Anyone, anywhere can help. Start with one child.

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Now is the time to help our planethttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/01/now-is-the-time-to-help-our-planet/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/09/01/now-is-the-time-to-help-our-planet/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 13:00:48 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20114 Luis Cocon visits a home in El Salvador. A Guatemalan farm

By Luis Cocon, communications liaison for Unbound in Guatemala

The other day while waiting for the bus I saw a little girl about the age of 6 crying. Her cry sounded desperate. Her cry troubled some people. Others just ignored it.

“She is thirsty,” her mother said, as a young woman on an old bicycle stopped and gave the little girl some soda. After a couple of sips a smile appeared on the girl’s face.

Her cry for water reminded me that it is essential for life. I thought of places where people die of hunger and thirst. Not in some faraway country, but right here in my own country of Guatemala.

This is the rainy season in Guatemala, but it has not rained since late June. This extended period of drought is occupying news headlines and has become a priority on our government´s agenda. Rainfall deficits in July 2014 have affected basic grain crops in numerous districts in the eastern and central regions of Guatemala, as well as some districts in the western region.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA), families in the so-called “dry corridor” (the Chiquimula, Jutiapa, Jalapa, Baja Verapaz, El Progreso, Zacapa and Quiche districts) are at risk of losing at least half of their corn and bean crops this year.

The loss of crops could affect more than 120,000 families. They would not have food or income because they sell a portion of their harvest to earn a living.

The government plans to assist rural families affected by the drought. MAGA says it is ready to distribute 1,500 tons of food, if and when it’s needed.

Carmen Rosa Carranza, Unbound coordinator in Guatemala’s Chimaltenango region, said that Unbound would address this situation by providing food supplies through the monthly sponsorship benefits for each sponsored member.

Throughout the years Unbound has worked with families to prevent and alleviate food shortages related to drought.

Walter Morales, Unbound agronomist for Chimaltenango region, said that Unbound teaches families to use seeds that are drought resistant, capture and recycle rainwater and practice reforestation to replace trees cut down because of farming.

Guatemala has been blessed with natural richness, but I cannot help but relate the cry of that little girl to the cry of my country and our Mother Earth. If we do not take care of her and her resources, we will lose them.

Now is the time to help our planet before it is too late and we all begin to cry of thirst.

Help out during times of natural disaster. Donate to Disaster Response.

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Journey to the edge of the worldhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/29/journey-to-the-edge-of-the-world/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/29/journey-to-the-edge-of-the-world/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20090

In this two-part video, Stacy King, Unbound trip coordinator, describes her journey to India on an Unbound awareness trip — the trip of a lifetime.

Click here if you are interested in an Unbound awareness trip!

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Food cart paves way for brighter futurehttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/27/food-cart-paves-way-for-brighter-future/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/27/food-cart-paves-way-for-brighter-future/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20088 Father of a sponsored friend prepares bola-bola on his food cart.

Marcelino prepares bola-bola on his food cart.

Food carts are part of everyday life in the Philippines, and one of the popular snacks offered is bola-bola. Bola-bola is made from fish that has been pounded into a paste, rolled into balls and fried. Customers skewer a piece from the vendor’s frying pan and dip the tasty treat in a sauce of their choice.

Marcelino owns one of these food carts and sells bola-bola. His daughter Jenny is sponsored through Unbound. Jenny’s sponsorship supplements the income Marcelino makes from farming and the food cart, helping the family meet their basic needs and build a path out of poverty.

Marcelino uses what he makes selling bola-bola to help pay his children’s school fees. His goal is to help his children get a good education and achieve their dreams.

Help support a family in need. Sponsor today!

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School days for sponsored friendshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/25/school-days-for-sponsored-friends/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/25/school-days-for-sponsored-friends/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:46:40 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20056 Grade levels around the world infographic
It’s that time of year again! For many children in the United States, school is back in session. Have you ever wondered what school is like in your sponsored friend’s country? Take a look at our infographic featuring grade levels around the world.

It’s that time of year again! For many children in the United States, school is back in session. Have you ever wondered what school is like in your sponsored friend’s country? Take a look at our infographic featuring grade levels around the world.
Grade levels around the world infographic Grade levels around the world infographic-Page2 Grade levels around the world infographic-Page3

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Can I get mailing labels through email?http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/22/ask-sponsor-services-can-i-get-mailing-labels-through-email/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/22/ask-sponsor-services-can-i-get-mailing-labels-through-email/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20036 Ask Sponsor Services

Q: I’m all out of mailing labels. Can I get them emailed to me?

A: One of the most common requests heard in Sponsor Services is for more mailing labels.

Sponsors may know they can contact Sponsor Services to request more labels, but what many don’t know is that we can email the mailing labels as well.

Sending the mailing labels by email has a number of benefits. Aside from being much faster than regular mail (almost instantaneous), using email helps reduce the amount of paper being used and is a more eco-friendly choice. It’s also more cost-effective, as it saves postage and material costs. You can also save the email and reuse the mailing information whenever you write your sponsored friend.

Contact our Sponsor Services team at (800) 875-6564 or mail@unbound.org to request mailing labels by email.

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Back to school in the Philippineshttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/20/back-to-school-in-the-philippines/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/20/back-to-school-in-the-philippines/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20043 Sponsored friends in the Philippines cross a rice field to get to school.

When you were a kid, how far did you travel to get to school? Perhaps you walked a few blocks, rode your bike or went to the end of your street to wait for a school bus. Sponsored friends Mary Rose and Jovelyn live in a rural part of the Philippines. The girls and their classmate walk 3 kilometers to school each day. That’s a bit less than 2 miles. While the distance isn’t far, the path they travel has some unique obstacles.

Recently, Tristan John Cabrera, communications liaison for Unbound in the Philippines, walked with them to document the journey on their first day back to school.

Sponsored friends in the Philippines cross a rice field to get to school.

From left: Mary Rose, Jovelyn and their classmate. The three girls live in an agricultural area of the Philippines, and they must cross through neighboring rice fields on their trek to school.

Sponsored friends in the Philippines cross a river to get to school.

This gives a whole new meaning to “over the river.” Wet rocks can lead to treacherous footing. The girls find it’s easier to cross the river with bare feet than with flip-flops.

Rice fields are water-filled and muddy, so finding a boundary wall to walk on makes the path a bit easier.

Sponsored friends in the Philippines cross a river to get to school.

The three students have one last river to cross before reaching their destination. When asked how their first day of school went, one of the girls replied, “Well, it was tiring. We have to walk across the rivers and walk in the middle of rice fields. But when we reached school we learned something and played with our friends. The satisfaction we’ve gained is more than enough to compensate our efforts.”

Help students in need have more first days of school by supporting Education.

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‘In an Instant’http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/18/in-an-instant/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/18/in-an-instant/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20034 A lot can happen in an instant. The phone rings, a dog wags his tail, a frown turns into a smile, someone clicks “like” on Facebook.

A life changes.

Watch this video, “In an Instant,” to see how the simple click of a button can change the life of a child.

Then, share it on Facebook or Twitter and help create that change.


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Gratitude from the cabbage patchhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/15/gratitude-from-the-cabbage-patch/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/15/gratitude-from-the-cabbage-patch/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20010
Diamondra, a sponsored child from Madagascar

Diamondra wears the new dress she received for her birthday.

By Barclay Martin, new channels coordinator

Recently Barclay Martin traveled to Madagascar to record a CD with sponsored members and their families. On the trip, he also visited several sponsored members’ homes. This is the story of one of those visits.

Diamondra, a sponsored child from Madagascar Malagasy family

By Barclay Martin, new channels coordinator

Rain fell steadily today in Antsirabe, and as we staggered on our way down mud-slicked cobblestones, we heard a voice call out to us.

“You’re from Unbound, please come visit my home!”

Henri was so happy to see us in his neighborhood, and he wasted no time in sharing how much it meant to him that his daughter, Diamondra, received new clothes through Unbound for her birthday. He ran straight to his garden and cut the best six heads of cabbage in his patch to give us as a gift.

As soon as we climbed the stairs to their home, Diamondra, who’s been sponsored since 2012, sat with us and her proud parents showed us her grades.

“She’s third in her class,” her dad beamed.

One of the perks of being a part of the Unbound community is that I often receive gratitude from sponsored members on behalf of our generous sponsors. I also get to hear how it changes each family situation.

Diamondra’s mother, Jeaninne, sat next to her daughter on the bed and said, “I want to thank Unbound for giving us hope. Now we have hope for our children.”

We sat with the family in their modest, one-room home, asking them about their experience being a part of Unbound. In addition to new clothes, Diamondra now attends a good school and has access to better health care — an expense that before had often been beyond the reach of her parents.

Her father leaned in and asked me, “Can you bring a cabbage home for Diamondra’s sponsor?”

I told them it might be difficult to bring a cabbage back with me, so we decided to do the next best thing: take a picture.

Before taking the photo, Diamondra’s mother combed her daughter’s hair and asked her to put on the new red dress she received as a birthday present.

They sent us on our way with the six magnificent heads of cabbage from their garden. I left their home with an intense feeling of gratitude for having met them.

Start your own adventure by sponsoring today.

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Young volunteer creates awareness movementhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/13/walk-for-water-young-volunteer-creates-new-awareness-movement/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/13/walk-for-water-young-volunteer-creates-new-awareness-movement/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=20005 Walk for Water Carrying water

Here at Unbound, we know kids are amazing. They’re a large part of why we do what we do. Eleven-year-old Jennifer from Colorado is showing just how awesome and innovative kids can be.

Jennifer is our youngest Unbound Trailblazer, committed to raising money and awareness about Unbound. She’s organizing a special event at a school in her area: Walk for Water.

Walk for Water is about raising awareness of the difficulties families around the world have accessing clean water. It invites kids, ages 4-18, from the host school and other public and private schools in the area to walk around the host school’s track. Halfway around, walkers will receive a gallon jug of water (or two bottles for the smaller kids) to carry home to their families so they can experience in part what some kids around the world have to do to get water.

Participants are asking adult family members and friends to sponsor them in the walk. All proceeds from Walk for Water will go to support the Health of sponsored friends, (previously known as the Healthy Communities Fund.)

“My goal for the Walk for Water is to raise $11,000 that will help get clean water for families,” Jennifer said. “I have seen that a little bit of money goes a long way. I have seen that helping one person helps many people. I have also seen that having clean water means many changes in people’s lives. I would like to help everyone have clean water, but it takes many people.

“I am doing my best, and I am also showing the kids in my town that we can make a difference. They will experience what others go through, and in solidarity, kids will help kids. If this walk is a success, I want to have a bigger walk next year. We will walk and keep on walking until everyone has clean water.”

Want to support Walk for Water? Check out the event’s My Outreach page here.

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A day in the life of a program evaluatorhttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/11/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-program-evaluator/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/11/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-program-evaluator/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=19995 Unbound staff members

By Becky Spachek, evaluation specialist for Unbound

Becky Spachek is an evaluation specialist for Unbound in Kansas City. She recently traveled to Guatemala to visit sponsored friends and their families in their homes to learn about their experiences with sponsorship to better understand how their economic reality is impacted by the program. Becky describes a day on her trip in this blog post.

Unbound staff members

By Becky Spachek, evaluation specialist for Unbound

6 a.m. The alarm on my phone rings. After a half-warm, half-cold shower, Melissa Velazquez, senior evaluation specialist at Unbound, and I head down to the hotel lobby. There we meet Carmen, Unbound’s coordinator for the Chimaltenango region in Guatemala, and Benjamin, our driver for the day and for getting us to breakfast at Guatemala’s fast-food chain, Pollo Campero.

Becky Benjamin, driver for the home visit evaluations.

During our breakfast we discuss the World Cup and Benjamin’s birthday. I ask how he will celebrate, and he jokingly responds that he will celebrate by driving us around, but then more seriously mentions his wife will prepare him a nice meal for dinner.

8 a.m. Thanks to Benjamin’s capable driving Carmen, Melissa and I arrive as scheduled at the regional office. Willy, the regional coordinator for Chimaltenango, leads a morning prayer and a brief reflection. Melissa and I then meet with the social workers, who brief us on the day’s schedule. They’ve organized home visits to a random sample of Unbound sponsored friends and their families.

The social workers, Carmen, Melissa and I all pile into the van and head out for the first visit of the day. The van bumps along an unpaved road full of potholes, winding up a green hillside. Benjamin is listening to the World Cup games on the radio as he drives. Melissa and I review the family records while the social workers make phone calls to confirm our visits.

9:30 a.m. After a 45-minute drive, Benjamin parks the van next to a foot path. He has driven us as far as he can. We must walk the rest of the way to the family’s house. The mother leader in charge of the area meets us at the end of the path.

On our walk, a social worker jokingly comments that many mothers group leaders are the Unbound-Guatemalan “GPS.” They have extensive knowledge of the community. They act as our community guides, showing us the way and protecting us from the dogs that run loose, to ensure that we arrive safely at the family’s house.

Mothers group leader

We follow the mothers group leader down a steep road as we pass by a school. Boys are playing soccer in a field. Young girls stop in the path and stare at me as I walk past. I wave to them. They giggle and wave back.

9:45 a.m. We arrive at a one-room adobe home. A family of eight lives here. Inside are two queen-sized beds, a small table and a dresser. The floor is dirt and the kitchen is outside, made from adobe and wood pallet walls with a zinc roof. I notice a wood-burning stove and a stone to grind corn for tortillas. The sponsored child’s three younger siblings stop playing when they see us arrive and begin to watch. The social worker greets the mother and introduces me to her.

She offers me a plastic stool to sit, and we chat about her life, her children and her child’s sponsor.

I explain the purpose of our visit — learning about her experience with Unbound to better understand how their economic reality is impacted by the program.

I ask the mother questions, some deeply personal, in regard to her family’s challenging economic situation. She is honest and vulnerable in her answers.

Her husband spends six days a week working the fields as a day laborer. Their entire income is spent on food for the family. If there is no field work for her husband, she goes to the market to trade cloth she weaves for corn to make tortillas so her family may eat.

Guatemalan grandmother makes tortillas

She shows me a brightly colored, floral patterned cloth she wove by hand. Her talent is evident. She says each cloth takes her six months to complete, and then she can sell the cloth in the market for several hundred quetzals (one quetzal equals about 12 cents). The money she makes from selling the cloth helps fund her children’s educations.

No room exists in the family’s budget for extra expenses. Last year her youngest child fell ill. Unable to pay for medicine, she took a loan from a neighbor. Her family is making sacrifices to make monthly payments and is slowly pay off the loan.

Although her child has only been in the sponsorship program several months, she is grateful. The benefits her family receives take pressure off of the daily expenses. She jokes that as a mother of four boys she is particularly grateful for the laundry soap. Vegetables are starting to grow outside her home from the seeds she received as part of her son’s sponsorship benefits.

10:30 a.m. I take several photos of the family and thank the mother for welcoming me into her home and sharing her family’s story with me. She gives me a sample of her weaving as a symbol of her gratitude. My group heads back to the car where Benjamin provides us with an updated score of the World Cup game. The social worker makes a phone call to confirm our next visit and we drive off, on our way to visit nine more families.

7 p.m. Together our group visited 10 families this day. We wind around the hills of central Guatemala and head back to the hotel. A social worker points out the window to a volcano puffing smoke. Melissa snaps a photo as we pass.

A smoking volcano in Guatemala.

We pick up dinner to go from Pollo Campero before we arrive at the hotel. Melissa and I head up the stairs to our room where we eat, call our families and check email. We have more families to visit tomorrow. We review and organize the information we gathered until we fall asleep.

Help support a child in need. Sponsor today.

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Dad makes sacrifice for daughter’s quinceañerahttp://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/08/dad-makes-sacrifice-for-daughters-quinceanera/ http://blog.unbound.org/2014/08/08/dad-makes-sacrifice-for-daughters-quinceanera/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:00:35 +0000 http://blog.unbound.org/?p=19824
Juan Jose, Esperanza, Salvador (holding Stefani), Margoth and Josefa Antonia outside their home.

Juan Jose, Esperanza, Salvador (holding Stefani), Margoth and Josefa Antonia outside their home.

Victoria had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador in June for Unbound’s first blogger trip. She was overwhelmingly inspired by the sponsored friends and families she met. Here’s one of her stories.

Juan Jose, Esperanza, Salvador (holding Stefani), Margoth and Josefa Antonia outside their home.

Juan Jose, Esperanza, Salvador (holding Stefani), Margoth and Josefa Antonia outside their home.

By Victoria Brown, social media coordinator for Unbound

I had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador in June for Unbound’s first blogger trip. I was overwhelmingly inspired by the sponsored friends and families I met. Here’s one of their stories. 

One of the happiest experiences for young girls in Central America almost turned into the opposite for Esperanza from El Salvador.

Esperanza is like most teenage girls. She likes to spend time with friends, play sports, dance and listen to music. And she absolutely loves to read. She wants to become a literature teacher one day.

She lives in a humble, rented home with her dad, mom, older brother, baby sister and grandma.

Esperanza and Victoria hold a pink-dyed chick outside of Esperanza's home.

Esperanza and Victoria hold a pink-dyed chick outside of Esperanza’s home.

As I was getting to know Esperanza and her family, I asked Esperanza if she had a story she’d like to share with me. She paused for a second and then tears rolled down her cheeks. I gulped. I couldn’t understand what she was saying in Spanish, but I knew at that moment something had upset her.

I listened to her speak and waited for the interpreter to tell me why Esperanza was crying.

Two years ago, at the age of 14, Esperanza dreamed of having a quinceañera. In Latin American cultures a quinceañera, or quince for short, is the day when a girl celebrates her transition from a child to a young woman. The celebration happens around her 15th birthday.

The young lady’s presentation to society can have a powerful effect. Celebrating the quinceañera traditionally involves a Mass or religious ceremony, a reception and a choreographed dance, usually a waltz.

Esperanza’s family did not have the money to give her a quinceañera. Her parents were already struggling to provide for their family.

But Esperanza said she was determined and told her mom she wanted to start working to pay for her own celebration. Her mom said no.

Esperanza was devastated. Her dream was crushed. Well … almost.

Esperanza’s dad, Salvador, felt awful that he couldn’t provide his daughter with this memorable experience. Before Esperanza’s 15th birthday, Salvador was able to find enough work to bring in a little more money than usual. Salvador told Esperanza she could have the quince. But Esperanza said no and to forget about it.

Salvador knew how much the celebration meant to his daughter and was willing to make the sacrifice. Despite Esperanza saying no, Salvador ended up putting a little bit of money aside for the quince.

Esperanza holds up an album with photos of her quinceañera.

Esperanza holds up an album with photos of her quinceañera.

So lo and behold, her quince was celebrated with family and friends. She had a ceremony and afterward danced with friends on an outdoor basketball court decorated for the occasion.

It wasn’t elaborate, but it was the meaning of the quince that mattered most. It was one of the happiest times for Esperanza, and it showed how much Salvador loves his kids and was willing to do for them.

After Esperanza finished sharing her story, she excitedly showed me her quince photos in a bright pink album. A smile replaced the tears.

She said she loves her dad very much and appreciates what he did for her. When I asked her what’s most important to her, she said family, studies, her life and the help she’s getting from Unbound.

Esperanza holds up a picture frame with a photo of her sponsors, Terry and Gloria Bockenstedt, and a photo of herself at her quinceañera.

Esperanza holds up a picture frame with a photo of her sponsors, Terry and Gloria Bockenstedt, and a photo of herself at her quinceañera.

The help she’s getting refers to the support from her sponsors through Unbound — Terry and Gloria Bockenstedt. Esperanza’s mom said life was really hard before Unbound. In addition to the financial benefits, Esperanza receives encouraging letters and photos from Terry and Gloria. She proudly displays a photo of her sponsors and their family alongside a photo from her quinceañera in a picture frame.

Esperanza said life has taught her to take care of herself and help others. Her story has reminded me to love always and help others, too.

Help make someone’s dream come true. Sponsor today!

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