Aug 18 2018

The grace of sponsorship flows both ways

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders

Janelle Stramm with a photo of her late sponsored friend, Lucinda.


By Janelle Stamm, accounting specialist

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was beyond scared and prayed that God would be with me for whatever was ahead.

Soon afterward, in the spirit of dedicating my cancer journey for a higher purpose, I decided to sponsor an elder through Unbound. I chose an 84-year-old woman named Lucinda from Guatemala. What drew me to Lucinda was that her Unbound profile said she had remained strong in her faith through illness. When I read about her, I thought we were in similar situations because

I, too, was relying on my faith to navigate my way through having cancer.
Though we were both sick, the health care options available to us were vastly different. I had access to excellent health care choices and she had only medicine to relieve pain. But she had spiritual wealth and shared it by visiting others who were sick. Her practice of offering compassion had a profound impact on me. It gave me hope for whatever was ahead for me.
Soon after my treatment, I was back to doing everything I did before like running and yoga. Yet, I felt different. I felt more joyful about everything. Faced with my own mortality, I learned how God is present in our lives and how to recognize his presence through my relationships with others.

Lucinda and I exchanged many letters before she passed away. Although she could not write herself, her sentiments were shared by a social worker named Ingrid. With Ingrid’s help, Lucinda and I shared our favorite colors and flowers.

I was humbled when I read in a letter, “Mrs. Lucinda thanks you for the help you give her every month, since she is able to receive vegetables that are very useful so she can eat very well.” And I was again humbled when, in another letter, Ingrid wrote, “Mrs. Lucinda …. always asks God to bless you in all your daily activities.”

After corresponding for more than a year, I finally shared with Lucinda how much she influenced me. I’ll never know her reaction because she passed away shortly afterward.

In her honor, I participated in a triathlon, raising funds for the Unbound Health Fund. After the event, I wrote a card to Lucinda’s family. I shared with them how she greatly influenced me, and that I was honored to know her, even though it was for a short while.

Sponsored child Ronald, 11, receives an emergency food packet from Amelia, a parent volunteer leader who was assisting families after flooding in San Mateo, Rizal, Philippines.
Aug 14 2018

Disaster report

Heavy rains bring flooding to Philippines


Intense rains caused severe flooding in and around Manila, Philippines, Aug. 10-12, impacting about 3,500 families served by Unbound in Metro Manila and the neighboring Rizal Province.

Local Unbound staff reported significant property damage and crop losses, and some homes were destroyed. At this time, the staff has reported one death, that of the mother of a sponsored girl. The child’s sponsor has been notified by our Sponsor Services team.

In times of natural disaster, Unbound contacts sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends or immediate family members have been killed or seriously injured. Communications are often disrupted in the aftermath of such events, and it may take several days or longer to get pertinent information. Unbound serves more than 46,000 children, youth and elders in the Philippines.

Multiple landslides brought on by the intense rains made travel hazardous in Rizal. Malou Navio, coordinator of Unbound’s program in Antipolo, reported that one group on their way to an evacuation center was nearly caught in a landslide, but escaped uninjured.

Navio also said that groups of Unbound fathers who’ve been specially trained for disaster response have been mobilized in their communities. These “ERPAT” groups have become an invaluable part of local rescue efforts in the flood-prone Philippines.

Sponsored child Ronald, 11, receives an emergency food packet from Amelia, a parent volunteer leader who was assisting families after flooding in San Mateo, Rizal, Philippines.


Unbound staff members are also offering assistance. They’ve brought food supplies and other relief goods to evacuation centers. Some of them have also been affected by the floods.

“What adds struggle to people affected by flooding was the thick mud that goes with the floodwater and enters their homes,” said Unbound’s communication liaison in the Philippines, Tristan John Cabrera.

Lingering monsoon rains exacerbated by Tropical Storm Karding, known locally as Yagi, moved through the island of Luzon Aug. 11. Rivers in low-lying parts of the metropolitan area were quick to rise over their banks and into streets, homes and businesses.

According to Cabrera, large numbers of people in the Metro Manila area were stranded in their homes or unable to get back to them. They were reluctant to venture out because of the high risk of illnesses caused by contact with the fetid waters, but some had no choice.

“There are a lot of people stranded on sidewalks,” Cabrera said in a report Saturday. “Transportation is almost unavailable. So they just walk, trying to look for at least a tricycle or motorcycle that could bring them closer to their homes. I also observe some vehicles offering a ride for stranded people. … They don’t care if they get wet because of the rain just to reach their home right away and be with their families. I witness how people help one another during times like this.”

Because the island nation gets more than 20 severe storms a year, our programs there set aside some sponsorship funds for emergencies. The number of families affected by this emergency, however, will put a strain on those resources, and it’s likely additional funds will be needed to help families recover. The typhoon season lasts until November, though severe storms also occur at other times of the year.

What you can do

  • Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like the flooding in the Philippines.
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured, so keeping your information up to date is important.
  • Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with emergency response efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Check here for updates. We’ll continue to provides updates as we receive additional information following this emergency and other storms.
Erastus holds vegetables from the small piece of land he farms near Nairobi, Kenya. Erastus’ mother would tell him, “When you are hardworking, you will always get something to do and make a living.”
Aug 11 2018

Being an example of courage

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders

Erastus holds vegetables from the small piece of land he farms near Nairobi, Kenya. Erastus’ mother would tell him, “When you are hardworking, you will always get something to do and make a living.”


He lost everything in the post-election violence in Kenya more than a decade ago. Yet 72-year-old Erastus keeps moving forward.

In his community outside Nairobi, Erastus works casual jobs and farms a small piece of land — growing fruits and vegetables and raising chickens. With his winsome smile and refrain of “I’m flexible,” a personal motto of sorts, it’s hard to conceive of all he’s been through.
Keep reading

Genaro lives in El Salvador with her daughter Paula and granddaughter Rocio, who is also sponsored through Unbound. Genaro is originally from Honduras, where she and her husband Regino met and adopted Paula.
Aug 4 2018

Learning from our elders

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders

Genaro lives in El Salvador with her daughter Paula and granddaughter Rocio, who is also sponsored through Unbound. Genaro is originally from Honduras, where she and her husband Regino met and adopted Paula.

Under the best of circumstances, living to a ripe old age requires resilience. For those who grow old in the economically developing world, it also requires no small amount of courage.

The 2015 U.N. “World Population Aging” report said that the percentage of the population that is elderly is growing in nearly every nation on Earth. Like most major social developments, that increase will likely have the greatest impact on those living in poverty. Unbound has been ahead of the curve in learning how to respond to that reality.

In the mid-1980s, Unbound became the first major U.S.-based nonprofit organization to offer sponsors the opportunity to provide monthly financial support for elderly persons living in poverty. Today, it remains the only major sponsorship organization to include seniors among those they support.
Keep reading

Sponsored elder Teresa, in Guatemala, takes care of her grandson Luis. In the evenings, Luis reads to his grandmother. It is a special moment of sharing for both of them.
Jul 28 2018

Everyone craves connection

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders


At Unbound we focus on relationships. In partnership with the families we serve, we build communities of trust, accountability, mutual learning and respect. When combined with financial support, the bonds of love formed between sponsors and sponsored friends and their families become pivotal to the success, improved health and happiness of those we serve. We believe the relationship thrives in part by its reciprocal nature. Both parties, sponsored friends and sponsors, blossom and benefit because of it.

While this connection is important for children and youth in their growth, it’s especially critical for elders as they cope with the social isolation that often comes with aging. And the problem of isolation is likely to grow as the world’s population gets older.

According to the 2015 U.N. “World Population Aging” report, “Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. Population aging — the increasing share of older persons in the population — is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.”

In our “Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders” series, we explore our distinctive and trailblazing approach to serving this aging demographic. Members of the Unbound community also share with us some of the blessings and challenges they’ve experienced along the way.

In Nairobi, sponsored elder Erastus demonstrates his determination in searching for a community of peace and acceptance. Unbound staff member Janelle Stamm recounts how she bonded with her late sponsored elder, Lucinda in Guatemala. Each account reveals real hopes and real hurdles. They confirm that the elderly have much to teach and much more to do. Improved quality of life and increased social interactions help them share their hard-earned gifts with others. We also take a look in this issue at steps we’ve taken to disrupt elder isolation, as well as introduce readers to how we’re seeking to measure our results.

Unbound strives to offer quality and necessary services for elders. Human connection remains an important aspect, one that requires the participation of sponsors, staff members, communities of sponsored individuals and their families, and countless others.

Jul 21 2018

Top 3 questions travelers ask about awareness trips

(And our answers!)


1. Are the trips safe?

The safety of our travelers, sponsored friends and staff is of utmost importance. Local Unbound staff members are your hosts during the awareness trip and accompany the group at all times. Our local staff is from the destination country and lives there. Our social workers visit the neighborhoods, towns and countryside regularly and need to be well aware of safety concerns.

Because of their unique qualifications and background, our local staff is responsible for putting together the schedule of activities for your trip and choosing the communities you will visit. We avoid taking groups into areas or neighborhoods where there is tension. The members of the communities are excited to welcome sponsors.

Nobody can guarantee safety, and we aren’t naïve to the realities in the countries where we work, but we take every reasonable measure to minimize risks for our travelers. We monitor current events, weather situations, political climates, guidance by the U.S. State Department and more. We take seriously any alerts from the State Department against non-essential travel to a country or to a specific area within a country. We’re in regular communication with our local staff members and stay up to date on security matters. We’ve even cancelled trips when we’ve felt it prudent based on local conditions. Doing what we can to minimize safety concerns is a big responsibility, and we take it very seriously.

We also have expectations for our travelers regarding their behavior during the trip. Everyone is expected to stay with the group, follow instructions by staff, and make sure they are aware of (and adhering to!) the other rules for conduct that are outlined in the Travel Agreement found in the registration materials.
Unbound awareness trips offer the opportunity to see a side of a country travelers wouldn’t normally have access to. Being aware of all these factors allows us to anticipate and reduce risks travelers might otherwise experience in the places we visit.
Check out the rest of the questions!

This photo of flooding caused by Typhoon Henry in the Philippines was taken by the mother of sponsored child.
Jul 20 2018

Philippines bulletin update: Typhoon Henry


Typhoon Henry caused severe flooding as it approached the Philippines on July 17, causing 29 families served by Unbound’s Antipolo program to seek refuge at evacuation shelters. Knee-deep waters have been reported in the area, and some homes of sponsored families have significant water and mud damage. The Unbound ERPAT Disaster and Management Team, mothers groups and local staff served porridge to sponsored families and other evacuees at one evacuation site. The ERPAT, a federation of fathers who participate in the Unbound program, is following the situation closely and is standing by to assist sponsored families if their situations worsen. In times of natural disasters and other emergencies, Unbound will notify sponsors directly if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously affected. We will continue to provide updates on the situation as we receive information from the Philippines. Unbound serves more than 46,000 children, youth and elders in the Philippines.

Jun 30 2018

True impressions of an Unbound trip coordinator

What I’ve learned on Unbound awareness trips

Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.

Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.


By Joanna Pergande, Unbound trip coordinator

As a trip coordinator for Unbound, I’ve had the privilege of traveling with sponsors on awareness trips throughout the world. I’ve only been with Unbound since 2014, and I’m amazed by what I’ve been able to experience in the last four years. I’ve been on 14 trips total, traveling to 11 different countries, including Mexico, Chile, Kenya and the Philippines, and I’ve learned something new on each trip, both personally and professionally. During this time, I’ve met hundreds of sponsors from all over the United States and many of our local Unbound staff serving in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

For those still on the fence about going on an awareness trip, and those who want to learn more, here are some of my top learnings from the last four years:
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Meeting families displaced in GuatemalaGuatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted June 3, destroying entire communities. The news media has reported 110 confirmed deaths and nearly 200 listed as missing. The eruption displaced thousands, and among those affected are around 150 Unbound sponsored friends and their families. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends […]

Around the world with Unbound