The people who sponsor through Unbound are a rather diverse group. Some sponsors are children still in grade school, while others have been retired for years. They represent an array of backgrounds, ethnicities, occupations and beliefs. And while the majority of our sponsors were born and raised in the United States, many were not.
Mercedes Lima has been a sponsor for 21 years. Though she has called Florida home for quite some time, she is originally from a small town in El Salvador.
“I grew up in a very poor place,” Mercedes said, “that’s why I understand the suffering and sadness when you don’t have an opportunity to move forward.”
Her parents and older sister passed away when Mercedes was still just a child, leaving her in the care of her brother. She started school when she was seven, and her teacher took her in. Though it was difficult to separate from her brother, he wasn’t able to support them both, and Mercedes was grateful he found a good person willing to care for her.
Though Mercedes’ situation had improved, she still faced many obstacles in her youth.
“When I was 15 years old, she [the teacher that adopted Mercedes] started to have mental problems and that’s when I lost all my family,” Mercedes said. “She wanted me to become a teacher like her, but in my last year I couldn’t pay. I couldn’t graduate.”
Now 79, Mercedes is leading a very different life from her childhood in El Salvador.
“I’m retired,” she said. “I keep busy helping others. I help people that can’t do anything for themselves. I take them to the doctor, I visit their homes and I also attend church. I keep very busy.”
She learned about Unbound in 1993 through her church, which posted information about becoming a sponsor on a bulletin board.
“The first time I knew about [Unbound] I wanted to sponsor children from a far country, like India or Africa,” she said. “Then I saw children from El Salvador and I thought, ‘Why not sponsor a child from my [home] country?'”
So she started sponsoring Karla, who was just 3 years old at the time. They exchanged many letters, and in 2012 Mercedes met Karla on an awareness trip with Unbound. Now 24, Karla recently graduated with a nursing degree, thanks in part to the support and encouragement she received from Mercedes.
“Since the first time I meet Karla, I knew that she had the personality to be a nurse or a teacher,” Mercedes said. “I knew she would achieve what I couldn’t, and she made it.”
In her farewell letter to Mercedes, Karla said, “You know, I will never get tired of thanking you for everything you did for me. … Thanks to God and you, I could finish my career. … I leave the sponsorship program with much satisfaction because I could achieve my goal.”
Mercedes also found great inspiration through sponsoring Karla.
“My relationship with Karla was the best I ever had in my life,” Mercedes said. “She gave me strength in what I do now, and she gives life to me. … I love her so much, for me she is a gift from Heaven.
“There is one thing I would like to add, and that’s to say that I’m very thankful. I think sponsored friends are also thankful. They don’t only need the support, they also need love. They are a great blessing from God.”
Give hope to a family in need. Sponsor today.