Letters are an everyday part of the Unbound program — they’re the bridge that connects people throughout our world. Hundreds of thousands of letters from sponsored friends pass through our Kansas City headquarters each year on their way to sponsors. With all the correspondence that passes through our office, some letters still come as a surprise.
In June of last year, Barclay Martin, a member of Unbound’s U.S. outreach team, received a large packet of letters written by students from a Kansas City area high school, along with a note from their teacher, Gail Martin (no relation).
Gail explained that she was so inspired by Unbound’s documentary, “Rise and Dream,” that she showed it to her English students.
“Rise and Dream” tells the story of 13 teenagers from the Philippines who, in the midst of school, work and family responsibilities, rise above their obstacles as they explore the music of their ancestors and perform for their community.
In the film, people of diverse religious backgrounds gather to help stage an unprecedented concert in a community whose voice is often muffled by the enduring grip of poverty. Barclay helped bring the documentary to life through his role as composer and by learning the Filipino instruments alongside the teens.
“What caught my attention the most was the selflessness demonstrated by the crew that went over to make the documentary,” Gail said. “Being introduced to the [Filipino] students was also very appealing.”
Gail shared that her students connected with the Filipino teens through the documentary, and by the end they felt like they were celebrating the successful concert with the Philippine community. She incorporated “Rise and Dream” into her normal lessons by having her students compose handwritten letters to Barclay after watching the film and through discussion of challenges facing teens in other parts of the world.
“I believe my students learned a lot from [the film],” Gail said. “They definitely gained inspiration to help others. We discussed why it is important to reach out to others in need.”
Gail’s class also discussed how perseverance and determination showed up in the film. These two traits have special meaning for the class, as they are two of the traits promoted within their school.
In their letters, the students expressed how impressed they were with the dedication shown by the Filipino teens. Several mentioned that their favorite part of the documentary was the scene in which one of the mothers demonstrates how she cleans her family’s clothing and says how washing by hand is better than a washing machine. Living in the United States, the majority of Gail’s students have had regular access to washing machines, and the perspective from the Filipino mother really seemed to resonate with them.
Sophomore Okwar Jale, whose parents are refugees from Sudan, recognized the important role the teens’ parents played in the success of the concert.
He wrote, “I am proud of all those kids who put all their effort into the band and the concert. However, I think without the kids’ parents, there would be no concert or uniforms [costumes].”
Senior Cole Walker, who was raised to place importance on giving to charity, even if all you can afford is $1, found a reflection of those values in one of the teens from the film.
“Ainee had a dream and she went and got somewhere and gave back to the community, which is really cool,” Cole said. Talking about poverty, he continued, “There’s more to it than they just don’t have anything; there’s always another story.”
Through “Rise and Dream,” Gail’s students gained greater awareness of poverty, Philippine culture and how encouraging others can have a huge impact. But probably the most important lesson was summed up best by sophomore James Vanderlin, who shared what he took from the film.
“Don’t give up on your dreams,” he said.
Interested in using “Rise and Dream” in your classroom? Click here for a copy of the documentary and additional resources.