Oct 7 2015

Meeting Unbound’s co-founder changed boy’s life

Virgilio's big smile provides a glimpse into his joyful personality.

Virgilio’s big smile provides a glimpse into his joyful personality.

Unbound’s late co-founder Bob Hentzen impacted many lives through his tireless service to the world’s marginalized people. One person whose life changed after meeting Bob is a 12-year-old boy named Virgilio who lives with a disability.

Virgilio lives in the Philippines with his mother and four sisters, two of whom are sponsored through Unbound. He has a medical condition that makes it difficult to walk.

Three years ago, Virgilio and his family were at an event to welcome sponsors visiting their community as part of an awareness trip. Bob had accompanied the group of visiting sponsors.

Unbound’s communications liaison in the Philippines, Tristan John Cabrera, recalled what the local staff shared with him about the meeting between Bob and Virgilio.

“He [Bob] was roaming around the venue to greet all the children who were waving to him,” Tristan said, “when he saw this boy smiling and holding a banner with a thank-you message to all the sponsors. Bob talked to the child for a few moments. A staff [member] came up and explained [about Virgilio’s medical condition].”

After hearing what the staff member had to say, Bob told Virgilio, who was 9 at the time, “I will look for a sponsor for you.”

When the group of travelers got back to their hotel, they had a brief discussion about the events of the day. Bob spoke about Virgilio and what the staff had shared with him.

One of the trip participants, Fred Pratt from California, offered to sponsor Virgilio, and was even able to meet his new sponsored friend while on the trip. One of the things Fred learned about Virgilio is that he has a great sense of humor.

“He’s such a neat little kid,” Fred said. “He’s really very funny.”

Besides providing regular sponsorship support, Fred and his wife, Scheryn, have made additional contributions to help the family with medical expenses.

Virgilio has had surgeries and physical therapy and is now able to walk on his own, without the aid of leg braces or crutches. It’s still hard for him to go long distances, though. When he has to go a long way to town or school, his mother, Maria, carries him on her back — traveling along dirt paths and through fields. They must also take a boat to cross a river.

Virgilio’s sponsorship helps with educational expenses and other needs, which takes some of the pressure off his mother. Maria supports the family doing laundry and making and selling “jellies,” which are gelatin treats topped with sweetened condensed milk.

Virgilio has big dreams for his future.

“I want to be a pilot someday, [flying] a big airplane,” he said.

In this photo from the Unbound archives, Bob Hentzen sings to families in the Philippines on a visit to their community.

In this photo from the Unbound archives, Bob Hentzen sings to families in the Philippines on a visit to their community.

Bob believed in the power of personal connection to make a difference in people’s lives. He visited families in their homes. He walked alongside them in their communities. He listened to them, learned from them and partnered with them to create change in their lives and in the world.

Bob passed away on Oct. 8, 2013, at the age of 77. His life’s work lives on, though, through determined children like Virgilio, hard-working mothers like Maria and compassionate sponsors like Fred and Scheryn.

Make a difference in someone’s life. Sponsor a child today.

3 thoughts on “Meeting Unbound’s co-founder changed boy’s life”

  1. I shall remember Bob Hentzen in my Mass and prayers especially on Thursday, October 8th, his Anniversary.
    Fr. Peter Hereley, O.P.

  2. I was on that trip and remember seeing Fred holding and sitting with Virgilio but I didn’t know the story behind it. It was beautiful seeing Fred and Scheryn with Virgilio and witnessing his joy. I’ve seen pictures of Fred and Schreyn in other countries with other children, they are a blessing with huge hearts. I was inspired to be on that trip and to also meet Bob.

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