Before Al Nhadzar of the Philippines was sponsored at age 12, he hoped for a sponsor not only to help with his education, but to have a friend in another part of the world.
“It [the sponsorship] will be a help to me and my family, especially in my studies,” he said. “I will gain a friend from the other side of the world, which is a very important experience for me.”
Al Nhadzar, who goes by Al, found that friend in Patricia Lazzaro of New York.
Patricia sponsored Al in 2014. A member of her Bible study group at St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown Heights brought profiles of children on Unbound’s waiting list hoping to find sponsors for them.
“He has the same birthday as me; that’s why I picked him. … So there’s a connection,” Patricia said.
That connection continues through the exchange of letters and photos.
“I’m very glad to do this program because I feel like I’m blessed with what I have in my life,” Patricia said. “I have a great husband and great kids.
“I want to be able to share what I have with others. I feel like this is a program where you can see the benefits of who you’re helping.”
Patricia sent Al a picture of her family and keeps his picture in her office at home.
“I like that I can sit at my desk and see his picture and think about him,” she said.
In his letters, Al, who’s now 14, talks about his family, school and activities. His letters have a cheerful tone, and he doesn’t complain, Patricia said.
She finds his upbeat spirit remarkable, especially considering that Al lives in a conflict zone. He’s part of Unbound’s program based in Zamboanga in the southern Philippines. The region has a long history of armed groups fighting over religious, political and clan divisions.
The Unbound program serves families from different faiths — with Catholics, other Christians, Muslims and indigenous traditions represented. The local Unbound staff and families in the program work together to promote harmony in their communities by planning and carrying out activities for the children, parents and elders.
Al’s family is Muslim. His mother, Sittimisa, shared her perspective on promoting peace.
“Have a strong faith, patience and widen your understanding to obtain peace,” she said. Rhodora Partosa, Unbound’s coordinator in Zamboanga, said the sponsorship program emphasizes that we’re all called to promote peace.
“It is a responsibility that each should carry in his or her actions, words and thoughts for others,” she said. “We cannot expect a peaceful community or society if we are not contributing to it.”
For Patricia’s part, she relies on her Catholic faith to give her strength and the compassion to love others.
“We have to remember that God made us all and we’re here to be ambassadors of Christ, and we should act accordingly and show love and mercy to everyone,” she said. “When you do have a strong faith, you are able to show a lot of mercy and love.”
For Patricia, that means sharing her blessings.
“I’m grateful that I’m able to share with somebody, and Al just seems like such a lovely young man, and he seems to really be very grateful for what he has,” Patricia said. “And I think it’s taught me some things as well, to be grateful for whatever we have in life right now.
“Everyone has been given different gifts from God and has been put in different places. But we’re all here for a reason, and we should just be grateful for what we have.”
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