Mary Geisz, Unbound's director of sponsor experience, hugs her sponsored friend, Joyce, on an awareness trip to Kenya.
Jun 27 2016

Trip stories: Receiving, listening and learning

Mary Geisz, Unbound's director of sponsor experience, hugs her sponsored friend, Joyce, on an awareness trip to Kenya.

Mary Geisz, Unbound’s director of sponsor experience, hugs her sponsored friend, Joyce, on an awareness trip to Kenya.

Unbound’s director of sponsor experience, Mary Geisz, traveled to Kenya for the first time on an Unbound awareness trip, where she was rewarded beyond expectation.

An honest reflection about my Kenya awareness trip with Unbound begins with a confession: Africa had never been on my list. I’m ashamed to say it out loud, and it feels even worse to see the words in print. Fear fed by negative news headlines — that was my excuse. Long-time readership of National Geographic enlightening me on the beauty and wonder of the place hadn’t been enough to overcome my ignorance. It took being there to accomplish that.

Unbound awareness trips have been described by participants as transformational, and I couldn’t agree more. A few of the comments from our travelers describing their experiences were:

“It changed my life.”

“I’m different now.”

“Awareness trip is a good name for these trips.”

Maybe it’s because a trip focused on deep awareness and learning is different from what we allow ourselves to expect. Awareness trips are spent listening, learning and receiving — not accomplishing a task or a mission. They’re a unique opportunity to see Unbound’s work with your own eyes.

Getting to meet Joyce, my sponsored friend from Nairobi, was a highlight. We celebrated her 93rd birthday. She couldn’t stop smiling; I couldn’t stop crying. She gave me a gift when she said: “God made you come here. The love that God has placed in you, let that love last long.”

Listening to Yvonne, the sponsored friend of Bridget, whose story will be featured in our upcoming Summer 2016 Impact, describe how sponsorship changed her life had an emotional impact. Yvonne told her story with a poem. In it Yvonne revealed her sense of darkness before knowing Bridget and how sponsorship gave her hope. She expressed gratitude, and even challenged us to see the change that sponsorship had meant for her and for others in her community who had sponsors. She wrote:

And no one, not even the mightiest amongst us could rescue me from this …

She got me out of the sea, took me to a place of light where I could see and live …

No words can express what I feel, for heart desires can’t be expressed …

Look at the faces of these people …

Look at this change; can you see what I see? Visions of hope and success flow in their minds.

There were no dry eyes in the room after Yvonne finished reciting her poem. We were all speechless.

We learned a tremendous amount from the Kenya staff. By the end of the trip, “angels walking among us” was how we were describing them. We learned how they accompany families on their journey and engage with them to start the process of setting goals, capacity building and working toward economic self-sufficiency.

When they described their work as “not a job but a life-changing experience,” and expressed the belief that “these kids will change Kenya,” you got the sense you were in the presence of some very special people.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to consider participating in an awareness trip with Unbound. I can’t promise you’ll get to celebrate a 93rd birthday, or encounter a poet, but I am confident you’ll have a life-changing and rewarding experience.

Read more personal reflections from recent awareness trips.

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