Trip coordinator Diana Loera (center) dances and celebrates with Unbound staff members Cristina Hentzen (left) and Maureen (right) on an Unbound awareness trip to Guatemala.
Jul 11 2016

Meet the awareness trip team — Part 2

This is the second part to our post about our awareness trip team in Kansas City. These amazing staff members are dedicated to making sure our travelers have all the information they need to have a great trip and a chance to learn more about Unbound’s work. Learn about the trips team, and then check out upcoming awareness trips with Unbound.

Trip coordinator Diana Loera (center) dances and celebrates with  Unbound staff members Cristina Hentzen (left) and Maureen (right) on an Unbound awareness trip to Guatemala.

Trip coordinator Diana Loera (center) dances and celebrates with Unbound staff members Cristina Hentzen (left) and Maureen (right) on an Unbound awareness trip to Guatemala.

Name: Diana Loera
Title: Trip coordinator
Employed with Unbound since: July 2014
First Unbound Awareness Trip: Guatemala in February 2015
Recent awareness trips: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Colombia

A favorite site or landmark visited on a trip: Walking through the historic streets of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia was absolutely beautiful.

What Diana loves most about coordinating awareness trips: I love the opportunity to connect peoples’ lives to each other in a respectful and dignified manner, seeing sponsors learn firsthand what Unbound is all about and working side by side with our amazing coworkers all around the world.

How she came to Unbound: For years I prayed for a job where I could help others and somehow make an impact in the world. When I lost my job in the insurance industry, where I had been for the past 12 years, I discovered this role at Unbound through a friend. A few weeks later, I had a job in a completely different role — and one where I truly belong.

A favorite experience seeing a sponsor meet their sponsored friend: On my very first trip I traveled with a sponsor from Kansas City. She had been sponsoring a boy since he was 5 years old and was meeting him for the first time. He was now 18. They wrote to each other for years creating this beautiful relationship. I was in the room when they met — I saw their eyes fill up with tears and they hugged for what seemed like hours. I’ll never forget that. That’s when it all clicked for me and my job became more like a calling.

Trip coordinator Gabriela Vernon takes a selfie with her sponsored friend, Karin, in Chile.

Trip coordinator Gabriela Vernon takes a selfie with her sponsored friend, Karin, in Chile.

Name: Gabriela (Gaby) Vernon
Title: Trip coordinator
Employed with Unbound since: January 2012
First Unbound Awareness Trip: Chile in September 2015
Recent awareness trips: Chile and Guatemala

A favorite site or landmark visited on a trip: I very much enjoyed the city of Valparaiso, Chile, and riding the funiculars — historic elevator cars that take you up and down the hills of the city. Some are 100 years old!

What Gaby loves most about awareness trips: One of the joys I found in traveling with sponsors is seeing the powerful bond that is formed between the sponsor and the sponsored family. Being present in that moment and seeing their emotion when they meet each other is priceless.

A favorite experience with sponsored friends: In Guatemala I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver the monthly benefits to some of our sponsored families. It was a rewarding experience. The gratitude and happiness in their faces is something I won’t forget.

What do you want every Unbound supporter to know about awareness trips? The bond that is created between the sponsors and the families when they have the chance to meet in person is powerful and magical. If you have the opportunity to travel on an awareness trip, do it! It is a fulfilling experience — even if you’re not a current Unbound sponsor — and you will not regret it.

Trips team manager Karen Allemang enjoys the beautiful scenery of Guatemala.

Trips team manager Karen Allemang enjoys the beautiful scenery of Guatemala.

Name: Karen Allemang
Title: Trips manager
Employed with Unbound since: December 2007
First Unbound Awareness Trip: Guatemala in March 2008
Recent awareness trips: None, but for a great reason — her daughter was born! Karen’s next trip will be this fall in Mérida, Mexico.

What Karen loves most about coordinating awareness trips: I love helping people recognize similarities across borders, regardless of economic wealth. We all have more in common than we think. I love speaking with hesitant travelers, responding to their doubts and questions and then hearing the excitement in their voices. We also spend a lot of time communicating with staff in each country as they prepare to receive travelers, and I really appreciate the collaborative nature of our coordination. I’m constantly learning.

A favorite experience from a trip: During a home visit in Kenya, a sponsor and I had a great conversation with a young boy about his family, daily life and future goals. At one point we asked him about his favorite pastimes. He said he loves to write raps with his friends. He did a rap in Swahili for us on the spot about being in the sponsorship program. We were impressed with his confidence, spontaneity and talent!

Read more personal experiences from Unbound awareness trip travelers.

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