Joanna Pergande is a trip coordinator for Unbound Awareness Trips. Based in the Kansas office, Joanna has been an Unbound staff member since August 2014 and is a fluent Spanish speaker. Here she reflects on what it’s like to go on awareness trips and see the transformation that happens in the lives and hearts of travelers.
Imagine traveling thousands of miles to meet someone only known to you by photos and letters. Imagine the anticipation, the courage, the nerves, the questions and the drive that compelled you to travel. Perhaps you decided to travel to fulfill a lifelong dream, to expand your worldview or to see where your monthly contributions are going.
Whatever your reason for travel, you have the full backing of the Unbound trips team. As a member of this team, I not only help with logistics, but I also have the privilege to see transformation in sponsors who I have the privilege of traveling with.
I’ve seen transformations on every trip. I saw it in the tough Englishman in Costa Rica who took issue with international nonprofit work, but broke down with emotion, realizing that any of the children he met through Unbound could have been his son. I saw it in the sponsor in Merida, Mexico who was blown away when a local woman said to her, “I am here to be of service,” when she was the one who thought she came to help.
The main thing that has stuck with me as I’ve traveled on awareness trips is that most people have far more in common than they realize. Sponsors learn this during the trip, too. They see that we are all nervous meeting someone for the first time, that none of us want to make a mistake in another language. We are all nervous to get up in dance or speak in front of a group, but we all do it anyway because we’re in it together — together with our co-travelers but also with the Unbound community in the place we’ve traveled to.
Travelers on awareness trips learn that the poor are simply people too. There is no longer us and them, no longer the helper and the receiver, no longer the rich and the poor. All people, regardless of status or geography, have hopes, dreams, heartaches, struggles, joys and triumphs. Sponsors learn that people are not less because they have less, and on the flip side, that they are not more because they have more.
In his book, “Standing in the Fire,” author Larry Dressler speaks of holding two truths together: beauty and brokenness. More than anything, awareness trips teach us that where these two meet is where we all find transformation. I’m honored to have the opportunity to experience it myself time and time again.
Find your own adventure on an Unbound awareness trip.