Former sponsored child and scholarship recipient Anibal Perez remembers how important support from the Unbound staff was growing up.
Now, in his role as a social worker with Unbound in Guatemala, Anibal works with 322 children and their families to support them and be part of their lives.
“I understand their struggle and can be sort of a role model for them,” he said.
Anibal credits his family, his sponsors (Dennis and Mary in Illinois) and the Unbound staff for making it possible for him to graduate from high school.
“My father worked hard and my brother has also worked hard so that we could have food every day,” Anibal said. “But my education wouldn’t have been possible without Unbound’s support. The unconditional love and support of my sponsors and the staff is also very special.
“I always remember the words of encouragement I got from the staff.”
One instance stands out. Anibal, 20, has seven brothers and sisters. He was 13 years old and in the seventh grade when his father passed away.
“When my father died we also lost our only source of income,” Anibal said. “All of a sudden we did not have any money for food, clothes, education or anything.
“I remember my mother asking what we would do, because even with my father working he could not provide education for everyone.”
Anibal thought his school days were over.
“I remember going to Unbound to say that I was going to drop out because we could not afford having me in school,” he said. “They (the staff) encouraged my mother and me to make an effort and they provided a scholarship.
“I would have dropped out of school if not for the scholarship.”
Anibal is one of approximately 2,000 staff members working for Unbound in 20 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. More than a fourth of them were sponsored through Unbound as children and many, like Anibal, were scholarship recipients.
Paul Pearce, director of global strategy at Unbound, said these staffers chose to work for Unbound to put their professional talents “at the service and empowerment of our families and sponsored members.”
Paul recalled Unbound’s late co-founder, Bob Hentzen, using a Spanish phrase, “proyecto de la vida,” translated as “life project,” in talking about a lifestyle, direction or path a person chooses.
Bob talked about how exciting it was for the young people of a country to be able to take on some of its biggest challenges through their service in Unbound.
“When Bob would see one of these graduates make Unbound their life project it moved him, it encouraged him,” Paul said.
For 30-year-old Lidia Trochez, who works with children and correspondence at Unbound’s Santa Barbara program in Honduras, her role allows her to share her experiences growing up in poverty.
Lidia’s father died when she was 10, and her family didn’t have the means to send her to secondary school. So at 13 she began working as a housemaid. She remembers a few years later when a neighbor, a mother in the Unbound program, came by to talk about scholarships.
“At that time it was the coffee harvest season,” she said. “I can remember very well. It was an afternoon and we were picking coffee, and she waited for us until we finished.”
The next day Lidia had an interview with Unbound’s coordinator in Santa Barbara and was later accepted into the service-scholarship program.
Besides help with education, the program provides students opportunities to give back through service in their communities.
Lidia studied business administration in high school and graduated in 2007. Later, with a family of her own, she went back to school and completed studies in information technology.
“Sometimes we believe that in the reality we live we aren’t able to dream,” she said. “But when we have the [Unbound] program, we have to take the opportunity to break those stereotypes. …
“That’s when I enjoy sharing my experiences with families because, in a certain way, that could motivate them to see the reality from other families that were able to move forward thanks to Unbound.”
Outcome evaluations with Unbound alumni in the Philippines and Guatemala highlight the importance of youth being connected to a caring staff, Paul said.
“In both of those studies, the alumni identified that their relationships and activities with staff helped form their character,” he said.
Abegail del Rosario, 25, was sponsored for 12 years and had a scholarship for four years. She studied education and English in college and now works in communications for Unbound’s Manila program in the Philippines.
Abegail credits her sponsor, Jonathan in Minnesota, and the staff for helping her achieve her goals. She appreciates the opportunity to work alongside staff members who influenced her path in life.
“It is a rare privilege,”Abegail said, “to work with people who were once my mentors … the people I looked up to and wished to be like.”