By Gustavo Adolfo Aybar, Sponsor Services communication manager
As we move closer to the observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, I think of how I strive to honor my history, my culture. As a native Dominican, having lived most of my life in the United States and in large Latino communities, I never gave much thought to the annual celebration of Hispanic heritage, since how every day I was fully aware and living among my people.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles, New York and Miami Beach, and though I’ve been in the Midwest for nearly a quarter of my life now, my lifelong personal mission remains to better educate myself about the history and the complexities of what it means to be from the Dominican Republic. Both my B.A. and M.A. degrees resulted from this strong desire to gain more knowledge about the European (Spanish), African and Taino bloodlines that make up Dominicans, and in most of my pursuits, I search for contributions from underrepresented voices.
I believe it’s every individual’s responsibility to be educated on different cultures, thereby allowing for greater tolerance and understanding of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. When I think about my time at Unbound, the work I do and the 14 countries we serve in Latin America, I think of how, day in and day out, I am tasked with learning about the challenges our staff and families face: the lack of access to proper health care and living conditions, the lack of finances to fund education, the lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation, and the struggle to truly hope for or envision a better future.
Just last week, a visiting Unbound coordinator from Lima, Peru, discussed our programs there, the staff’s work with children and how they seek to address issues in their communities. One specific program deals with how the staff aims to remedy domestic violence, how they help and uplift the victims, and how they work to prevent and identify child abuse, keeping the safety of the innocent and most vulnerable at the forefront of their goals.
Three other coordinators from Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia have also been with us and are presenting this week and will be presenting on Personalized Benefits and Goal Setting, and the importance of Mothers Groups. They’ve spoken to us about their roles and obstacles, and have wanted to learn our processes here at the Kansas City headquarters — all with the goal to enhance communication and improve the services and benefits families receive.
As I reflect and prepare for the country’s investment of time and energy into recognizing the importance of our Hispanic heritage, it’s inspiring to know the Unbound leadership believes it’s a priority that each representative who communicates with sponsors develops a richer, fuller understanding of the countries we serve. It’s motivating to know that the idea of enriching lives while encouraging people to stay, work, love and continue to live dignified lives in their home countries is not just a concept, but involves steps we take consistently and persistently.
It’s a blessing to realize that I am able to live fully immersed in my language, surrounded by people who represent so many different nations, religions and traditions, and that we can come together to walk along with those less fortunate. My employment at Unbound acts as a daily reminder of the contributions all people can make, and of the gifts they can share with the world when given opportunities.
Now, when I think of the vast backgrounds that exist in the United States and of role models to emulate, I think of writer Miguel de Cervantes, singer Edith Piaf, ballerina Misty Copeland, mathematician Carlos Castillo-Chavez and leader Mohandas Gandhi. Now, genius to me lies in the many faces of the children, youth and elders actively participating in the Unbound program, and I’m grateful for this daily belief in them and am excited to discover the positive contributions they will add to our earth.