On Oct. 17, 1987, more than 1,000 people gathered in Paris at the site where the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been signed 39 years earlier. They came to publicly affirm their belief that being forced to live in extreme poverty is a violation of those essential rights. Five years later, the United Nations formally designated Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
This annual event is an occasion to increase public awareness of the challenges of systemic poverty and help organize individuals and groups to work in their own communities, as well as globally, to help alleviate it. Unbound applauds these efforts, and we particularly connect with this year’s theme for the day: “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms.”
The theme resonates with us because participation is at the heart of the Unbound program of sponsorship. From the beginning, we have understood that the poor are their own best assets in their struggle to rise out of oppressive need. They lack neither desire nor a spirit of industry. What they lack is opportunity.
The Unbound world is filled with success stories of individuals and families who, once given opportunity, have seized it with enthusiasm and gratitude. One is the story of Millicent, a 38-year-old widow living in a village in western Kenya.
In addition to raising her own three children, Millicent cares for six orphans in her community. Providing for them all is a struggle, but one made easier through her association with Unbound. She was introduced to the organization when she began attending the local Unbound mothers group as the guardian of her niece, who is sponsored.
“It was hard to take care of my family,” Millicent said. “My husband died when our children were still young. I had a small shop that used to bring in some small income. With that I would buy food. However, school tuition was my biggest challenge.”
Today Millicent’s son and nephew, for whom she serves as guardian, are both sponsored and her burdens have been eased.
“There was relief,” she said. “Their school tuition was out of my hands. Unbound was taking care of that. As a family we got nutritional support. The sponsored children enjoyed beddings from Unbound. I was also able to take the children to a private school. Their grades have improved remarkably since.”
Like many who join the Unbound community, the benefits of sponsorship changed Millicent’s life for the better along with the lives of her children. She was able to take a loan from her mothers group and start a small fishpond to supplement the family income.
“You just need a constant supply of water and the fish do not consume much food,” she said.” I thought it a unique business, so hopefully I will make money from it. It is also not time consuming. I can still work as a shopkeeper.”
Her own hard work, combined with the assistance Unbound provides, is putting Millicent and her children on a path toward self-sufficiency. Participation in Unbound has allowed them to believe that their dreams can come true. This is what Unbound works for, and it is what the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is all about.
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