Two elderly men in El Salvador play guitar and sing together.
Mar 3 2017

Celebrating arts and culture in Unbound — part 1

Sponsored youth, elders express themselves in art

Two elders in El Salvador play guitar and sing together.

Juan (left), who has since passed away, sings while another sponsored elder, Francisco, accompanies him on the guitar.

The world is host to a myriad of cultures and traditions, and in the Unbound community we have the opportunity to learn about ways people around the world express culture, history and faith. From poets to musicians to participants in nationwide celebrations, people sponsored through Unbound eagerly share their talents and passions with the world. This is the first of a two-part blog series highlighting arts and culture in our community.

Juan was 85 years old when he died in 2015 in his home of El Salvador. He had been sponsored for more than 15 years. Passionate about song-writing and singing, Juan loved to write songs inspired by his experiences with Unbound.

In the early 2000s, he met Unbound’s co-founder, Bob Hentzen, multiple times and was impacted by his words and turned them into song.

One song called “Dos Pasajes” (“Two Passages”) was inspired by a visit from Bob when he referred to the community of sponsored elders as “a treasure and precious pearls.” Juan said this moment reminded him that older people have value, and he wanted to sing for them.

Blind as the result of a work accident in 2001, Juan recruited his grandchildren to help him write down and later read his song lyrics.

“The lyrics come to my mind in the night,” Juan said. “Sometimes at 2 in the morning. There’s a beautiful silence at that time of the day.”

a young woman in Guatemala.

Sandy is sponsored by Penny from Michigan. She loves to write about the things that inspire her, from her family to her culture to nearby Lake Atitlan.

In nearby Guatemala, there’s another poet blooming. Sandy, a 14-year-old sponsored child, is inspired by the beauty of her community and family to write poetry, an art form she’s learned from her school principal.

Sponsored since 2009, Sandy has been able to consistently attend school for seven years, and sponsorship helps her family cover their basic needs.

“I believe we are overcoming poverty because of my parents and because of the help that I am receiving [from sponsorship through Unbound].”

She loves poetry because it allows her to express her feelings through art and share stories about her family and culture. One of her favorite poems is “Tiempos Antes” (“Time Before”) and tells about her parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods. Each time she heard them tell a story starting with, “In our days,” she paid close attention and was inspired to pass it on.

“I believe we are overcoming poverty because of my parents and because of the help that I am receiving [from Unbound].”

“Poetry has required that I learn new words and ways of expressing myself,” Sandy said. “It has also increased my appetite for reading. And most importantly it gives me the chance to share my thoughts and feelings with others.”

A young man in Kenya.

Tobias has been sponsored since 2002, currently by Rick and Amy in Montana.

Tobias, a sponsored youth in Kenya, had a difficult childhood after his parents died. Under the care of his grandmother, he was put in touch with the Unbound office in his area and his life was changed by being sponsored. His grandmother had to work very hard just to keep food on the table, and sponsorship provided margin for their family, allowing Tobias to attend school regularly.

Tobias struggled to stay in school, however, and in Form 2 (the equivalent of 10th grade in the U.S.), he dropped out for a time. But he says he knew in his heart it was the wrong thing to do, and woke up one day knowing it was time to go back.

“I went to the Unbound office and talked to the staff,” Tobias said. “They listened to me about my will to go back to school.”

With the staff’s help, Tobias got back in school with a renewed commitment.

Today, Tobias leads a community youth group that helps students identify and nurture their artistic talents. The opportunity for mentorship has also helped him get back to one of his own passions — singing.

“I hope that I can make music that will inspire people,” he said. “I want to be a good example to my community.”

Read part 2 in the series.

Maureen Lunn

Writer/Editor

Maureen joined Unbound in 2016. With a master’s degree in international studies, Maureen has long been passionate about international development and loves using writing as a means to share that passion. She is a globetrotter, movie lover, Sporting KC fan, yoga teacher and self-designated crazy cat lady. Maureen and her husband, Toby, sponsor an elder in Kenya named Wambui.

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