By Claudia Vázquez-Puebla, outreach volunteer director for Unbound
Thirty-three years ago, my father made the decision to move our family from Zacatecas, Mexico, to the U.S. Having four daughters and a son, he wanted all of us to have an opportunity to get an education and have better options for our futures.
Many generous people guided and cared for us as we were welcomed into schools and communities in Oklahoma and Kansas. This afforded us opportunities to earn college degrees and work in careers focused on giving back to our communities.
In the last four years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with Unbound to Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Philippines and, most recently, India. All of these countries are characterized by vibrant cultures, patriotism, passionate Unbound staff and, most importantly, sponsored members overcoming poverty. The families that I met have grounded me spiritually and challenged me to think about my needs versus my wants. These are important lessons that have reminded me of my own journey out of poverty.
Throughout my travels, India has been the only country where I have actually felt like a “foreigner.” The experience of culture, food, religion and language were totally different from what I encountered in other countries. However, despite all the differences between me and the sponsored members in India, I noticed that one characteristic that crosses all cultures is love:
- Love given by sponsored members through their big smiles as they greeted me with open arms.
- Love expressed through having my hand held as we walked toward 1,500 children and their families cheering for the sponsors.
- Love reflected in the interest the youth had in taking selfies with me, starting with a few requests that soon became hundreds.
- Love as I try to communicate and realize that they don’t understand me but are still smiling.
- Love represented by the flower as I walk into their homes.
Although I was a “foreigner” in their community, they welcomed me. Although we didn’t speak the same language, they guided me and laughed with me. Although we didn’t eat the same type of food, they fed me.
While 33 years have passed since I was welcomed to the U.S., I felt the same love in India that I first felt here. As St. Mother Teresa said, “We stand before the world as ambassadors of peace by preaching the message of love in action that crosses all barriers of nationality, creed, or country.”
I challenge all of us, as Unbound sponsors, to be ambassadors of peace in our communities around the world.