Liva Rajaonarisina is Unbound’s program coordinator in Antsirabe, Madagascar. With experience working in mission work, translation and employee training, Liva has worked for Unbound as program coordinator since 2008.
Unbound has 37 projects in the 19 countries where we work. The projects serve as regional hubs in areas where sponsored members live, and are the coordinating centers for community-based programs that span the area. Each of these hubs is led by a coordinator who helps guide and manage the Unbound program in that area.
At both Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 and at an employee-wide presentation the next day, Liva shared about the benefits of sponsorship in Madagascar. Benefits are distributed in two primary and effective ways — cash distribution and a livelihood program called “Market Market.”
Liva didn’t only share about the pragmatic ways that benefits are distributed to sponsored families — she connected each aspect of the program to Unbound’s 9 program characteristics. Beginning with decentralized decision-making, Liva expressed how the monthly cash distribution — sponsorship funds straight into the hands of the sponsored members — puts the power in the hands of the families, helps them make stronger connections to their goals and increases their responsibility to manage their resources.
She shared that the spirit of the staff of Madagascar is simple: “Closer and closer to the families.” Her team’s aim is to keep an honest, vulnerable and safe relationship between staff and sponsored families.
“Cash distribution brings us closer to the families,” Liva said. “Because we give them the money, it makes us walk toward them. … ‘Oh! What did you buy?’, we ask. … They are excited and want to show us.”
This relational transaction is what Liva suggests makes cash distribution work — creating an accountable and transparent dynamic that invites families to be empowered to keep working toward sustainability.
“(Unbound) ... provides a channel for people to improve their lives.“ — Liva in Madagascar Click To Tweet
Market Market is a second way that sponsored families in Madagascar access benefits. The monthly event honors families’ hard work and allows the opportunity for them to exchange skills and products. Liva expressed that Market Market also helps families look to the future, encouraging them toward economic self-sufficiency and capacity building.
She described an example, where the parent of a sponsored member who has a chicken might normally eat that chicken as soon as possible. But their participation in Market Market gives them another perspective, and instead of eating the chicken, they might choose to invest in the chicken, keep feeding it until it gets bigger and healthier, and then sell it at Market Market for a profit. Simply knowing there will be an opportunity to access a safe marketplace empowers the families to grow.
The parents of sponsored children sign up for Market Market in advance, claiming a predetermined number of slots of buyers and sellers. Cash vouchers in the form of cardboard money are distributed, and at the end of the market day, vendors turn in their vouchers to Unbound staff for a check to claim their earnings. The next month, those who worked as vendors might be the sellers, and vice versa, ensuring everyone has an opportunity to buy and sell, with the assistance of Unbound’s staff. In this model, families are accessing a marketplace that is not only safer than the local street market, but often allows for a greater profit.
Unbound’s programs around the world are founded on principles such as empowerment, sustainability and decentrailized decision-making, and the Antsirabe project, under Liva’s leadership, exemplifies these characteristics beautifully. She concluded her presentation at the Global Insight Series with this statement:
“[Unbound] is not a mere handout, but a program that provides a channel for people to improve their lives.”