By Stacy King, lead trip coordinator
As a member of the Unbound trips team, I’ve had the honor of traveling with sponsors and coworkers abroad, and meeting some awesome sponsored families. Many of the families have shared their beautiful and inspirational life stories, and hearing them never grows old. But every once in a while, a story will connect and touch my heart in a special way.
I’ve been on a lot of trips to countries where Unbound works, but this trip marked the first time in Guatemala when I’ve been asked to load up in the back of a pickup truck with a handful of sponsors! We eagerly climbed in and headed down a dirt road to visit a remote village where a handful of sponsored friends lived.
What I didn’t know as we headed down that rough road was that one of the sponsored friends in that area was preparing a speech she would soon be giving to her community.
As we arrived, there were about 20 people from the neighborhood there to welcome us. It was the first time Unbound sponsors had visited their area. We were welcomed warmly but without fanfare. Compared to some of the large (but wonderful!) celebrations that some communities throw for sponsors, this humble welcome felt — well, normal — and genuine.
As we mingled, a young woman named Ingrid stepped up to get everyone’s attention. She had prepared a speech meant for other sponsored children and youth. This was why we came, to hear directly from a sponsored youth the wisdom that she had to share with her peers and their families.
Ingrid is 18 years old and recently graduated high school. Sponsored by Cora in Ohio, she’d been in the Unbound program since she was 4. She has a single mother and six siblings, and has always enjoyed school. She considers her mother the calm, quiet pillar of their family and their community.“Sponsored families are the keepers of wisdom and perseverance in our programs around the world.“ Click To Tweet
As she sat down to speak with her guests visiting from the U.S., she spoke first of her sponsor. Though her sponsor didn’t write regularly, Ingrid has felt her support all through the 14 years of steady, committed sponsorship. She expressed that she knows it’s not for her to repay her sponsor, so instead she’s choosing to pay it forward, taking the stability and education she gained from sponsorship to encourage others as she was encouraged.
After speaking with gratitude about her sponsor, and with tears still in her eyes, she implored the many children in the audience to go to school, and not to stop after secondary school. She looked at the parents and informed them that their children need emotional support to stay in school, and that it was their job to not let them drop out. She spoke kindly, but with candor that surprised some, yet the crowd was captivated by her passion.
Her message was progressive in this tiny little Guatemalan village; especially coming from a young woman. By the end of her speech, I was completely moved and inspired.
After hearing this young woman share her wisdom, I was excited to learn more about her. We were able to visit her home, a humble place with a few sheet metal walls and tarps creating rooms and roofs. It was tiny and dark, and the kitchen was a separate building outside with a small cinderblock fire pit.
As we learned what life is like in this area of Guatemala, I felt warmed by their welcome and the normalness with which they shared their lives with us. The sponsors and I felt like we were family or old friends coming for a visit. To me, this attitude of hospitality showed me that the characteristics of the Unbound program were being realized in this community — that these families are in charge of their own fate and we’re just there to give them a boost.
I asked Ingrid’s mom what she thought about her daughter’s drive to pursue education, and to share her passion with the community. Beaming, she explained that she was proud of her daughter, that Ingrid was smart and that she was not only going to make her own life better, but her success would improve the life of their whole family. Her mother saw their struggle as temporary and something that will improve bit by bit through education.
There it was — from the mother of a sponsored child in a remote village in Guatemala — the very essence of Unbound: sponsored families empowering one another toward self-sufficiency and sustainability. This mother saw a hopeful future for her daughter.
I was blown away, and yet not surprised. Sponsored families are the keepers of wisdom and perseverance in our programs around the world, and this group of sponsors was blessed to be present to hear that wisdom firsthand.
I’ll never forget Ingrid and her family, and I wish her and her community the very best. Now, I can’t wait for the next time we can climb into the back of an Unbound pickup truck, eager for the lessons resilient families will teach us.