What we learn when we listen
The legendary college basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Coach Wooden would likely have enjoyed what took place on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 14 at Unbound’s headquarters in Kansas City, when three of Unbound’s Latin America program coordinators shared what they’ve learned from the families they serve.
The occasion was the second presentation in the Unbound Global Insight Series, attended by about 100 people. The main presenters were the coordinators of three of our programs in Latin America.
The Global Insight series was begun as a way for sponsors and other interested members of the local community to learn more about the work of Unbound and, especially, to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from those who are closest to the work of the organization in the field.
For this presentation, Chico Chavajay, head of the Hermana Pedro program in Guatemala, the largest of Unbound’s programs throughout the world, was joined by Manuel Pineda, who leads the team in Honduras, and Hugo Beltran, coordinator of the program in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Each spoke about the development of Unbound in his particular country.
While each of the three coordinators spoke about different aspects of the program, the overarching theme of the evening was the importance of Unbound’s culture of learning, which is one of the organization’s nine established program characteristics. These are the principles that guide Unbound programs in partnership with the families and communities we serve.
From the beginning, the founders of Unbound believed it was essential that they not impose solutions but listen to the families, learn about their realities, and rely on their talents and ideas to develop their own solutions..
Manuel Pineda said one of the greatest assets Unbound has in keeping in close touch with the families is our dedicated social workers. Of all the staff members in the countries where Unbound works, it’s the social workers who have the closest and most frequent contact with sponsored members and their families.
“The social workers are the bridge that connects the Unbound project with the families,” Manuel said. They know [what is going on in the lives of the sponsored].”
Chico Chavajay reiterated that point, stressing the importance of the social workers going out to visit with the families in their homes and local communities. Speaking about the challenges, and even dangers, that sometimes entails for social workers, he shared a favorite saying of Unbound’s late cofounder Bob Hentzen.
“Unbound,” he said, “begins where the road ends.”
Another valuable asset in keeping in touch with the needs of the families is representation of former sponsored persons and scholarship students on local Unbound program staffs. Hugo Beltran is an example of that asset.
Once an Unbound scholarship student, Hugo has served in various capacities in the Cochabamba program, gaining valuable perspective and experience along the way. He talked of the importance of building a relationship of trust with sponsored persons and their families.
“Once we sat down next to the families,” he said, “they taught us something important. Our insight was that we had policies of control but we needed policies of confidence.”
Following the main presentations, a question-and-answer session took place, facilitated by Mary Sanchez, a journalist with the Kansas City Star.
Unbound sponsor Earlene Wilson drove the hour’s journey from Atchison, Kansas, to attend the presentation.
“It was a very good trip,” she said. “It was worth it!”
Like most of those present, Earlene wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from some of the people closest to the sponsored persons and their families.
“I [came because I] wanted to hear what was going on in these different countries, how they work. I have two children that I sponsor and my husband has a child also. I have one in India and one in the Philippines, and my husband just got one in Guatemala.
“I thought it was very good, very informative, and encouraging to see how our money is being used and the good that it’s doing. I like that.”
In an upcoming blog, you’ll learn more about the visiting presenters from Latin America and what they shared with those who attended.
The three coordinators also gave their presentations in Omaha on Sept. 17. The next presentation in the Global Insight Series will be in the spring in Kansas City.