By Joanna Pergande, Unbound trip coordinator
As a trip coordinator for Unbound, I’ve had the privilege of traveling with sponsors on awareness trips throughout the world. I’ve only been with Unbound since 2014, and I’m amazed by what I’ve been able to experience in the last four years. I’ve been on 14 trips total, traveling to 11 different countries, including Mexico, Chile, Kenya and the Philippines, and I’ve learned something new on each trip, both personally and professionally. During this time, I’ve met hundreds of sponsors from all over the United States and many of our local Unbound staff serving in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
For those still on the fence about going on an awareness trip, and those who want to learn more, here are some of my top learnings from the last four years:
1. Sponsors are wonderful people!
This most likely won’t come as a surprise, but our sponsors are generally kind-hearted, giving people and come from diverse backgrounds. Many sponsors start the trip slightly nervous and unsure, and for some it may be their first time traveling internationally. They are putting their trust in Unbound, and they do so with a willingness to learn. Seeing the relationships that sponsors form with their own sponsored friends, the sponsored communities, each other and the local staff is wonderful to see on each trip.
2. Our families live in extremely difficult situations
On awareness trips, I am often invited by sponsored families into their homes. This can be challenging, as you witness poverty first-hand. While I may have heard descriptions or seen photos before working for Unbound, spending time with a family in their home, and having them talk about their hopes, dreams and challenges, simply can’t be duplicated through a photo. I’ve learned through these visits that our families are incredibly resilient, innovative and strong. I’ve see how hard they work for their families and communities every day.
3. Our local Unbound staff are amazing
The staff I’ve meet in the countries I’ve visited are some of the hardest working and best people I have ever had the privilege to know. They are passionate, knowledgeable, kind and caring people. And this is true in all countries where Unbound works. I have never felt more cared for or welcomed. They truly are our guides for each trip and are extremely proud to teach visitors about their country, culture and the Unbound program.
4. Traveling with family makes it even more special
One of my most memorable trips was traveling to Guatemala last summer with my mom, Cathy. My mom had sponsored Wendy in Guatemala for three years before deciding to go and visit. She was nervous, like most sponsors, and tears welled up in her eyes as she met Wendy, her mother and her older brother. We were all able to spend the day together at the Unbound center in San Lucas Tolimán. My mom and Wendy share the same birthday, and over the course of the day together they learned more things they had in common — like a fear of public speaking and a love of coloring books.
I invite you to travel the world with us and meet the families who participate in the Unbound program, fellow sponsors and supporters, and the local staff! Bring your mom (or anyone else you know) and come travel with me!