Category Archives: awareness trips

Unbound Trailblazer David Scarpello with his wife, Jennifer, after completing the 2015 Twin Lights half marathon in Gloucester, Mass.
Apr 8 2016

The path to becoming a Trailblazer

When David Scarpello first sponsored 11-year-old Reyna from Honduras in 2001, he had no idea he was about to set foot on a path that would eventually take him on three trips to Honduras, into the lives of 17 more sponsored children, and into the role of an Unbound Ambassador.

In June, that path will also lead David from his home in Boston to the starting line of the Hospital Hill Run in Kansas City, where he will participate for the first time.

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Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound, on an awareness trip in Guatemala.
Feb 3 2016

Zika and traveling with Unbound

Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound, on an awareness trip in Guatemala.

Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound, on an awareness trip in Guatemala.

By Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound

As concerns grow about the spread and potential effects of the Zika virus, some of our sponsors have asked whether Unbound will cancel any of our planned trips to the field. Many of these sponsors are traveling with Unbound on an awareness trip and are excited to meet their sponsored friend for the first time.

I am happy to say that we have no plans to cancel any of our upcoming trips.

As part of our standard procedures, the awareness trip coordinators and I monitor current events that could impact travelers. Here is some of the key information we are reading from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding Zika virus:

  • “Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant.”
  • “Pregnant women (should) consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.” Read more.
  • A WHO committee advised on Feb. 1, 2016, “The Committee found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus. At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.”

Regardless of what is or isn’t making headlines, we urge all our travelers to read the CDC’s Traveler’s Health page and speak with a medical professional regarding travel and their health. We provide information useful for that conversation such as the elevation of the areas they’ll visit and whether or not the lodging is air conditioned. We also require pregnant travelers to obtain medical clearance from their doctor in order to travel with us.

Many illnesses can be avoided by preventing mosquito bites. We refer travelers to the CDC’s Mosquito Bite Prevention PDF for guidance on preventing mosquito bites. A favorite prevention method of our team is using Permethrin to treat clothing as directed by the CDC.

If you have questions or would like more information about the trips Unbound offers, please visit unbound.org/trips or email trips@unbound.org.

Thank you!

Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound

Sponsor Jennifer Afflerbach, center, with her sponsored friend Bryan and his mother, Sirlen, on a 2012 Costa Rica awareness trip.
Mar 27 2015

A vision of courage

Sponsor Jennifer Afflerbach, center, with her sponsored friend Bryan and his mother, Sirlen, on a 2012 Costa Rica awareness trip.

Sponsor Jennifer Afflerbach, center, with her sponsored friend Bryan and his mother, Sirlen, on a 2012 Costa Rica awareness trip.

By Jennifer Afflerbach, Unbound sponsor

Eight simple words of encouragement: “I can tell you are a good mother.”

That’s what I wrote to Sirlen, the mother of Bryan, the child I sponsor in Costa Rica. Little did I know what a profound effect it would have on her — and on me.

“Thank you for saying that,” she wrote back. “Your letter brought tears to my eyes.”

And her letter brought tears to mine, as I envisioned this strong, courageous mother of four children under the age of 8 being buoyed by such a small gesture on my part.

I knew I had to meet this woman. So I went on an awareness trip to Costa Rica the next year. When we met face to face, it was as if we were old friends — we connected instantly.

And my instinct had been right — she is a very good mother.

After the visit, when I wrote and inquired about their long journey home on mountainous roads, she replied that the trip wasn’t the most difficult part, the goodbye was.

Again, she brought tears to my eyes.

Sponsorship may cost $30 a month, but you can’t put a price tag on the relationship.

Start the journey of sponsorship today.

Flor helps tend an herbal and vegetable garden with other elders near Quezon City, Philippines.
Mar 25 2015

Growing a community

By Scott Wasserman, president and CEO of Unbound

At the age of 74, Flor tends Unbound’s community herbal and vegetable garden near Quezon City, Philippines. Her home is made of hollow blocks, a cement floor and a roof of galvanized iron sheets. She has no electricity and draws her water from a community well.

She used to support herself by scavenging recyclable materials from a local trash dump. Since 2002, her sponsorship has allowed her to meet with other sponsored elders at their garden to enjoy community and recreation.

On the day we visited, an Unbound social worker led a conversation with Flor and her friends about elder rights. They learned to identify and resist abuse.

After the social worker’s presentation, Flor led us through Unbound’s community garden. She identified each plant and described its medicinal qualities. Some plants are believed to help with colds or headaches. Others fortify the heart. Some heal inflammation or wounds.

Flor works as an informal healer. Families call her to help with their illnesses, and she prescribes natural herbal cures.

She charges her neighbors whatever they can afford, even if it’s only one Philippine peso, or about 2 cents. She asks that they pay something: Flor believes that paying for her services aids in the healing process.

Regardless of the efficacy of her herbs, her visits uplift her neighbors. A poor, ill neighbor living in a dark home can count on Flor to deliver a smile along with her freshly picked flowers and herbs. With her gift of springtime warmth for her homebound neighbors, Flor lives up to her name, which means “flower.”

Become an uplifting presence. Sponsor an elder today.

Sponsor a child
Jan 23 2015

Woman reconnects with past by sponsoring a child

Unbound awareness trip

From left: Maritza, Karla’s mother, Karla, Mercedes and Marlene Garcia de Ramirez, an Unbound social worker in El Salvador.


The people who sponsor through Unbound are a rather diverse group. Some sponsors are children still in grade school, while others have been retired for years. They represent an array of backgrounds, ethnicities, occupations and beliefs. And while the majority of our sponsors were born and raised in the United States, many were not.

Mercedes Lima has been a sponsor for 21 years. Though she has called Florida home for quite some time, she is originally from a small town in El Salvador.

“I grew up in a very poor place,” Mercedes said, “that’s why I understand the suffering and sadness when you don’t have an opportunity to move forward.”

Keep reading

Thomas and Francisca
Jan 5 2015

Sponsor, elder help each other ‘continue on’

Thomas and Francisca

Sponsor Tom Slattery greets his sponsored friend Francisca on an awareness trip to the Philippines.

Tom Slattery remembers the day he first saw a picture of Francisca, the elderly woman he sponsors in the Philippines.

He and his wife decided to sponsor someone after hearing a priest speak about Unbound at church one weekend. Tom’s wife, Nancy, chose a child. Tom picked Francisca after seeing her photo because “everybody was gravitating to the young people,” and he thought an older person would need support as well.

That was in 1996, when Francisca was 84. She’s 103 now.

“She is a beautiful human being,” Tom said. “She has meant a lot to me over the years, and to my wife.”

Keep reading

Honduras awareness trip
Dec 8 2014

Honduras offers lesson in perspective

Massachusetts sponsor David Scarpello has gone on three Unbound awareness trips to Honduras since 2007. On his latest visit earlier this year, he decided to take his 13-year-old son, Nick. From his own previous experience, David knew the awareness trip could be a good learning tool.

“I wanted [Nick] to have an appreciation and better understanding of what growing up in poverty is,” David said. “I hoped it would give him a greater appreciation of what he has and the advantages he has growing up in the United States.”

Unbound awareness trips offer travelers the opportunity to meet the people they sponsor and see first-hand the impact our program has on individuals and communities. David started sponsoring in 2001, but it was the letter he received in 2007 from his sponsored friend Reyna that gave him the final push he needed to go on his first trip.

Keep reading

Unbound Awareness Trips 2014
Oct 13 2014

A learning journey

Unbound Awareness Trips 2014

Caitlyn meets Ever and his family for the first time.

By Naresli Calito, correspondent for Unbound in El Salvador

Caitlyn had the opportunity to meet her sponsored friend, Ever, on an awareness trip to El Salvador. She is 16 years old, likes to read and enjoys sharing time with her family. They are very close to their faith and frequently attend church.

Although she is young, she has a very strong feeling about helping others. She babysits to pay for Ever’s sponsorship.

“[Sponsorship] makes me feel I need and want to be involved,” Caitlyn said. “It’s a great feeling. I love Ever. It’s about forming a bond with someone from another culture.”

Read more about Caitlyn’s journey

Unbound Awareness Trip
Oct 10 2014

Communities of joy abound in Costa Rica

By Nicole Miller, support specialist for Unbound

Recently Nicole Miller traveled to Costa Rica on an awareness trip. Nicole has worked for Unbound for 10 years, and this was her first time visiting an Unbound program office. She shared with us her experiences during the trip.

Read about Nicole’s experience

Journey to the Edge of the World: part 1
Aug 29 2014

Journey to the edge of the world

In this two-part video, Stacy King, Unbound trip coordinator, describes her journey to India on an Unbound awareness trip — the trip of a lifetime.

Watch the other video