Category: awareness trips

Jul 21 2018

Top 3 questions travelers ask about awareness trips

(And our answers!)


1. Are the trips safe?

The safety of our travelers, sponsored friends and staff is of utmost importance. Local Unbound staff members are your hosts during the awareness trip and accompany the group at all times. Our local staff is from the destination country and lives there. Our social workers visit the neighborhoods, towns and countryside regularly and need to be well aware of safety concerns.

Because of their unique qualifications and background, our local staff is responsible for putting together the schedule of activities for your trip and choosing the communities you will visit. We avoid taking groups into areas or neighborhoods where there is tension. The members of the communities are excited to welcome sponsors.

Nobody can guarantee safety, and we aren’t naïve to the realities in the countries where we work, but we take every reasonable measure to minimize risks for our travelers. We monitor current events, weather situations, political climates, guidance by the U.S. State Department and more. We take seriously any alerts from the State Department against non-essential travel to a country or to a specific area within a country. We’re in regular communication with our local staff members and stay up to date on security matters. We’ve even cancelled trips when we’ve felt it prudent based on local conditions. Doing what we can to minimize safety concerns is a big responsibility, and we take it very seriously.

We also have expectations for our travelers regarding their behavior during the trip. Everyone is expected to stay with the group, follow instructions by staff, and make sure they are aware of (and adhering to!) the other rules for conduct that are outlined in the Travel Agreement found in the registration materials.
Unbound awareness trips offer the opportunity to see a side of a country travelers wouldn’t normally have access to. Being aware of all these factors allows us to anticipate and reduce risks travelers might otherwise experience in the places we visit.
Check out the rest of the questions!

Jun 30 2018

True impressions of an Unbound trip coordinator

What I’ve learned on Unbound awareness trips

Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.

Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.


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:
Read more

Jun 23 2018

Travel the world with Unbound

Announcing Unbound’s 2019 Awareness Trip dates!


Unbound’s 2019 Awareness Trip dates are finally here, and we want you to save the date.

Our trips are an affordable way to have an adventure while learning more about the Unbound program. You’ll visit the communities where we work and see how families are using sponsorship to overcome poverty.

Our trips are open to everyone, so you don’t have to be a sponsor, but if you do sponsor someone, these trips offer an opportunity to meet your sponsored friend.

Whether you want to stay closer to home and visit Mexico or Central America or go farther afield with a trip to Africa or Asia, we have something for everyone. Our summer dates are especially popular with parents wanting to expose their children to something new.

Visit Unbound.org/trips to find the trip that’s right for you. Space is limited, so we recommend applying as soon as possible.

We look forward to traveling with you!

Mar 10 2018

Returning to their roots

Texas parents visit Guatemala with adopted sons

Cecile and Raul Villarreal with their sons, Alex (far left) and Lou (center), and their sponsored friends, Hector (second from left) and Magdalena (far right).


Last summer, Cecile Villarreal traveled with her husband, Raul, and two sons, Alex and Lou, to Guatemala on an Unbound awareness trip. Alex and Lou, who were adopted by Cecile and Raul, were born in Guatemala, and this was their first time visiting their birth country. In this interview, Cecile shares with contributing writer Maureen Lunn about taking an Unbound adventure with her family.

Maureen: How long have you been involved with Unbound, and what led you to initially become a sponsor?

Cecile: We started sponsoring our first child, Magdalena, in 2005. We had adopted my oldest son, Alex, from Guatemala in 2000 and had become part of an association of parents who had done the same. In one of the association meetings, an adoptive parent introduced Unbound to us, and we picked Magdalena that very same day. A few years later, we started sponsoring Manuelito. We felt that was a great way to be useful and to keep contact with our sons’ heritage.
Read more

Feb 10 2018

A celebration of ‘togetherness’

Indian family surprises St. Louis couple with a traditional wedding ceremony

Jeff Smith, Amy Benoist and their sponsored friend, Sravanthi, pause for a photo outside Sravanthi’s home in India. Jeff and Amy visited Sravanthi as part of an Unbound Awareness Trip.


When Amy Benoist and Jeff Smith of St. Louis got married in 2015, little did they know they’d have a second wedding just two years later — in India.

A sponsor through Unbound since 2012, Amy had planned to visit her sponsored friend, 19-year-old Sravanthi of India, as soon as she was able to save up the vacation time. In October of last year, she and Jeff set out on an Unbound Awareness Trip to meet Sravanthi and experience the beauty of India together.

Amy had written to Sravanthi six months earlier to let her know she and Jeff were planning to visit. That’s when Sravanthi’s family got the idea to surprise the couple with a traditional Indian wedding ceremony.
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An image of a precarious home in Colombia.
Sep 25 2017

The precarious home on the hillside

A staff member's reflection on the reality of poverty in Medellin

The image of a vast view of Medellin, Colombia.

The view from the patio of the home of sponsored child Johan in Colombia.

Poverty looks different across countries and regions. What comes easily for one family might be a great struggle for another. From climate to landscape to politics, the conditions of where one lives have a huge, and widely varying, impact on their lives. In upcoming publications, we’re taking a look at the realities of poverty around the Unbound world to get a better glimpse into the lives of the families who are a part of our community.

This fall, we’re focusing that look on the issue of housing, something that impacts every family no matter where they live. Watch your mailboxes for our upcoming edition of Impact on the topic of housing, and read on for a staff member’s reflection on her unexpected experience facing that reality on a trip to Colombia.

An image of a precarious home in Colombia.

Unbound staff members Patricia and Henry (right) say goodbye after visiting the family of sponsored child Johan in Colombia.

By Maureen Lunn, writer/editor

Sitting on a twin bed in a small Colombian home, I felt unusually wary. I’d visited huts and shacks in many countries around the world, but on this visit to the home of an Unbound family in Medellin, I was legitimately nervous. The home I was sitting in felt like it could splinter and fall to the ground far below at any moment.

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An image of a handmade gift from Nicaragua.
Sep 16 2017

‘Past today and into tomorrow’

Gaining perspective through a trip to Nicaragua

An image of a handmade gift from Nicaragua.

By Corie Rast, social media coordinator

Nearly every weekday for the past 13 months, I’ve driven to my job at Unbound in Kansas City, Kansas, sipping on coffee and cycling through my regular stress points:

“Ugh, I hope it’s not freezing in the office today.”

“Kinda bummed I only have these leftovers for lunch. I just have … too much food.”

“If this meeting doesn’t go exactly how I want it to go, I’m just going to lose it.”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m lucky and thankful to have the job I do, but I also have a tendency to be kind of whiny and self-absorbed sometimes.

It’s for this exact reason that I jumped at the opportunity to tag along on an awareness trip to Nicaragua with Unbound. I’d been itching for a new adventure for months, and aside from trips to Canada and Mexico, I’d never traveled internationally before. (It’s a personal fact I held close to the vest working alongside some of the most well-traveled people I’ve ever met.)

More than the travel experience, I was ready to see our program in action. In my daily work, I have the chance to read about it, hear about it, even try to write pithy web copy about it, but it’s impossible to fully understand what we do without traveling to the field myself. I needed to see and hear the impact our program was having on staff, sponsors and sponsored members. An awareness trip was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

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An image of a sponsor on an awareness trip in Colombia.
Jul 10 2017

Our 2018 Awareness Trip schedule is here

Pick one of the 14 countries we're traveling to in 2018 and come along!

An image of a sponsor on an awareness trip in Colombia.

John Harney from Arizona visits with his sponsored friends Juan and Karen on an awareness trip to Colombia in May 2017.

An Unbound Awareness Trip is the ultimate opportunity to see the work of Unbound firsthand. Whether you travel to meet your sponsored friend or simply experience the beauty of another culture, your experience on an awareness trip will be like no other.

We’ll be your guides all along the way on this affordable and exceptional experience. Sponsors and non-sponsors alike are invited to travel to any of the 14 countries we’re journeying to in 2018, or check out a trip later this year — there’s still time to sign up!

Learn more

An image of a sponsor and his sponsored friend in Colombia.
Jul 8 2017

Cast your net

A sponsor reflects on his trip to Colombia

An image of a sponsor and his sponsored friend in Colombia.

Sponsor Joseph Rivard (right) visits with his sponsored friend, 17-year-old Jan Sebastian, at Jan’s home in Colombia.


Unbound sponsor Joseph Rivard of Gulfport, Mississippi traveled to Colombia in May on an Unbound Awareness Trip. He joined Unbound as a sponsor less than a year before the trip, and sponsors three young men in Latin America. Joseph is a retired professor of psychology at Central Michigan University. He reflects on how the trip impacted his faith.

Like most Americans and others living in a “first-world” country, life is never perfect. Every Christian I know has a story to tell; stories that speak of the death of a loved one, sickness, stress in a career, family trouble, etc. Each of us, armed with faith, endeavor to overcome our own struggles. We journey through our lives doing the best we can to work through our own deficiencies while trying to understand and serve God in the midst of our confusing and sometimes tumultuous life journey.

When I left for Colombia in May, I knew this trip would be different from other mission-style trips I have made in the past. I knew it would be different, simply because God is always about things “now” and “new.” There were a lot of things in my life journey that could have justified not going on this trip, because life is that way — always filled with challenges and obstacles. Yet, whenever I quieted my worries, I was convinced in my heart that this trip was something God was calling me to do. He didn’t command me to go; God has never arbitrarily demanded things of me in that way. It was more of a gentle stirring and a pull on my heart that communicated invitation and opportunity.
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