For Romelia, the answer to the age-old question about which came first, the chicken or the egg, is simple. It was the chicken, with the egg following close behind. And, just in case you’re wondering what came third, the answer is the sweater.
By Gustavo Adolfo Aybar, Sponsor Services communication manager
As we move closer to the observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, I think of how I strive to honor my history, my culture. As a native Dominican, having lived most of my life in the United States and in large Latino communities, I never gave much thought to the annual celebration of Hispanic heritage, since how every day I was fully aware and living among my people.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles, New York and Miami Beach, and though I’ve been in the Midwest for nearly a quarter of my life now, my lifelong personal mission remains to better educate myself about the history and the complexities of what it means to be from the Dominican Republic. Both my B.A. and M.A. degrees resulted from this strong desire to gain more knowledge about the European (Spanish), African and Taino bloodlines that make up Dominicans, and in most of my pursuits, I search for contributions from underrepresented voices.
Maria is a calm and shy sponsored elder who loves to dance. She lives in El Salvador with her husband in an adobe home — surrounded by beautiful flowers and mango and avocado trees — with a dog, cat and even a few pet parrots. At age 80, she serves her community as a midwife and caretaker — a role she’s had for decades.
Maria joined the Unbound community in 2011, when she was sponsored by Gary from Missouri. The support from Unbound has been a great boost to her health and quality of life.
Former sponsored child and scholarship recipient Anibal Perez remembers how important support from the Unbound staff was growing up.
Now, in his role as a social worker with Unbound in Guatemala, Anibal works with 322 children and their families to support them and be part of their lives.
“I understand their struggle and can be sort of a role model for them,” he said.
Anibal credits his family, his sponsors (Dennis and Mary in Illinois) and the Unbound staff for making it possible for him to graduate from high school.
Ambrocia learned how to embroider when she was just 10 years old.
“My neighbor Emilia showed me the skills,” Ambrocia said. “I remember her words, ‘Learn because you never know when it may come in handy.'”
And at the age of 47, this Guatemalan mom is using the skill she learned all those years ago from a kind neighbor to support her family.
Perhaps nothing says more about Unbound’s culture of learning than our movement toward small, community-based groups within our programs. The families themselves taught us that when those who are systemically disadvantaged come together, great things can happen.
Local Unbound program staffs discovered early on that small peer groups were ideal for building trust and an environment of mutual support within a larger community. They found that the ideal size was about 25 members — large enough to feel empowered but small enough to maintain a sense of intimacy.
This week, four Unbound staff members from our Kansas City office will travel to Orlando, Fla., to represent Unbound at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference. NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., and Unbound is proud to participate in the conference, connecting the Latino community in the U.S. with families served by Unbound in the 13 Spanish-speaking countries where we work.
This will be the second time Unbound has had a presence at the NCLR conference, beginning last year when the gathering was held just down the road from the main office in Kansas City. Unbound will be set up at booth #908 in the exposition hall and host a drawing for a free awareness trip to Guatemala.
“We want the NCLR community to know that [Unbound] does a lot of work in Latin America, so it’s a great opportunity for people to get involved, make connections and give back,” Unbound’s volunteer outreach manager, Claudia Vázquez-Puebla, said. “The impact that [sponsorship] makes and the results we have is something that needs to be out there in all kinds of communities.”
Previously involved with NCLR on her own, Claudia paved the path for Unbound to participate in last year’s NCLR conference. This year, four other Unbound staff members will attend, forming an experienced, passionate and bilingual team.
One of those four is Paola Moreno, who first heard of Unbound at last year’s conference when she helped out at a booth for a radio station.
“Claudia came to talk to us about Unbound,” Paola said. “And out of nowhere, I said, ‘Are you hiring?'” Paola had a job at Unbound within a few weeks as an outreach volunteer coordinator, and now is returning to NCLR to represent Unbound.
Like Paola, the other Unbound staff members attending NCLR are deeply passionate about Unbound’s work with families living in poverty and love to tell its story. From talking about the connections sponsors make with their sponsored friends to passing out Unbound materials, the team is excited to engage with people of all backgrounds.
At the Unbound booth in the expo hall, the team will share Unbound’s work and encourage attendees to participate in the giveaway for an Unbound Awareness Trip to Guatemala, which includes airfare. Following and sharing about Unbound on various social media platforms will generate entries into the drawing, and a lucky winner — who will get to see Unbound’s work firsthand — will be announced in coming weeks. The contest will spotlight those at the NCLR conference, but will be open to anyone on social media who would like to participate.
In addition to the booth and the trip giveaway, the Unbound team will also have the fun opportunity to meet with Unbound sponsors who live in the Orlando area. Local sponsors are invited to join them at the booth so the staff can hear about their experiences as sponsors and personally thank them.
Unbound is honored to be a part of this year’s NCLR conference. Learn more about Unbound’s work in Latin America by visiting our blog.
Learn more about the giveaway and enter to win the trip to Guatemala!
Taste of tradition
Nancy gets ready to enjoy a bowl of mukimo, a traditional Kenyan dish of mashed vegetables, which she makes for her family. Nancy’s 17-year-old son, David, is sponsored through Unbound.