Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders
Salvación has been fiercely independent from a young age. When other girls her age were being forced into arranged marriages, Salvación left home to avoid marrying someone she didn’t know. Now at the age of 84, Salvación remains independent. It isn’t easy being on her own, but her neighbors check in on her and she has the help of Stephanie in Louisiana, who has been her Unbound sponsor for 16 years.
At 67, Fanjo is no stranger to hard work, from being in the Malagasy army to working in a textile factory, and finally working as a rickshaw driver. He and his wife had nine children, five of whom are still living. “I worked so hard because I love my children so much,” Fanjo said. “I wanted my children to have all they need. I wanted them to have a bright future.”
Jayamma isn’t sure exactly how old she is or how long she and Amos have been married, though she knows they’ve been together for more than 30 years. She remembers that Amos was very handsome when she met him. Both lost their parents at a young age, and Jayamma lost the full use of her legs from childhood polio. Amos used to carry Jayamma on his back but now that they’re older, they use a tricycle to get around.
William took to heart his grandfather’s advice to live in harmony with and respect others. He said he’s always loved being among people and being a peacemaker. These traits likely helped when he was elected a village elder. At 62, William lives with his wife, five children and a grandchild. His children are educated, but jobs in their fields are hard to find. To help them provide for the family, William taught them farming, and together they make a living from the land.
In her community, 101-year-old Elisa is known as “mamita” because she’s delivered so many babies. “Even the mayor calls me ‘mamita’ because I delivered him, too,” Elisa said. She never attended school but became a midwife at the age of 14. Elisa learned the trade, which has been in the family for generations, from her mother. She hopes the skill continues with descendants like granddaughter Luz (middle), with whom she lives, and her daughter Maria (left).
Walk with an elder. Sponsor today.
What I’ve learned on Unbound awareness trips
By Joanna Pergande, Unbound trip coordinator
Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.
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:
Meeting families displaced in Guatemala
Sponsored youth Crisla (right) and her mother, Maria, are among the families staying in a shelter after the Fuego volcano erupted.
Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted June 3, destroying entire communities. The news media has reported 110 confirmed deaths and nearly 200 listed as missing. The eruption displaced thousands, and among those affected are around 150 Unbound sponsored friends and their families. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted.
Oscar Tuch, Unbound’s communications liaison in Guatemala, along with other Unbound staff, recently visited shelters housing area residents displaced by the volcano, and he shared his impressions.
In the northern part of the area affected by the Fuego volcano eruption, there are thousands of people in shelters. In the San Juan Alotenango central plaza, it looked like a fair, like the one celebrated on the 24th of June in honor of Saint John the Baptist. But on this occasion, the fair was different.
Key findings from Unbound's Empowerment Study
Rosa displays the small store she runs out of her home in El Salvador. Like many mothers of sponsored children, Rosa was able to finance her business with a loan from her local Unbound mothers group.
In 2017, Unbound concluded an extensive evaluation aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of empowerment as experienced by mothers in the Unbound program A key finding from the survey was that more women in the Unbound program have their own businesses and fewer are unemployed than mothers on the waiting list. Half of Unbound mothers surveyed reported having complete choice in deciding or changing their occupations, compared with just more than 40 percent of mothers on the waiting list.
“That is something our program specifically tries to accomplish, helping women start their own livelihoods, gain that sort of economic control,” Becky Findley, international evaluations manager for Unbound, said.
The evaluation also found that mothers in the Unbound program were generally happier than those in the wait-list group, and that they reported being more involved in making decisions within their households and communities. About 40 percent of Unbound mothers said they had complete choice in making important decisions that could change the course of their lives, while 30 percent of wait-list mothers said they had total freedom in that area.
“We see mothers as being gatekeepers to change,” Findley said. “When you empower a mother you are empowering a family. By empowering the mother you are providing better care for the child.
“So it’s catalytic. You empower one mother and then she becomes an agent of change.”
The power of Unbound mothers
The “Hope of Life” mothers group, formed by mothers of sponsored friends in Guatemala.
Empowered mothers are a force for positive change. Unbound’s program model is based on that conviction. And new survey results indicate the program contributes to mothers’ empowerment in employment, decision-making, community involvement and other areas.
In 2017, Unbound concluded an extensive evaluation aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of empowerment as experienced by mothers in the Unbound program. Seven hundred mothers at 26 Unbound program sites in Asia, Africa and Latin America participated.
The study focused on three indicators of empowerment that align with what Unbound aims to achieve and have also been validated in external research: increased choices in life, positive change and greater personal control. The responses of the mothers in the Unbound program were compared to responses from mothers of children on a waiting list for sponsorship. This provided an “apples to apples” comparison of families in similar circumstances, and provided an understanding of how the sponsorship program contributes to the empowerment of mothers.
Tune in to our Facebook page for a special evening of discovery
Unbound will broadcast our spring Global Insight Series on Facebook Live Wednesday, April 25! We know not everyone can make it to our Kansas City headquarters, so we’re bringing the event to you. Tune in on Facebook from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Central time to learn more about how — and why — Unbound programs around the world are investing more and more in the leadership of the mothers of sponsored children.
Unbound coordinators Rose Muiruri of Tanzania and Vincent Murmu of India will share some of the distinct challenges facing families in their communities, and how mothers who make less than $4 a day are upending conventional wisdom about charity — and challenging our own expectations of what is possible.
Unbound’s Global Insight Series features frontline staff from around the world who walk shoulder-to-shoulder with families on their paths out of poverty. These on-the-ground experts deeply understand the joys and challenges of collaborating with families working to build a better future for their children.
Do you have a question that you’d like to ask Rose or Vincent during the event? Go to our Facebook page and submit a question for one of our coordinators at any time. Then, tune in at 6 p.m. CST on April 25 and you may hear the answer to your question.
Want to attend the event in person? Visit Unbound.org/insightseries to reserve your spot today!
Three determined women show what it means to lead
The Unbound world is full of people gathering up their courage and taking risks in order to find success. Our sponsored friends and their families give us amazing examples of how we can all be at our best for each other. The following stories are about three women from the Unbound world who exemplify this strength and teach us what it means to be courageous.
The courage to be honest
Yomira, left, teaches Unbound scholarship students Gisela and Anjely about the record system used by the Lima office in Peru. The students work in the office to fulfill community service requirements of the scholarship program.
Yomira, 22, is a former sponsored child who is now a full-time Unbound staff member in Lima.
Growing up in a small community outside of Lima, Peru, Yomira and her peers were confronted with drugs, gangs, prostitution and alcoholism. Relying on the values of her strong family and a healthy sense of self-esteem, Yomira was able to avoid these pitfalls. She channeled her energy into dance, where she performed with a group at schools and public events.
Difficulties did come, however, when Yomira became pregnant at a young age. Since she had established good communication with her Unbound sponsor, she decided to share the news with her.
“At first, I thought, ‘I’ve lost everything.’ My parents were upset with me, and I thought she [my sponsor] was not going to continue being my sponsor; I really did not know what to do,” Yomira said. “But she wrote me and told me that she was going to continue supporting me.
Remembering lessons learned from co-founder Bob Hentzen
By Paco Wertin, church relations director for Unbound
Bob Hentzen entertains a group of children on a January 2013 awareness trip to Guatemala.
It’s been a while now, Roberto, since you’ve been gone, and every time your birthday comes up, we remember you and give thanks for the gift you were and continue to be for us all here at Unbound.
This sentiment echoes in my heart as March 29 approaches.
Bob Hentzen, co-founder of Unbound, was our teacher. It was in his bones. He joined the Christian Brothers and taught school in the United States, in Guatemala and in Colombia. Then something profound happened. Bob fell in love with the people he served and became their student, learning from them and opening his heart to the power of their love.
By Gustavo Aybar, communications field liaison coordinator
Asma demonstrates how her water filtration system works.
What I remember most about visiting my home country of the Dominican Republic as a child centers around lack of access to clean, fresh, hot water. Life in the DR was very different and less comfortable than life in the United States. For example, I discovered there was considerable money, time and energy involved in having water readily available. I still remember the day as a 10-year-old I saw my “crush” walking toward me, lugging a full gallon of water in each hand, having recently visited the watering hole for her family.
As World Water Day approaches on March 22 and people everywhere ponder the issue of clean water, I wanted to share how one woman I met in India, Asma, and her family combat the problem of access to potable water. Asma, her husband, Jaleel, and their son and daughter welcomed my coworkers and me into their home in Hyderabad, which they rent from a friend. The home also functions as the facility for the small mineral water plant the family started just a few years ago.
The U.N.’s World Water Day organization said 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safely managed drinking water services. In addition, an estimated 1.8 million people get their drinking water from an unimproved source, with no protection against contamination from human waste, the U.N. said.
Contaminated and polluted water is a huge problem in India. Sewage, garbage and other waste discharged into lakes and rivers are contributors. Unsafe practices by factories also poison the water with chemicals and toxins.
These realities make Asma’s role a vital one. The water business allows her to do fulfilling work that provides an important service to the community.
A group of children in El Salvador get ready to play a game of soccer.
Blanca, the mother of a sponsored child in Guatemala, proudly wears medals she has won as a runner.
It’s been my lifelong desire to learn a martial art and to master a self-defense practice so I can walk through this world confident, respectful and aware of how I can control my actions.
There exists a resiliency that I believe sports can teach us.
My intent in enrolling my son and me in karate was to help my son hone his voice and body. I also don’t want him to allow shyness to negatively influence his life choices and potential success, as I did.
In class, as in many places of the world, there are boys and girls we’ve seen as examples. A 4-year-old girl helped me find my voice and I now have louder “kiais” (shouts). A young woman has shown me how to teach by the way she celebrates our efforts, yet she also expects more next class.
Sports plays an important role for many in the Unbound community. I enjoyed reading the story of now 13-year-old sponsored child James and his father, from Kenya, who worked to overcome financial and other challenges as James pursued his speed skating dreams.