Category: Economic Self-Sufficiency

May 26 2018

What We Learn When We Listen

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.”
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May 19 2018

Mothers: ‘Gatekeepers to 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.
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Vincent Murmu and Rose Muiruri present at Unbound's Global Insight Series.
May 12 2018

An investment in mothers that makes sense

Updates from Unbound's Global Insight Series

By Gustavo Aybar, communications field liaison coordinator

One of the smartest ways to help a child is to invest in a mom.

That was a central message at our third event in the Unbound Global Insight Series, which brought program coordinators Vincent Murmu from India and Rose Muiruri from Tanzania to share their perspectives as frontline staff.

Audience members listen to Unbound’s Andrew Kling, community outreach and media relations director, as he introduces speakers for the spring 2018 Global Insight Series at Unbound’s international headquarters in Kansas City.


The April 25 event at our Kansas City headquarters drew 193 people, while more than 2,500 online users participated via Facebook Live. The evening included presentations by each guest speaker, a question-and-answer portion and a “reverse” Q&A, in which the speakers had a chance to ask questions of the audience.

The coordinators’ accounts illustrated the benefits of entrusting the mothers of sponsored children to make program decisions. These women develop, sharpen and then utilize essential life skills to sustain their families, and they have endured and overcome obstacles that many would describe as insurmountable.
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Crisanta directs traffic for the City of Tabaco,located near Mount Mayon in the Philippines.
Apr 14 2018

It takes courage

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.
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Asma demonstrates how her water filtration system works.
Mar 17 2018

Mom provides filtered water to her community in India

Asma demonstrates how her water filtration system works.


By Gustavo Aybar, communications field liaison coordinator

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.
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Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.
Mar 3 2018

Determined women lead the way

Celebrating International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day March 8, so we’re sharing the stories of three remarkable Kenyan women. Women like these are the backbone of Unbound programs, demonstrating the strength and courage it takes to create real change for their families and communities.

Making her own decisions

People in her community didn’t take Elizabeth seriously when she started her business carrying passengers to school and work on the back of her bicycle.

They said it was man’s work and questioned whether she was strong enough. That was more than 10 years ago.

“At first they doubted me and would not let me carry them, but with time I have been accepted,” she said.

Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.

Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.


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An image of Unbound staff taking notes.
Jul 29 2017

Key learning points

Indian coordinators' reflections from Africa, part 2

An image of Unbound staff taking notes.

Selvaraj takes notes as Nairobi program evaluation team presents on how they conduct program evaluations at their office.


Recently three of our program coordinators from India traveled to Kenya and Uganda to see how the Unbound program works in those countries. They had the opportunity to learn from their African coworkers and to experience what poverty looks like in Kenya and Uganda compared to India. This second reflection is from Selvaraj P., the program coordinator for our Bhagalpur office in India.

Nairobi:

First of all, I congratulate the Nairobi Team for their cordial welcome and family spirit. The Nairobi team is composed of knowledge and experience, and they are excellent teachers and possess great communication skill. The love and excitement they bring to the program is a treat to watch and emulate. Team spirit, program focus, talent recognition, people centered policies and excellent leadership at the top level are some of the keys to their success. It is a team on the move with great attitude and commitment. Keep up the good work you do for the poor!
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Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.
Jul 1 2017

Parents increase benefits using the power of community

Groups in Uganda, Philippines provide support and encouragement

Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.

Maxensia shovels compost made from pig manure produced on her farm in Uganda. She uses it to fertilize her coffee plants. Maxensia’s son, Lawrence, 21, is sponsored by Albert in Washington.

Maxensia, a widowed mother of eight, tends to her coffee plants in a village in Uganda. Nearby, 11 pigs sunbathe in a sty built of rough wood.

At age 50, Maxensia has become an entrepreneur. Her pig farm is growing, and she also runs a small coffee farm.

After her husband died 17 years ago, Maxensia struggled to provide for her children’s basic needs. Her son, Lawrence, was sponsored in 2006, and she joined the Unbound support group for parents of sponsored children. Through the group, she got a boost toward economic self-sufficiency.

“I have gained a lot by being a member of the group,” Maxensia said. “I have been empowered to improve my life and that of my family.”

In Uganda, like in many other countries where Unbound works, parent groups serve as the foundation of the sponsorship program for children. When a child is sponsored, parents or guardians join the local group. They receive training from Unbound staff, save money by making small contributions to the group savings and gain access to loans. In parent groups, the impact of sponsorship is multiplied through the power of community.

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An image of a father in Uganda holding bricks he's made.
Jun 16 2017

Working, saving, providing

Ugandan dad supports his family with a new business

An image of a father in Uganda holding bricks he's made.

Charles, father of a sponsored child in Uganda, displays freshly dried bricks, which he’ll soon sell to support his family.

It’s almost Father’s Day, and over the past weeks, we’ve been sharing the stories of inspiring dads in the Unbound community. Charles is a dad in Uganda who’s been working hard to make a good living to support his family. He took some time to share about his journey with Unbound communications liaison Regina Mburu.
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An image of an Indian woman cutting excess plastic off bottles.
Jun 14 2017

Living Unbound: In photos

Photo stories of empowerment

It took a village
An image of 10-year-old Jonah sitting outside his school in Kampala, Uganda.
Jonah, 10, sits outside his school in Kampala, Uganda. When his mother, Jane, moved away temporarily for work, Jonah struggled to stay in school. Members of the local Unbound mothers group stepped in to provide support and help him keep up his studies. Today, Jonah is doing well in school, loves math, and Jane is back home and active in the mothers group.
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