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:
How the strides of one help challenge poverty for all
By April Arnold, Unbound Trailblazer and sponsor
Unbound Trailblazer April Arnold and her daughter, Adalynn, hold a photo of their sponsored friend, Maria, from Guatemala.
I first started running out of desperation to lose weight from having my daughter. It was a struggle.
I ran in my basement on a treadmill so no one could see me, although at that point it was a lot more walking than running. I slowly built up my endurance and began to run more than I walked. I still remember the first time I completed a 5K on my treadmill. I was so proud of myself because I never thought I would do one. I ran in high school, but I was a sprinter, so I didn’t run more than 200 meters.
When my mom asked me to do a 5K with her, I reluctantly signed up. I was nervous. I never would have thought I would love it and become addicted to group races. It’s a lot more fun to run outside with hundreds of people than alone on my treadmill.
After logging several 5K runs under my belt, I heard about the Unbound Trailblazers through a breakfast meeting we had at work. I really liked the idea of adding a purpose to my runs. It also made me want to challenge myself. So I joined as a Trailblazer and set up my fundraising page. I decided to run the Heartland 30K series, which is three 10K runs in three weeks.
I’d never run a 10K before, so this was going to be a challenge, but I felt like I had a lot of support behind me. Getting postcards from Unbound with words of motivation was just what I needed on tough days.
Reflection from a Trailblazer
By Maureen Lunn, contributing writer and Unbound Trailblazer
Maureen Lunn and Andrew Kling, Unbound’s director of community outreach and media relations, wear Trailblazer t-shirts while doing yoga.
Maureen holds her yoga teaching certificate. She used her progress toward her certificate as a way to raise funds for Unbound’s scholarship program.
When I learned about the Unbound Trailblazers, my first thought was, “That sounds really cool. Too bad I hate running.”
I quickly learned that you don’t have to be a runner, walker or competitor to participate in Trailblazers, which is a worldwide team of Unbound sponsors and supporters who challenge poverty by raising money through athletics.
Still, I didn’t know how I could participate (but I really wanted that cool teal Trailblazers shirt). Then it finally hit me — yoga! I’d been practicing yoga for more than a decade and was about to graduate from a year-long yoga teacher training program. Trailblazers would create a perfect platform to request graduation gifts from my friends and family in the form of donations to Unbound.
Guatemalan mom dedicated to family, sport
Blanca sits outside her home with her two youngest sons, Mynor (left) and Osber (right).
Blanca displays some of the trophies she has won at running competitions.
People go running for many reasons. Some do it to get healthy, some for the competition and some to support a cause. Blanca is a 29-year-old mom of four living in Guatemala whose daughter, Berberlin, 13, is sponsored
by Wayne from Montana. Blanca is also a runner. Her main reason for running is simple: to support her family.
Tell others about your Unbound experience
Lucio (center) and his family work together at their tree nursery in Guatemala.
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Septuagenarian runner still going strong
Trailblazer Gary Thompson celebrates after finishing the 2016 Hospital Hill Run half marathon course in Kansas City, Missouri.
Run 70 marathons by age 70.
That was Gary Thompson’s goal, and he exceeded it. His most recent race was the Shamrock Marathon last month in Virginia Beach. It was his 72nd marathon at “70 years young,” he said.
For Gary, a professor in the law and criminal justice department at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, running is about more than fitness. It’s about travel, being social and doing something good for others.
Get more inspiration from Gary!
Antsirabe program coordinator shares how benefits are distributed in Madagascar
Liva Rajaonarisina, program coordinator in Antsirabe, Madagascar presents at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.
Liva Rajaonarisina is Unbound’s program coordinator in Antsirabe, Madagascar. With experience working in mission work, translation and employee training, Liva has worked for Unbound as program coordinator since 2008.
Unbound has 37 projects in the 19 countries where we work. The projects serve as regional hubs in areas where sponsored members live, and are the coordinating centers for community-based programs that span the area. Each of these hubs is led by a coordinator who helps guide and manage the Unbound program in that area.
At both Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 and at an employee-wide presentation the next day, Liva shared about the benefits of sponsorship in Madagascar. Benefits are distributed in two primary and effective ways — cash distribution and a livelihood program called “Market Market.”
Manila program coordinator discusses the impact of co-ops
Risa Vereña, program coordinator in Manila, Philippines, presents at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.
“We love peanut butter,” Risa Vereña said with a grin, describing Filipino culture to an audience of 100 at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29. “… And [no matter the] religion or place, we cannot live without videoke .”
What does making peanut butter and renting videoke (a video version of karaoke) machines have to do with Unbound sponsorship? They are two of the many businesses started by parents of sponsored children in Manila, and according to Risa, they are ventures that will be welcomed readily by the community.
Risa is Unbound’s program coordinator in Manila, Philippines. With a bachelor’s degree in development communication and education communication, Risa has worked for Unbound for 15 years. She began as the communications officer in 2009 and took on the role of program coordinator in 2014.
More than 100 gather to listen and learn
The inaugural edition of the Unbound Global Insight Series March 29 at our headquarters in Kansas City unfolded as an evening of discovery, an opportunity to listen and learn from three program coordinators visiting from India, Madagascar and the Philippines.
Saritha Mendanha, Liva Rajaonarisina and Risa Vereña shared insights on our programs and the innovative ways that sponsorship provides opportunities for families around the world.
Unbound has 37 projects in the 19 countries where we work. The projects serve as regional hubs in areas where sponsored members live, and are the coordinating centers for community-based programs that span the area.
Each of these hubs is led by a coordinator who helps guide and manage the Unbound program in that area. Unbound’s co-founder Bob Hentzen once described these staff members as “saints with talent.” Those attending last Wednesday’s event got a glimpse of what Bob meant.
Read on for a photo essay depicting the event, and stay tuned next week for three more blog posts on topics presented by Saritha, Liva and Risa. What they shared reflects the program innovations in their countries and shows that their work holds true to one of our most important organizational values — that we, as sponsors and staff, are students of the families we accompany in overcoming poverty.
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