Category: Region

Jun 19 2018

Guatemalans face uncertain futures after Fuego

Families displaced by volcano wait with unease

Sponsored youth Crisla and her mother, Maria, stay in a shelter after being displaced by the Fuego volcano eruption.

After most natural disasters, people are eventually able to go back home, clean up the material damage and rebuild their lives. The losses of loved ones, valued possessions and means of earning a living take longer to heal, but being home is always a good beginning.

The people displaced by the June 3 eruption of the Fuego volcano in south-central Guatemala hope to be able to go home soon, but for many when — and even if — that will happen is far from certain. Many towns and villages are still considered uninhabitable. Volcanic ash, exacerbated by heavy rains, continues to be a health hazard and toxic material still flows intermittently down the volcano’s southeastern slope. Conditions in some places have only recently become tolerable enough for recovery efforts.

According to Reuters, the official Guatemalan disaster agency, CONRED, said on Sunday that search efforts have been permanently suspended in the most heavily impacted areas of the Escuintla municipality, which are still considered at high risk.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 people were being housed in shelters or staying with family members or friends, according to an estimate by the Guatemalan health ministry. That number included about 150 members of the Unbound community.
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Jun 16 2018

Celebrating heroic dads

Happy Father's Day from Unbound

Louie in the Philippines takes part in his local Unbound parents group.

For many, our dads are our first heroes. Whether it’s squishing spiders or lifting us up high on their shoulders, dads sometimes seem like they can do anything.

As we grow older, our dads become more human than superhero, but that doesn’t make us want to celebrate them any less. There are myriad examples of heroic dads within Unbound, whether their heroism is more on an everyday basis in their role as fathers or in more extreme situations such as natural disasters.
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Jun 13 2018

Philippines update after Typhoon Domeng

On June 10, tropical depression Domeng developed into a typhoon as it approached the Philippines. While the most destructive parts of the storm have moved beyond the Philippine islands, the storm was followed by monsoon rains, which have the capability to cause severe flooding and landslides. Roads in some areas of the northern Philippines were impassable, and the mobility of families served by Unbound’s Legazpi program and areas of the Antipolo program has been impacted by the flooding. In times of natural disasters and other emergencies, Unbound will notify sponsors directly if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously affected. We will continue to provide updates on the situation as we receive information from the Philippines. Unbound serves more than 46,000 children, youth and elders in the Philippines.

Jun 13 2018

For those affected by the Fuego volcano eruption

Vulnerability is a relentless fact of life for families in the developing world. We were yet again reminded of that sad truth this past week when, with little warning, the Fuego volcano in south-central Guatemala erupted.

The resulting flow of lava, ash and pyroclastic material has brought devastation to a widespread area. As of this writing, more than 200 people are still missing and the death toll exceeds 100. As rescue and recovery workers gain greater access to the most heavily impacted areas, that number is expected to rise.

The people confronted with this tragedy enter in fellowship with those whose lives have been disrupted by other recent volcanic activity, including the Mayon volcano in the Philippines and Mount Kilauea in Hawaii. A long period of recovery awaits those affected by these events, including many in the Unbound community. As they face the challenges ahead, they will be strengthened by their resilient spirit and encouraged by our care and that of other loving people.

Read more about the eruption of the Fuego volcano and its impact on the Unbound community.

Donate to Disaster Response to help Unbound provide assistance to families affected by events like the eruption of the Fuego volcano.

Please pray

God of compassion, bless and sustain the people of Guatemala. Console the grieving and give them hope as they seek to rebuild their lives. May we be part of their blessing, pouring out our love in acts of generosity and service. As we commit ourselves to living as their compañeros — their companions on the long journey toward wholeness — help us to never forget that we are your hands in the world, not just for a moment but always. We ask this in your most holy name. Amen.

Ash clouds from the eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano threaten farmland.
Jun 8 2018

What’s ahead for Guatemala

Long recovery awaits those impacted by Fuego volcano

The immediate danger from the Fuego volcano is far from over, but even after it passes consequences will likely be felt by the people of south-central Guatemala for years.

The first concerns will be caring for survivors, accounting for the missing and burying the dead. The official death toll as of June 7 was 109 with nearly 200 missing, but those figures will almost certainly rise as rescue and recovery workers are able to progress into the areas of greatest impact, where up until now efforts have been hampered by the severe conditions.

Local Unbound staff members are working to account for all sponsored persons and their families in hard-hit areas, all of which are served by the Unbound Hermano Pedro ECA program. At this time staff members have been able to verify that most are safe in either evacuation shelters or the homes of relatives. Nine families remain unaccounted for and efforts to contact them have, so far, been unsuccessful.

In times of natural disasters and other emergencies, Unbound will notify sponsors directly if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously affected.

Ash threatens crops

When those now residing in evacuation shelters are able to return to their homes, the effects of the volcano will endure. According to the Volcano Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey, “Ashfall can have significant impacts on crops much like pasture land. Physical impacts from additional weight of ash on leaves, partial burial and stem/branch snapping all prevent the plants natural processes such as photosynthesis, transpiration and water content leading to crop failure.” Such a widespread failure will not only impact local farmers, but be felt throughout the rest of Guatemala and the other Central and South American countries that import their produce.

Animals also may be affected by the ash. The Volcano Hazards Program states that, “Livestock eating pasture that is contaminated with ash can suffer and die from gastrointestinal blockages. Shortages of uncontaminated feed and water after an ashfall can also lead to starvation.”

Even if any agricultural products do survive, transporting them may be a challenge, according to Unbound’s director of international programs, Dan Pearson, who has been closely monitoring the situation in Guatemala.

“There is some concern that the new lava flow could reach the coastal highway, the larger of the two highways that connect Mexico and the U.S. with the rest of Central America,” Pearson said. “Even temporary closure of that highway would cause significant transportation challenges that would negatively impact Guatemala’s economy.”

Heavy rains loom

To make matters worse, it’s now the rainy season in Guatemala, and people there are in a race against time to try to clear as much ash as possible from plants and roads before the heaviest rains come. The combination of rain and volcanic ash produces a concrete-like substance that blocks waterways and clogs drainage systems, leading to even worse flash flooding than usual.

“The rainy season starts in early to mid-May and it ends in late September or early October,” Unbound communications liaison director Henry Flores said. “In the middle of that season is when the strongest rains arrive. In Guatemala, rains are especially strong for several reasons. One is that it’s high up from sea level, especially the area where the volcano is located. Also, there are lots of coffee plantations around it, which are basically forests, so the rain gets pretty strong there.”

The rainy season always brings health hazards in the form of respiratory and water-borne diseases, but with so many displaced persons living in close proximity in shelters, those hazards will likely increase.

Staff members from Unbound’s Hermano Pedro and Atitlan programs are working to assist people affected by the volcano. As the level of need becomes clearer, they will be available to support sponsored members and their families in their long-term recovery.

What you can do

  • Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like the eruption of the Fuego volcano.
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, so keeping your information up to date is important.
  • Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with rescue efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Check here for updates. We’ll continue to update our blog as we receive additional information.
Jun 5 2018

Fuego volcano erupts in Guatemala

Hardships loom as families lose homes, crops

June 8 update:

Unbound staff members in Guatemala are continuing their efforts to confirm the safety of families who live in an area included in the immediate disaster zone of the volcanic eruption and are served through our Hermano Pedro ECA program. As of June 7, efforts to communicate with nine families of our sponsored friends in the area have been unsuccessful. Additional volcanic activity and rain are complicating search-and-rescue efforts, but Unbound staff are on site providing direct support to displaced families, and more have joined from other regions of Guatemala to assist. Other areas where Unbound sponsored members reside are located outside of the immediate disaster zone, but have been seriously impacted by ash and debris, causing significant damage to homes and crops. Unbound supports more than 68,000 children, youth and elders in Guatemala. Read more about the current and long-term challenges many families around the region face here.


  • Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted.
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date by logging in to your account.
  • Please be patient as local Unbound staff work to confirm families’ safety.
  • Continue following this blog post or our Facebook page for additional updates.

The ash plume from Guatemala’s Fuego volcano as seen by local Unbound staff.

Updated June 6, 2018

In the aftermath of Sunday’s eruption of the Fuego volcano in south-central Guatemala, Unbound staff members are continuing their efforts to contact sponsored persons and their families in the area. Unbound has identified 16 families who live in areas immediately impacted by the eruption. All are from the Unbound Hermano Pedro ECA program. It is possible that families in other local programs have also been affected, but these are the only ones we know about at this time.

Oscar Tuch, communications liaison in Guatemala, reports that the affected families live in three villages within the area most immediately impacted by Sunday’s eruption. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, and we will be contacting the sponsors of those families directly.

Unbound communities affected

“The situation has been complicated due to the great magnitude of the disaster,” Tuch said. “In the department (state) of Escuintla we provide attention to three communities, specifically La Trinidad, Don Pancho and Aldea El Rodeo.”

Unbound staff in Guatemala clean up ash after the Fuego volcano erupted.

The village of El Rodeo was especially hard hit by the rapidly flowing lava and ash. Unbound staff members have been able to verify that some sponsored individuals and their families were evacuated to shelters and one is staying with relatives and receiving aid from Unbound, but as of this writing staff have been unable to contact the remaining families.

“The situation is an active rescue operation in which the first responders and Guatemalan army are participating,” Unbound international programs staff member Nelson Vowels said. “They have purposely limited access to the area while they search for survivors. In due time, the team will have details about individual families and to what degree they are affected.”

Future impact

Far beyond the area of immediate impact, many people, including members of the Unbound community, have lost crops as a result of the falling ash.

“It’s probably safe to assume that this is the case for anyone sponsored through (Unbound’s local program) based out of Antigua,” Vowels said.

Since other Central and South American countries buy produce from Guatemala, the long-term consequences of the volcano erupting may be severe, Tuch said.

“It really is so hard and so painful to have to live and face this reality,” he said. “This is just the beginning of the tragedy because after this storm we for sure will face a nutritional crisis due to the lost crops, the reconstruction of the communities and the restoration of the families that have been separated.”

According to CNN, at least 69 persons have been reported dead so far as a result of the volcano, but with rescue workers hampered by the intense conditions, it’s likely that number will rise in the coming days.

What you can do

  • Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like the eruption of the Fuego volcano.
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, so keeping your information up to date is important.
  • Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with rescue efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Check here for updates. We’ll continue to update this story as we receive additional information.
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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Transita smiles in welcome outside her home.
Apr 7 2018

‘I will fight for my dreams’

Guatemalan youth doesn't give up on education

Transita smiles in welcome outside her home.

By Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor

I recently had a conversation with my grandmother about dreams. We talked about how sometimes they evolve as we mature, or even fade away to be replaced by new ones. I once dreamed of becoming a professional actress (I even started out as a theater major), but anyone who had seen me as a child with my nose constantly in a book wouldn’t be surprised to learn my dream had changed and I ended up as a writer/editor.

What is true of most dreams is that, for them to become reality, they require hard work. For me that meant going back to get my master’s. Luckily, I received a teaching assistantship and had access to student loans to make my educational dreams a reality. But these resources aren’t always available in places where Unbound works, and even with an Unbound sponsorship, once a student reaches upper levels of education the cost may be more than she can afford.

That was the reality Transita, 26, in Guatemala faced when she graduated high school in 2013. She’s been sponsored since 2003, but the many expenses that go along with college were simply more than the sponsorship could help with.
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