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.
Realities of Poverty series: A family builds a dream
This is the second in a series of stories focusing on the challenges of finding adequate, affordable housing in the economically developing world. It originally appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of our print publication Living Unbound.
Aggy and her parents, Saimoni and Anna, stand outside their home of mud and corrugated tin. In the background, their new brick home awaits completion. Saimoni works on it with the builder every chance he gets.
“I wanted to try hard and take a step in life,” Aggy’s father, Saimoni, said. “My wife and I had a vision. We had a plan to make our lives better.”
For years, Saimoni and his wife, Anna, saved every Tanzanian shilling they could from his earnings as a night watchman and her income packaging and selling laundry soap. It wasn’t enough to get ahead, and they found themselves in debt.
“We had so many problems,” Saimoni said. “We lived in a small rental house. I was still a watchman, and the money I was earning was minimal. By the 10th or 15th of every month, I had no money with me. We would get food stuffs and promise to pay later. We were always in debt.”
Living conditions were crowded, with Aggy, two siblings and her parents all living in one room. Things became easier once Aggy got a sponsor through Unbound.
‘You have to believe in what you do’
In our last post of 2017, we bring you the story of a young man in Tanzania who inspired Unbound staff with his talent, determination and wisdom. We thought his story might also inspire you, our readers, and give you encouragement as you start the new year.
Donald in Tanzania smiles as he holds a saxophone, his favorite musical instrument.
The meeting was in full swing as staff from Unbound programs in four East African countries packed a hotel conference room in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Some jotted notes from a presentation that just wrapped up, while most milled about talking with colleagues before the start of the next session.
The din in the room was silenced, abruptly, by the raspy sounds of a musical instrument, a saxophone emitting a familiar tune, the American pop song “I Will Always Love You,” written by Dolly Parton and recorded by Dolly and by Whitney Houston, among others.
The young man playing the tune at a podium up front was Donald, a 21-year-old arts student from the Dar es Salaam area. His rendition, though imperfect, was soulful and captivated the room.
Reflections from Madagascar
By Regina Mburu, Unbound’s communications liaison for Africa
Regina Mburu and sponsored elder Michel in Madagascar.
Sponsored elder Michel from Madagascar.
Visiting Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, I felt the refreshing breeze of renewed energy and excitement blowing my way.
Madagascar is located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. I was a bit nervous about the weather because the last time I visited, which was four years ago, there was a day that was so chilly I had to ask for extra blankets from the hotel where I was staying. It was a pleasant welcome when I arrived to see a brilliant blue sky and feel the sun’s rays cast their glow on my skin.
My colleagues from our program in Madagascar were waiting for me at the airport. As it is often said, a radiant smile is the universal sign of welcome. I felt welcomed.
Three women get ahead through agriculture
Mothers across the world are unlocking their entrepreneurial spirit of with support from Unbound’s sponsorship program.
Margaret, Mariam and Jane, three women from Kenya, have explored opportunities to get ahead through agriculture. For Margaret and Jane, small loans from their Unbound mothers group helped them make their livelihoods a reality. Mothers groups comprise parents of sponsored children, including some dads. Together, the members of the group provide support and encouragement as they face trials of living in poverty.
While each woman has pursued a different agricultural venture, they’ve all been able to take another step in their journey toward economic self-sufficiency.
Margaret feeds her chickens. She’s seen her poultry farm grow thanks to a small loan from her mothers group.
Indian coordinators' reflections from Africa, part 3
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 the realities of families in Kenya and Uganda compared to India. This final reflection is from Vincent Murmu, the program coordinator for our Dumka office in India.
Vincent, an Unbound program coordinator in India, wears a shirt with traditional Kenyan prints that he received as a gift while visiting Nairobi.
Vincent and Seema visit a tailor shop and learn about the livelihood of a family in Nairobi.
It is indeed exciting to visit the Unbound family on another continent. I, along with Seema,the coordinator in Chennai, and Selvaraj, the coordinator in Bhagalpur, and under the able leadership of our project director Amanda Heter from Unbound Kansas, had the wonderful opportunity to visit two Unbound projects in East Africa – Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala,Uganda.
It is like a dream come true landing on another continent. My eyes were fully opened with curiosity and excitement.
Indian coordinators' reflections from Africa, part 2
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.
Selvaraj takes notes as Nairobi program evaluation team presents on how they conduct program evaluations at their office.
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!
Indian coordinators' reflections from Africa, part 1
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 first reflection is from Seema Mohan Kumar, the program coordinator for our Chennai office in India.
Seema, center, takes a picture with her fellow Indian coordinators and staff members from Uganda.
“It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience, it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.” — Graham Gibbs
I’ve taken a lot of positivity from this experience and a lot of learning too. Nairobi and Uganda was not what I had expected, and though we had to strictly take yellow fever shots, not all the places are filled with mosquitoes. The two African countries I’ve visited have been full of happiness. I have gained some life experience. Now I have changed more and I had to take the long road to re-examine my view of my community. Education in Kenya and Uganda was noticeably taken very seriously and it’s the key for their future.
Pick one of the 14 countries we're traveling to in 2018 and come along!
John Harney from Arizona visits with his sponsored friends Juan and Karen on an awareness trip to Colombia in May 2017.
An Unbound Awareness Trip is the ultimate opportunity to see the work of Unbound firsthand. Whether you travel to meet your sponsored friend or simply experience the beauty of another culture, your experience on an awareness trip will be like no other.
We’ll be your guides all along the way on this affordable and exceptional experience. Sponsors and non-sponsors alike are invited to travel to any of the 14 countries we’re journeying to in 2018, or check out a trip later this year — there’s still time to sign up!
Groups in Uganda, Philippines provide support and encouragement
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.