The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is Aug. 9, and we thought it was fitting to hear from a few sponsored youth from the Dumagat tribe, an indigenous community in the Philippines, about their heritage and hopes for the future.
Mark is a good student, finishing in the top three in his high school in the Philippines. But despite this accomplishment, going to college wasn’t a certainty. His parents’ medical issues meant the family budget was tighter than ever, and there just wasn’t anything extra to help pay for college fees.
Letter writing is an important aspect of Unbound’s sponsorship program. Not only do we require sponsored members to write at least two letters a year to their sponsors, we encourage sponsors to write back. We frequently hear from sponsored members how much getting letters from their sponsors means to them. Sometimes those letters have the ability to change lives.
But when sponsored friends are between sponsors, they don’t have anyone to write to or receive letters from. When sponsors must discontinue their support, their sponsored friends continue to participate in the program and receive assistance while Unbound tries to find new sponsors for them.
Currently, we have more than 5,000 children, youth and elders waiting for new sponsors. Some of them have only been waiting a couple of months, while others have been waiting a couple of years. They’re missing out on a huge part of the Unbound program experience.
Milestone moments don’t happen every day. For Jolly, a sponsored youth in the Philippines, graduating from college is one of his happiest memories. While most graduates walk toward the stage to get their degrees, Jolly was walking toward his mom.
“When my name was called by the host in our graduation, my mother was clapping her hands,” said Jolly, a sponsored youth living in the Philippines. “I was the one who got her hand and we walked together up the stage. She was the one who put the medal on my neck. I was so happy that moment,” he said.
Water hyacinths, a persistent pest, clog waterways, kill fish and rob sunlight from native aquatic plants in lakes all over the world.
A community in the Cardona area of the Philippines, just outside Manila, experienced such an infestation. In 2012, when Charito L. and her family joined the Unbound program, her husband wasn’t able to continue his job fishing because of the plant. It became increasingly difficult to support their family.
“My source of income way back then was selling fishes but, because of the huge number of water hyacinths in the lake, the fishes died out,” she said.
Manish spent a good part of his childhood stationed outside the East Gate of India’s famed Taj Mahal.
By the age of 5 he was working long days peddling trinkets: bracelets, beads or cheap keychains.
Selling on the streets is dangerous work for little kids. They can become easy prey for thieves or victims of speeding cars and motorcycles.
But Manish had little choice. He is the youngest of seven. His father works, but doesn’t make enough money to feed every child in the family.
Education is considered a key step in a person’s journey out of poverty, but paying for higher education can also be one of the biggest challenges. It certainly was for Randy, a young man sponsored through Unbound in the Philippines since he was 8 years old.
That’s where Unbound’s scholarship program came in. Funded by donations for Education, the scholarship program enables students all over the world to pursue upper levels of education, such as high school, technical school or college, giving them the boost they need to achieve their dreams. We had the opportunity to interview Randy shortly before he graduated from college and learned how being part of the scholarship program impacted his life.
The sea for Jose is beauty and sustenance. It’s a gracious host welcoming visitors and old friends. It’s also a fierce foe threatening his livelihood and safety in severe storms.
Jose lives by the sea and makes his living from it — as a fisherman, tour guide, farmer and owner of a small store. He lives about an hour from Hundred Islands National Park, a tourist destination and protected area in the Philippines some 150 miles north of Manila. He’s lived in the area since he was 7 years old. He’s 62 now.
Jose has been a member of Unbound’s elder program for two years. The support he gets from his sponsor, Carol in North Carolina, supplements his own hard work and initiative, giving him a little more security in his later years.