Category: Central America

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.
Read more

Mar 10 2018

Returning to their roots

Texas parents visit Guatemala with adopted sons

Cecile and Raul Villarreal with their sons, Alex (far left) and Lou (center), and their sponsored friends, Hector (second from left) and Magdalena (far right).


Last summer, Cecile Villarreal traveled with her husband, Raul, and two sons, Alex and Lou, to Guatemala on an Unbound awareness trip. Alex and Lou, who were adopted by Cecile and Raul, were born in Guatemala, and this was their first time visiting their birth country. In this interview, Cecile shares with contributing writer Maureen Lunn about taking an Unbound adventure with her family.

Maureen: How long have you been involved with Unbound, and what led you to initially become a sponsor?

Cecile: We started sponsoring our first child, Magdalena, in 2005. We had adopted my oldest son, Alex, from Guatemala in 2000 and had become part of an association of parents who had done the same. In one of the association meetings, an adoptive parent introduced Unbound to us, and we picked Magdalena that very same day. A few years later, we started sponsoring Manuelito. We felt that was a great way to be useful and to keep contact with our sons’ heritage.
Read more

Feb 3 2018

A home in the hills, a school in the city

Realities of poverty series: Reflection from the Unbound community

Sandra, a sponsored youth and Unbound scholar in El Salvador, logs many miles in her pursuit of an education. Her tenacity is serving her well as she makes steady progress toward a degree in English literature.


This is the fourth and final post in a series of stories focusing on the challenges of finding adequate, affordable housing in the economically developing world. It is told through photographs and originally appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of our print publication Living Unbound.

By Henry Flores, communications liaisons director

Poverty limits the creation of dreams, blocks visualization of goals and buries hopes. But poverty isn’t something everybody experiences in the same way. It’s an individual, personal and intricate problem.

Some people face a lack of decent housing, while others have a hard time getting to school or just can’t pay for their next meal. The time and energy they spend on finding ways to solve their daily struggles takes away from the time, vision and resources they need to build a better future.

Sandra, 23, always dreamed of attending college. Her father, a coffee farmworker, and her mother, who works as a cook, barely earn enough to cover the needs of their family of five, and providing a college education for Sandra wasn’t a possibility.
Read more

Dec 9 2017

‘We could always see his immense joy’

Q&A with Unbound staff member about Father Stanley Rother

Unbound staff member Gaspar Baran Guoz talks with the mother of a sponsored child.


Blessed Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. It was the final step before formal recognition as a saint. Father Rother, an American priest who was martyred in Guatemala in 1981, was a contemporary of Unbound’s late co-founders Bob Hentzen and Jerry Tolle.

Our organization has long felt a special affinity for Father Rother, who, in the Tz’utujil dialect of those he served, was affectionately called “Padre A’plas” (Father Francisco). Several of those who knew and worked with him are also members of the Unbound community. The following interview, which took place in Guatemala in October, is with one of those individuals.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Gaspar Baran Guoz. I live in the town of Cerro de Oro, in the Santiago Atitlan municipality. I was born and raised here. Thanks to God’s grace, I’m still part of Unbound. I’ve been working and serving the families for 35 years now. I don’t feel burdened for having worked all those years. On the contrary, I show the happiness I feel when I get to work, and feel the eagerness to continue helping the families.
Read more

Dec 2 2017

‘We never saw him as a stranger’

Q&A with Concepcion in Guatemala about Father Stanley Rother

Concepcion sits on the steps outside the church in Santiago Atitlan where Blessed Stanley Rother served as pastor.


Blessed Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. It was the final step before formal recognition as a saint. Father Rother, an American priest who was martyred in Guatemala in 1981, was a contemporary of Unbound’s late co-founders Bob Hentzen and Jerry Tolle.

Our organization has long felt a special affinity for Father Rother, who, in the Tz’utujil dialect of those he served, was affectionately called “Padre A’plas” (Father Francisco). Several of those who knew and worked with him are also members of the Unbound community. The following interview, which took place in Guatemala in October, is with one of those individuals.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Concepcion, and on Oct. 11 I will turn 62 years old. I have 11 children. The eldest is 45 years old and the youngest is 15 years old. I now have 13 grandchildren.

My husband is 69 years old, and he works the in the field. I take care of the household duties, and whenever I have a chance I make traditional clothing.
Keep reading

Nov 25 2017

Give Tomorrow: Scholars are the future

What sets Unbound scholarships apart

Unbound social worker Alexander in Guatemala.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve explored the power of Unbound scholarships and shared the story of scholar Rosaura in a new video. In the video, social worker Alexander reveals the difference an Unbound scholarship can make in a young person’s life by providing sustained support.

Scholars also participate in community service and serve as role models for sponsored kids. These activities provide an invaluable boost to a young person’s development. Students learn what it means to give back. Even though they have little means, they experience serving others who have even less.

“Since [Rosaura] has been in Unbound, she has shared her experiences and is a role model for many other youth,” Alexander said. “The scholars, to me, are the future of Guatemala.”

Young adults all over the world struggle to help support their families and still have the means to pursue their educations.

That’s why Unbound’s scholarship program is designed to set students on a path to a better future. With support and the invaluable life lessons from humbly serving their communities, Unbound scholars are creating a better tomorrow for themselves and our world.

We invite you to be part of creating a hopeful future — for all of us. Join our global community of compassion and support.

Donate today and #GiveTomorrow.

Oct 14 2017

‘There’s always a light’

Sponsored youth Damaris, 23, has faced an uphill battle since childhood to complete her education. Nevertheless, she’s close to reaching her goal of a college degree in human resources.


Every path out of poverty is lined with obstacles. Damaris’ journey has been extraordinarily difficult.

Most sponsored children need additional support to help them continue their studies past primary school. For Damaris, it took sponsorship support and her willingness to work while attending school to afford her living and education expenses.
Read more

Audience members at Unbound's second Global Insight Series.
Sep 30 2017

Global Insight Series

What we learn when we listen


The legendary college basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Coach Wooden would likely have enjoyed what took place on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 14 at Unbound’s headquarters in Kansas City, when three of Unbound’s Latin America program coordinators shared what they’ve learned from the families they serve.

The occasion was the second presentation in the Unbound Global Insight Series, attended by about 100 people. The main presenters were the coordinators of three of our programs in Latin America.

The Global Insight series was begun as a way for sponsors and other interested members of the local community to learn more about the work of Unbound and, especially, to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from those who are closest to the work of the organization in the field.
Read more

An image of a young man in Costa Rica working on homework.
Sep 23 2017

Earning respect through hard work

Sponsored youth 'does not give up so easy'

An image of a young man in Costa Rica working on homework.

Edwin uses a ledge in his home to study.


When Edwin was sponsored through Unbound in Costa Rica at 8 years old, he probably never thought he’d have the opportunity to go to college. He and his family faced challenges that would have made getting an education difficult.

“My life was very complicated because sometimes we did not have money to buy food, school supplies or other basic needs,” Edwin said. “With Unbound, thank God, it has been a blessing in our lives.”
Read more

An archive image of Father Stanley Rother at a carnival in Guatemala.
Sep 18 2017

Father Stanley Rother, a symbol of generosity and peace

Reflections from Guatemala on the occasion of his beatification

An archive image of Father Stanley Rother at a Carnival celebration in Guatemala.

Father Stanley Rother at a Carnival celebration in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Father Stanley Francis Rother served in Guatemala at the mission in Santiago Atitlan starting in 1968. As the Guatemalan civil war raged between military and guerilla forces, the Catholic Church became a target. Determined to stay with the people, Father Stan remained in Guatemala and was murdered in July 1981.

Unbound’s co-founder Bob Hentzen met Father Stan while working in Guatemala. Father Stan’s love for God and people has long served as inspiration for our work.

In December 2016, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Father Stan, whose beatification (the final step before sainthood) will take place Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. Father Stan was a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and is the first recognized Catholic martyr born in the United States.

Unbound staff member Barclay Martin recently traveled to Guatemala and listened to the stories of many who knew Father Stan, and here he reflects on that journey.

Keep reading