Category: Region

Dec 30 2017

Words to live by

‘You have to believe in what you do’

Donald in Tanzania smiles as he holds a saxophone, his favorite musical instrument.


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.

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.
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An elderly woman stands outside her home.
Dec 23 2017

A simple Christmas wish

Sponsored elder, Unbound staffer share Christmas joy

An elderly woman stands outside her home.

Sponsored elder Salvacion stands outside her home in Zambaoanga, Philippines.


Throughout the year, Unbound’s communications liaisons interview dozens of people to help us share the stories of the people we serve. Sometimes, they meet someone who inspires them in unexpected ways. That’s what happened to Tristan John Cabrera, who is based out of an Unbound office in Quezon City, Philippines, when he visited 84-year-old sponsored elder Salvacion in Zamboanga. Salvacion has been sponsored by Stephanie from Louisiana for almost 16 years.

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” (Psalm 71:9)

On a recent visit to our program in Zamboanga, in the southern part of our country, I felt so touched by a particular elder from there. Her name is Salvacion, or “Lola (Grandma) Salvacion,” as they call her. Many residents of Zamboanga, including Salvacion, speak a Spanish-based language called Chavacano. Visiting the city, I heard, “Bienvenidos de Zamboanga,” which means welcome to Zamboanga. I don’t understand much of the Chavacano language, but since some residents also speak Filipino, which I speak, we can still communicate.

Here in the Philippines, we are very caring toward our grandparents. We take care of them no matter how hard it is, most especially if the elder is bedridden or unable to walk anymore. I remember my “Lola” (grandmother) who took care of me when I was a child while my parents were working. I wasn’t able to take care of her when she was really weak because of her age, as I was only 7 years old. I wished I was old enough at that time to give my Lola all the best care that I could give.

Salvacion lives in a small home made up of scrap materials that might collapse anytime. The pathway going to her house is flooded with thick mud, and I myself was actually hesitant to walk on it. She just wears her old boots and washes them out as she goes back and forth.

According to her neighbor, who also happens to be a sponsored elder, Lola Salvacion is a strong woman. She lives independently. She doesn’t bother her neighbors just to ask for food or drinking water. They just check on her every morning to see if she is still OK, and sometimes they give her food.

It must be really hard for Lola Salvacion to live alone in the area, especially considering her age. At 84, she can still walk, but you can see she is already struggling. Her voice is husky and dry, with teary eyes. I notice her back is already bending as she stands and walks. But seeing her without anyone who could hold her hands while walking is very painful for me. Everyone with me is looking at her as she walks in the mud, thinking she might fall.

Everyone is saying, “Ingat ingat nay,” or “Careful, Mother.”

I am holding my camera because I want to show people how strong she is through the pictures and videos.

As we go along in my interview, I ask her if she has one wish for Christmas, what would it be? She said it would be to eat chicken, either adobo chicken (a Filipino specialty with meat marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and other seasonings) or fried chicken. Do you know what comes to my mind? (And I know if you are in my position, you will do the same thing.) I decided to treat her to lunch, together with the program staff and our driver. It’s a surprise for her.


We visited a food chain serving fried chicken. Lola Salvacion looks so happy seeing where we are heading (going to Jolibee, a popular restaurant in the Philippines). We ordered what she likes with fries and a soft drink. I decided to pack my food and give it to her. She accepted it and told me that she will just eat it tomorrow. She also packed the remaining foods that she had and she said, “I can reserve these foods and eat it when I get hungry.”

After we ate, she confidently smiled at me. She said, “’Thank you very much,’ and I said, “’No, no, no, I must be the one to say thank you. You are really inspiring, you touched my heart, and I know your sponsor and the others will be happy to see your story.’”

Sometimes there’s no need to ask too many questions because the answer is already there in your eyes. The way I look at her, I remember my grandmother and how she would do everything to take care of me while my parents were at work. Lola Salvacion’s situation, living alone, is not common here in the Philippines. We really take care of our grandparents. We do everything we can to assist them until the end.

I know Lola Salvacion she has already found a family through Unbound. Love of neighbor, love coming from staff and parent leaders, her sponsor and love coming from within. That’s what makes Lola Salvacion keep on going strong in whatever challenges she encounters.

Let’s give love to our grandparents. They are also the reason why we are here in this world. They made a lot of history to secure our future right now.

Give love to the grandparents of the world. Sponsor an elder today.

Dec 16 2017

‘Education is a way of overcoming poverty’

Determined Colombian teen a shining light in her community

Daniela, an Unbound scholar in Colombia, enjoys the view of Medellin from the local Unbound office. She’s sponsored by Tom and Beth in Kansas.


The conflict and violence that afflicted Medellin, Colombia, until the mid-1990s are well known. Many still think of Medellin as a dangerous area, but the people of Colombia are dedicated to showing the world that they live in a place that’s very different from the perceptions of many — a place of progress, hope and light.

Seventeen-year-old Unbound scholar Daniela is eager to share that Colombia and its communities are places of progress and determination.

Daniela and her family understand the realities of Colombia’s violent past as well as anyone. Her father was killed by an armed group when she was a baby, and she was raised by her grandmother while her mother spent long days and nights working. But this part of her history does not define her or her family. Instead, with the support of Unbound, she strives to set herself apart in her community.

“We have always been members of Unbound either within the community where we live or in the neighboring communities where Unbound has reached,” Daniela, who was sponsored at the age of 5, said. “The organization has helped me a lot. I practically lived my whole childhood with Unbound.”
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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.
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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.
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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.

An image of a woman wearing an Unbound Trailblazer shirt.
Nov 13 2017

The change one shirt can make

Representing Unbound on the Notre Dame Trail

An image of a woman wearing an Unbound Trailblazer shirt.

Sponsor Lisa Hendey on the fifth day of the Notre Dame Trail, a 320-mile walking and biking journey in Indiana.


By Lisa M. Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com and Unbound sponsor

When I applied up to be a “core pilgrim” for the Notre Dame Trail, I had no idea how my life would be impacted by the simple act of walking. Having spotted information about the 320-mile pilgrimage being undertaken by my alma mater in honor of the university’s 175th anniversary, I decided to go for it and apply.

One special day in the fall of 2016, I received a package letting me know that I’d been selected. Included was an intense training schedule. Suddenly, reality set in: Could I, a 54-year-old non-athlete, be ready to cover that distance in time?
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Oct 28 2017

The gift of accompaniment carries us forward

Reflections from Madagascar


By Regina Mburu, Unbound’s communications liaison for Africa

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.
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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.
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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.
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