Sponsored child Vianey outside her home in Mexico.
By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor at Unbound
On Valentine’s Day we focus our love on those closest to us, and that’s a beautiful thing. My hope and prayer for this year’s observance is that we also make room in our hearts to love our neighbor, near and far.
The Catholic social teachings that are at the foundation of our work at Unbound call us to expand our understanding of “neighbor” — to embrace our sisters and brothers in our human family wherever they live and whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and religious differences may be.
We’re called to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first, and respect the inherent dignity of every person.
Letter writing is an important part of the Unbound program. Letters connect sponsors with their sponsored friends, giving them a chance to learn about each other’s lives and offer encouragement.
But have you ever wondered about the journey your letter takes on its way to your sponsored friend? Watch this video, which illustrates the journey of a letter from a sponsor in the U.S. to her sponsored friend in the Philippines, to get a better idea of the effort and love that goes into delivering each letter.
Cristina and her husband, Epifanio, in their home.
Whether it’s providing workshops for sponsored members and their families or encouraging children and youth to stay in school, education has always been a pillar of the Unbound program. And we know that each person has unique needs and abilities, so Unbound social workers work with sponsored members to find the education that’s the best fit, from taking formal classes during the week or opting for technical school or a training program.
With the assistance they receive from Unbound, individuals around the world are choosing to continue their education, and some are even able return to their studies after having to take a break. And Unbound doesn’t just limit the encouragement to children and youth. One of the best examples of this is sponsored elder Cristina from Guatemala. Cristina is 63 years old and has been a part of the Unbound program for more than four years.
Sponsored children of various religious backgrounds in Zamboanga, Philippines, come together to celebrate the Week of Peace in that city in November 2016.
The residents of Zamboanga, Philippines, set aside time every year to focus on one important thing: peace.
During the Week of Peace celebration in November, people of all ages come together to celebrate diversity and call for harmony. In a place where conflict is long-standing between rebel groups and the government, the people of Zamboanga are a strong symbol of what it truly means to accept and love one another, finding strength among their differences.
Peter in Kenya displays some of the benefits he chooses from his Unbound sponsorship, including rice and soap. He says that benefits like this give him peace of mind.
Peter is a 68-year-old man in Kenya who is one of 30,000 elders around the world sponsored through Unbound. Like Peter, these men and women are pursuing better health and nutrition, stabilizing their incomes and enjoying newfound community among their fellow sponsored elders. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing stories of these inspiring aging friends around the world.
Maria, 22, is a former sponsored member who now works as a social worker for Unbound while pursuing a nursing degree.
Children learn many things from their parents. Maria, 22, from Costa Rica, is going to school to become a nurse, has a job as a social worker with Unbound and is a former sponsored member and scholarship recipient through Unbound. She credits her parents, Francisco and Maria, with teaching her and her eight siblings many important lessons. One of the many values she and her brothers and sisters have learned from their parents’ example is the importance of hard work.
“We have always worked, since we were children,” Maria said. “Our parents instilled [work ethic] in us and taught us to recognize the value of things. By working, we learned to fight for what we wanted. In spite of the fact that we had to work, we had a very beautiful childhood.”
In her role as program director at Unbound, Pritha Hariharan visits sponsored child Antony at his home in India.
By Pritha Hariharan, program director for Unbound’s international programs
“I passed out of college in 1996.”
I said this to a mostly American audience, only to receive a mixture of horrified and puzzled looks. An Indian friend helpfully stepped in and explained that I had not, in fact, fainted in said year, but had graduated from college at that time. That was my first exposure to the idea that there are some phrases in Indian English that are very uniquely Indian. So much so that many Americans wouldn’t know what I was referring to unless they have spent a significant amount of time either traveling in India or working with other Indians.
Don’t get me wrong. Almost everyone knows that there are some basic differences — that we in India use British English — such as adding the u in “colour” and calling an elevator a “lift” and an apartment a “flat.” However, the uniqueness of some of these phrases is worth pointing out, especially to sponsors who might be a bit confused by the letters they’ve received from their sponsored children in India.
Charles welcomes customers to his tailoring business.
Charles works on a garment that he will later sell.
When hit with a tragedy, the idea of moving forward can be daunting. For 62-year-old Charles from Kenya, his wife’s passing meant learning how to function without his life and business partner.
Raising 14 children and grandchildren together, including their 13-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, who is sponsored through Unbound in 2011, Charles and his wife knew they had to maintain steady sources of income. His wife had opened a small tailoring shop, and Charles started working with her after he lost his position as a supervisor in a sugar company nearly 20 years ago.
“I had taken my wife to a tailoring school and she had learned to make women’s clothes,” Charles said. “I learned from a friend how to make men’s clothes. … We made a strong team.”
Peter holds a handful of the charcoal that he sells to sustain his family.
Peter, from Kenya, is 48 years old and a single father of eight children. Peter supports his family through a charcoal business, which he was able to expand with the help of the Unbound mother’s group to which he belongs, and support from the sponsorship of two of his children.
“I had two wives,” Peter said. “One wife died while giving birth to our daughter. … [My second wife and I] had a conflict, and she walked away from our children and me. I have since adjusted and decided to take up life as a single father.”
Enrique, a sponsored elder in Bolivia, stands in the entrance of his adobe home.
Every day, as the sun begins to rise in Bolivia, 69-year-old Enrique wakes up, eats an early breakfast and makes his way to his workshop where he cuts logs into smaller pieces — carving, sanding and drying the wood as spoons, bowls and cups take shape.
Sophisticated handiwork like Enrique’s can be challenging and time-consuming for anyone to learn. For him, woodworking was a natural fit. But it wasn’t Enrique’s first career. Keep reading