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.
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.”
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.
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, 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.”
But being a single father can be a tough job.
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.
Unbound has long encouraged creative livelihood initiatives for families in our programs. Five enterprising women from Guatemala have taken that encouragement to heart in starting their own poultry business.
Maria, Concepcion C., Jesus, Rosa and Concepcion T. are all moms in the same community. They each have children who are sponsored through the Unbound program, and it’s through this connection that they met.
“The staff has always encouraged us [parents] to start our own business,” Jesus said. “We thought this is something we like, we talked and we just said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We are happy that all five of us are doing this business; it’s a great benefit for all of us.”
For many in the Unbound community, meeting basic needs such as nutrition and housing were a daily challenge before being sponsored. For parents Peter and Agnes in Tanzania, unemployment and low wages made it difficult to earn enough money to send their children to school and improve their situation in life.
That changed when their youngest son, also named Peter, was sponsored.
With the help and support of their son’s sponsor, Mary from Missouri, and local Unbound staff, the couple took an important step on their journey out of poverty — building and owning their own home.
At 23 years old, Gabriela is determined to complete her education so she can become a lawyer.
Gabriela lives with her mother and three brothers in Guatemala and has been sponsored by Bruno in Canada since 1996. With the support of her family and of her sponsor, Gabriela is closer to her dreams of completing her education and opening a law office to serve the poor, despite the obstacles poverty has put in her way.
“I dream of helping others,” Gabriela said. “I decided to study law because the poor usually don’t have access to a lawyer. I feel that my career will provide the opportunity to help the less fortunate and defend their rights.”
When Thomas in Kenya was sponsored through Unbound five years ago at the age of 64, he set his sights on becoming an entrepreneur.