Category: Sponsor a child

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.
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Mar 24 2018

Being present for others

Remembering lessons learned from co-founder Bob Hentzen

Bob Hentzen entertains a group of children on a January 2013 awareness trip to Guatemala.


By Paco Wertin, church relations director for Unbound

It’s been a while now, Roberto, since you’ve been gone, and every time your birthday comes up, we remember you and give thanks for the gift you were and continue to be for us all here at Unbound.

This sentiment echoes in my heart as March 29 approaches.

Bob Hentzen, co-founder of Unbound, was our teacher. It was in his bones. He joined the Christian Brothers and taught school in the United States, in Guatemala and in Colombia. Then something profound happened. Bob fell in love with the people he served and became their student, learning from them and opening his heart to the power of their love.
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Asma demonstrates how her water filtration system works.
Mar 17 2018

Mom provides filtered water to her community in India

Asma demonstrates how her water filtration system works.


By Gustavo Aybar, communications field liaison coordinator

What I remember most about visiting my home country of the Dominican Republic as a child centers around lack of access to clean, fresh, hot water. Life in the DR was very different and less comfortable than life in the United States. For example, I discovered there was considerable money, time and energy involved in having water readily available. I still remember the day as a 10-year-old I saw my “crush” walking toward me, lugging a full gallon of water in each hand, having recently visited the watering hole for her family.

As World Water Day approaches on March 22 and people everywhere ponder the issue of clean water, I wanted to share how one woman I met in India, Asma, and her family combat the problem of access to potable water. Asma, her husband, Jaleel, and their son and daughter welcomed my coworkers and me into their home in Hyderabad, which they rent from a friend. The home also functions as the facility for the small mineral water plant the family started just a few years ago.

The U.N.’s World Water Day organization said 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safely managed drinking water services. In addition, an estimated 1.8 million people get their drinking water from an unimproved source, with no protection against contamination from human waste, the U.N. said.

Contaminated and polluted water is a huge problem in India. Sewage, garbage and other waste discharged into lakes and rivers are contributors. Unsafe practices by factories also poison the water with chemicals and toxins.

These realities make Asma’s role a vital one. The water business allows her to do fulfilling work that provides an important service to the community.
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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.
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Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.
Mar 3 2018

Determined women lead the way

Celebrating International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day March 8, so we’re sharing the stories of three remarkable Kenyan women. Women like these are the backbone of Unbound programs, demonstrating the strength and courage it takes to create real change for their families and communities.

Making her own decisions

People in her community didn’t take Elizabeth seriously when she started her business carrying passengers to school and work on the back of her bicycle.

They said it was man’s work and questioned whether she was strong enough. That was more than 10 years ago.

“At first they doubted me and would not let me carry them, but with time I have been accepted,” she said.

Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.

Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.


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Feb 24 2018

What sport has taught me about resiliency


It’s been my lifelong desire to learn a martial art and to master a self-defense practice so I can walk through this world confident, respectful and aware of how I can control my actions.

There exists a resiliency that I believe sports can teach us.

My intent in enrolling my son and me in karate was to help my son hone his voice and body. I also don’t want him to allow shyness to negatively influence his life choices and potential success, as I did.

In class, as in many places of the world, there are boys and girls we’ve seen as examples. A 4-year-old girl helped me find my voice and I now have louder “kiais” (shouts). A young woman has shown me how to teach by the way she celebrates our efforts, yet she also expects more next class.

Sports plays an important role for many in the Unbound community. I enjoyed reading the story of now 13-year-old sponsored child James and his father, from Kenya, who worked to overcome financial and other challenges as James pursued his speed skating dreams.
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Feb 10 2018

A celebration of ‘togetherness’

Indian family surprises St. Louis couple with a traditional wedding ceremony

Jeff Smith, Amy Benoist and their sponsored friend, Sravanthi, pause for a photo outside Sravanthi’s home in India. Jeff and Amy visited Sravanthi as part of an Unbound Awareness Trip.


When Amy Benoist and Jeff Smith of St. Louis got married in 2015, little did they know they’d have a second wedding just two years later — in India.

A sponsor through Unbound since 2012, Amy had planned to visit her sponsored friend, 19-year-old Sravanthi of India, as soon as she was able to save up the vacation time. In October of last year, she and Jeff set out on an Unbound Awareness Trip to meet Sravanthi and experience the beauty of India together.

Amy had written to Sravanthi six months earlier to let her know she and Jeff were planning to visit. That’s when Sravanthi’s family got the idea to surprise the couple with a traditional Indian wedding ceremony.
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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.
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Jan 27 2018

Through the eyes of a camera

Realities of Poverty series: In photos

This is the third 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.

Navigating their way

Eleven-year-old Stephanie and her mom, Joy, cross the Almacen River every day to go to school and work. Located in the Bataan province in the Philippines, the Almacen is typically 18 to 25 feet deep, but in heavy rains can overflow its banks and flood nearby homes. The boat ride takes 10 to 15 minutes, and Stephanie walks another 10 minutes to school. While she and her mom have grown accustomed to the boat ride, the risks of this mode of travel remain.
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Jan 20 2018

Brick by brick

Realities of Poverty series: A family builds a dream

This is the second in a series of stories focusing on the challenges of finding adequate, affordable housing in the economically developing world. It originally appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of our print publication Living Unbound.

Aggy and her parents, Saimoni and Anna, stand outside their home of mud and corrugated tin. In the background, their new brick home awaits completion. Saimoni works on it with the builder every chance he gets.


“I wanted to try hard and take a step in life,” Aggy’s father, Saimoni, said. “My wife and I had a vision. We had a plan to make our lives better.”

For years, Saimoni and his wife, Anna, saved every Tanzanian shilling they could from his earnings as a night watchman and her income packaging and selling laundry soap. It wasn’t enough to get ahead, and they found themselves in debt.

“We had so many problems,” Saimoni said. “We lived in a small rental house. I was still a watchman, and the money I was earning was minimal. By the 10th or 15th of every month, I had no money with me. We would get food stuffs and promise to pay later. We were always in debt.”

Living conditions were crowded, with Aggy, two siblings and her parents all living in one room. Things became easier once Aggy got a sponsor through Unbound.
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