Category: Sponsor an aging friend

Jennifer speaks at the 2015 Walk for Water event in Colorado.
Sep 1 2018

Walking for water

How a dream became reality

Jennifer speaks at the 2015 Walk for Water event in Colorado.

Jennifer speaks at the 2015 Walk for Water event in Colorado.


Jennifer, 15, and her family have sponsored 11-year-old Rose from Kenya since 2012. After learning about the obstacles Rose, her family and many other families in poverty face to get water, Jennifer decided to raise funds and awareness to help. She created the Walk for Water event. Now in its fifth year, the event has grown from her involvement and that of her classmates at her school in Colorado to include the larger community. Jennifer wrote the following reflection about her experiences starting the event and how it has grown.

Walk for Water was started from a science fair project and my love for my sponsored child, Rose. But the walk took on a life of its own.
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Aug 25 2018

In pictures

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders


Salvación has been fiercely independent from a young age. When other girls her age were being forced into arranged marriages, Salvación left home to avoid marrying someone she didn’t know. Now at the age of 84, Salvación remains independent. It isn’t easy being on her own, but her neighbors check in on her and she has the help of Stephanie in Louisiana, who has been her Unbound sponsor for 16 years.

At 67, Fanjo is no stranger to hard work, from being in the Malagasy army to working in a textile factory, and finally working as a rickshaw driver. He and his wife had nine children, five of whom are still living. “I worked so hard because I love my children so much,” Fanjo said. “I wanted my children to have all they need. I wanted them to have a bright future.”

Jayamma isn’t sure exactly how old she is or how long she and Amos have been married, though she knows they’ve been together for more than 30 years. She remembers that Amos was very handsome when she met him. Both lost their parents at a young age, and Jayamma lost the full use of her legs from childhood polio. Amos used to carry Jayamma on his back but now that they’re older, they use a tricycle to get around.

William took to heart his grandfather’s advice to live in harmony with and respect others. He said he’s always loved being among people and being a peacemaker. These traits likely helped when he was elected a village elder. At 62, William lives with his wife, five children and a grandchild. His children are educated, but jobs in their fields are hard to find. To help them provide for the family, William taught them farming, and together they make a living from the land.

In her community, 101-year-old Elisa is known as “mamita” because she’s delivered so many babies. “Even the mayor calls me ‘mamita’ because I delivered him, too,” Elisa said. She never attended school but became a midwife at the age of 14. Elisa learned the trade, which has been in the family for generations, from her mother. She hopes the skill continues with descendants like granddaughter Luz (middle), with whom she lives, and her daughter Maria (left).

Walk with an elder. Sponsor today.

Aug 18 2018

The grace of sponsorship flows both ways

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders

Janelle Stramm with a photo of her late sponsored friend, Lucinda.


By Janelle Stamm, accounting specialist

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was beyond scared and prayed that God would be with me for whatever was ahead.

Soon afterward, in the spirit of dedicating my cancer journey for a higher purpose, I decided to sponsor an elder through Unbound. I chose an 84-year-old woman named Lucinda from Guatemala. What drew me to Lucinda was that her Unbound profile said she had remained strong in her faith through illness. When I read about her, I thought we were in similar situations because

I, too, was relying on my faith to navigate my way through having cancer.
Though we were both sick, the health care options available to us were vastly different. I had access to excellent health care choices and she had only medicine to relieve pain. But she had spiritual wealth and shared it by visiting others who were sick. Her practice of offering compassion had a profound impact on me. It gave me hope for whatever was ahead for me.
Soon after my treatment, I was back to doing everything I did before like running and yoga. Yet, I felt different. I felt more joyful about everything. Faced with my own mortality, I learned how God is present in our lives and how to recognize his presence through my relationships with others.

Lucinda and I exchanged many letters before she passed away. Although she could not write herself, her sentiments were shared by a social worker named Ingrid. With Ingrid’s help, Lucinda and I shared our favorite colors and flowers.

I was humbled when I read in a letter, “Mrs. Lucinda thanks you for the help you give her every month, since she is able to receive vegetables that are very useful so she can eat very well.” And I was again humbled when, in another letter, Ingrid wrote, “Mrs. Lucinda …. always asks God to bless you in all your daily activities.”

After corresponding for more than a year, I finally shared with Lucinda how much she influenced me. I’ll never know her reaction because she passed away shortly afterward.

In her honor, I participated in a triathlon, raising funds for the Unbound Health Fund. After the event, I wrote a card to Lucinda’s family. I shared with them how she greatly influenced me, and that I was honored to know her, even though it was for a short while.

Erastus holds vegetables from the small piece of land he farms near Nairobi, Kenya. Erastus’ mother would tell him, “When you are hardworking, you will always get something to do and make a living.”
Aug 11 2018

Being an example of courage

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders

Erastus holds vegetables from the small piece of land he farms near Nairobi, Kenya. Erastus’ mother would tell him, “When you are hardworking, you will always get something to do and make a living.”


He lost everything in the post-election violence in Kenya more than a decade ago. Yet 72-year-old Erastus keeps moving forward.

In his community outside Nairobi, Erastus works casual jobs and farms a small piece of land — growing fruits and vegetables and raising chickens. With his winsome smile and refrain of “I’m flexible,” a personal motto of sorts, it’s hard to conceive of all he’s been through.
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Genaro lives in El Salvador with her daughter Paula and granddaughter Rocio, who is also sponsored through Unbound. Genaro is originally from Honduras, where she and her husband Regino met and adopted Paula.
Aug 4 2018

Learning from our elders

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders

Genaro lives in El Salvador with her daughter Paula and granddaughter Rocio, who is also sponsored through Unbound. Genaro is originally from Honduras, where she and her husband Regino met and adopted Paula.

Under the best of circumstances, living to a ripe old age requires resilience. For those who grow old in the economically developing world, it also requires no small amount of courage.

The 2015 U.N. “World Population Aging” report said that the percentage of the population that is elderly is growing in nearly every nation on Earth. Like most major social developments, that increase will likely have the greatest impact on those living in poverty. Unbound has been ahead of the curve in learning how to respond to that reality.

In the mid-1980s, Unbound became the first major U.S.-based nonprofit organization to offer sponsors the opportunity to provide monthly financial support for elderly persons living in poverty. Today, it remains the only major sponsorship organization to include seniors among those they support.
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Sponsored elder Teresa, in Guatemala, takes care of her grandson Luis. In the evenings, Luis reads to his grandmother. It is a special moment of sharing for both of them.
Jul 28 2018

Everyone craves connection

Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders


At Unbound we focus on relationships. In partnership with the families we serve, we build communities of trust, accountability, mutual learning and respect. When combined with financial support, the bonds of love formed between sponsors and sponsored friends and their families become pivotal to the success, improved health and happiness of those we serve. We believe the relationship thrives in part by its reciprocal nature. Both parties, sponsored friends and sponsors, blossom and benefit because of it.

While this connection is important for children and youth in their growth, it’s especially critical for elders as they cope with the social isolation that often comes with aging. And the problem of isolation is likely to grow as the world’s population gets older.

According to the 2015 U.N. “World Population Aging” report, “Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. Population aging — the increasing share of older persons in the population — is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.”

In our “Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders” series, we explore our distinctive and trailblazing approach to serving this aging demographic. Members of the Unbound community also share with us some of the blessings and challenges they’ve experienced along the way.

In Nairobi, sponsored elder Erastus demonstrates his determination in searching for a community of peace and acceptance. Unbound staff member Janelle Stamm recounts how she bonded with her late sponsored elder, Lucinda in Guatemala. Each account reveals real hopes and real hurdles. They confirm that the elderly have much to teach and much more to do. Improved quality of life and increased social interactions help them share their hard-earned gifts with others. We also take a look in this issue at steps we’ve taken to disrupt elder isolation, as well as introduce readers to how we’re seeking to measure our results.

Unbound strives to offer quality and necessary services for elders. Human connection remains an important aspect, one that requires the participation of sponsors, staff members, communities of sponsored individuals and their families, and countless others.

Jun 30 2018

True impressions of an Unbound trip coordinator

What I’ve learned on Unbound awareness trips

Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.

Unbound staff member Joanna Pergande (second from right) with sponsors Servando, Susan, Christine and Albert on an awareness trip to Colombia.


By Joanna Pergande, Unbound trip coordinator

As a trip coordinator for Unbound, I’ve had the privilege of traveling with sponsors on awareness trips throughout the world. I’ve only been with Unbound since 2014, and I’m amazed by what I’ve been able to experience in the last four years. I’ve been on 14 trips total, traveling to 11 different countries, including Mexico, Chile, Kenya and the Philippines, and I’ve learned something new on each trip, both personally and professionally. During this time, I’ve met hundreds of sponsors from all over the United States and many of our local Unbound staff serving in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

For those still on the fence about going on an awareness trip, and those who want to learn more, here are some of my top learnings from the last four years:
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Jun 23 2018

Travel the world with Unbound

Announcing Unbound’s 2019 Awareness Trip dates!


Unbound’s 2019 Awareness Trip dates are finally here, and we want you to save the date.

Our trips are an affordable way to have an adventure while learning more about the Unbound program. You’ll visit the communities where we work and see how families are using sponsorship to overcome poverty.

Our trips are open to everyone, so you don’t have to be a sponsor, but if you do sponsor someone, these trips offer an opportunity to meet your sponsored friend.

Whether you want to stay closer to home and visit Mexico or Central America or go farther afield with a trip to Africa or Asia, we have something for everyone. Our summer dates are especially popular with parents wanting to expose their children to something new.

Visit Unbound.org/trips to find the trip that’s right for you. Space is limited, so we recommend applying as soon as possible.

We look forward to traveling with you!

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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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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