Category: Sponsor an aging friend

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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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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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 6 2018

Stability begins at home

Realities of poverty series: The struggle for adequate housing

An older home stands alone in Tegeta, a growing suburb on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. Like many communities in East Africa, Tegeta is changing. Homes of concrete and other substantial materials are rising up in contrast to the humble dwellings of neighbors who can’t afford better.

“Through telling the stories of our families, the world will put a face to poverty. Through the stories, we will live and walk in the shoes of the marginalized. We will walk into the homes of the poor and have a glimpse of what life looks like through their eyes.” — Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa

According to the 2016 United Nations Human Development Report, “more than 1 billion people live in housing that’s below minimum standards of comfort and sanitation.” That’s more than 13 percent of the Earth’s population.

Recently, in our print publication “Living Unbound,” we explored the realities of poverty, with a particular focus on housing. Now we want to share some of those stories with you in an upcoming blog series that will run on four Saturdays, starting Jan. 13.

In the series we’ll see how shelter, a universal human need, is affected by lack of choices, and the profound difference that makes in the quality of a person’s life. Access to work, school, markets, hospitals, water, sanitation and nearly everything else important in the life of a human being is impacted by where they live.

In our first story we’ll meet An-An and her family. They’re squatters living in an urban slum in the Philippines and, like millions of others, they’re held hostage by their circumstances. An-An’s family knows what all who live in poverty know: With no safety net, it’s hard to take risks to bring about change. Through the support of sponsors, Unbound is helping them weave that net.

Sometimes a safety net comes in the form of bricks and mortar, as we’ll learn in our second story from Tanzania, where the father of sponsored child Aggy is slowly turning a dream into reality for his family.

The third post in the series will be a photo essay with images from some of the communities where Unbound works. From a tenacious woman in Kenya who earns a living by pedaling a bicycle taxi, to a mother and daughter in the Philippines who make a daily trek over a treacherous river, to a housing development on an arid hill in Peru, you’ll see the struggle and the beauty of the Unbound world.

The final post in the series will be a reflection by staff member Henry Flores, who shares the story of Sandra, a 23-year-old scholarship student in El Salvador. As Henry observes, Sandra is but one of thousands of young people in the Unbound program who, when offered opportunity, embrace it with enthusiasm and make the most of it.

Issues surrounding housing and the challenges that come with it, such as what it takes to get to and from work and school, are realities families participating in Unbound deal with every day of their lives. We believe it’s important to understand these realities because awareness is the first step in making any situation better.

“Through telling the stories of our families, the world will put a face to poverty,” said Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa. “Through the stories, we will live and walk in the shoes of the marginalized. We will walk into the homes of the poor and have a glimpse of what life looks like through their eyes.”

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.

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 21 2017

Thatch, tin and timber

A focus on the realities of housing

Cynthia (right) and her mom, Pamela, in Kenya, enjoy the new home they built with the assistance of Cynthia’s sponsorship benefits. Their previous home was a hut with a thatched roof that exposed them to the elements. In this new home, they feel secure.

This fall, we’re exploring the realities of housing for families around the world through blog posts, social media and print publications.

In the latest edition of Impact, you’ll read about families in Medellin, Colombia, who live in precarious homes so far up steep hills that their main form of transportation is a cable car. You’ll also learn about how housing in Kenya can be vastly different if you live in a rural community compared to an urban one.

Check out the current issue of Impact, and be on the lookout for more stories about housing in our upcoming edition of Living Unbound, scheduled to be published in December.

Have you made a Christmas Fund donation yet? Look for the donation envelope inside your copy of Impact or visit unbound.org/Christmas to make your contribution today!