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

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

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 17 2018

Unbound-loving yoga teacher stretches for education


By Maureen Lunn, contributing writer and Unbound Trailblazer

When I learned about the Unbound Trailblazers, my first thought was, “That sounds really cool. Too bad I hate running.”

I quickly learned that you don’t have to be a runner, walker or competitor to participate in Trailblazers, which is a worldwide team of Unbound sponsors and supporters who challenge poverty by raising money through athletics.

Still, I didn’t know how I could participate (but I really wanted that cool teal Trailblazers shirt). Then it finally hit me — yoga! I’d been practicing yoga for more than a decade and was about to graduate from a year-long yoga teacher training program. Trailblazers would create a perfect platform to request graduation gifts from my friends and family in the form of donations to Unbound.
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Feb 10 2018

A celebration of ‘togetherness’

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

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

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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Ash cloud from Mount Mayon, Philippines.
Jan 23 2018

Families in Philippines anxiously wait as Mayon Volcano threatens to erupt


On Wednesday, the Mayon Volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines continued to spew lava and ash, signifying that a major eruption may be imminent.

“Almost every five hours, Mayon Volcano is erupting with lava fountains and spewing mushroom-like ashes,” said Unbound staff member Klaire Perez. “The ashes are being carried by the wind to the southern part of Albay [province]. Yesterday, I was home and I had experience of one of the worst ashfalls. It suddenly went dark and it literally started raining ashes. It’s a bit scary, but it’s more scary for communities just below Mayon Volcano.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has set the threat level at 4, the second highest, and more than 56,000 people living in the area have now been evacuated, according to news reports. As of Friday, the evacuees included at least 193 families served by Unbound’s program in Legazpi, coordinator Angie Bermas said. But with the widening of the evacuation zone to a 5-mile radius over the weekend, the number has likely increased.

The volcano is in the Albay province in the Bicol region, in the east-central part of the island. Flights in and out of Legazpi have been canceled, and schools throughout the province are closed.
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Jan 20 2018

Brick by brick

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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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. “I wanted to try hard and take a step in life,” Aggy’s father, Saimoni, said. “My wife and I had a vision. We […]

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