Jan 13 2018

Our house dances with the wind

Realities of Poverty series: The life of a squatter family

This is the first 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.

An image of a squatter village in Metro Manila, Philippines.

Sponsored child An-An and her family live in this flood-prone squatter village. The high-rise buildings of Manila loom nearby but are, in some ways, a world apart.


The United Nations estimates that at least one in eight people living on Earth today resides in a slum. A high percentage of those are squatters, dwelling without permission or legal protection on land they don’t own. Left with little or no choice, some erect makeshift housing on public properties, some occupy abandoned buildings and some inhabit any space they can find. Most live in extreme poverty and are, for all practical purposes, ignored by their local governments.

Calvary Hill is a street that winds along the banks of the fetid Ermitaño Creek in the heart of metropolitan Manila. This is a squatter village and, as the name suggests, it’s a place of hardship. A row of ramshackle dwellings stacked two, three and sometimes four or more stories high stretches around the creek bend and out of view, like a house of cards made from a thousand crumpled, mismatched decks.
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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.”

Dec 30 2017

Words to live by

‘You have to believe in what you do’

Donald in Tanzania smiles as he holds a saxophone, his favorite musical instrument.


In our last post of 2017, we bring you the story of a young man in Tanzania who inspired Unbound staff with his talent, determination and wisdom. We thought his story might also inspire you, our readers, and give you encouragement as you start the new year.

The meeting was in full swing as staff from Unbound programs in four East African countries packed a hotel conference room in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Some jotted notes from a presentation that just wrapped up, while most milled about talking with colleagues before the start of the next session.

The din in the room was silenced, abruptly, by the raspy sounds of a musical instrument, a saxophone emitting a familiar tune, the American pop song “I Will Always Love You,” written by Dolly Parton and recorded by Dolly and by Whitney Houston, among others.

The young man playing the tune at a podium up front was Donald, a 21-year-old arts student from the Dar es Salaam area. His rendition, though imperfect, was soulful and captivated the room.
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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.

Dec 16 2017

‘Education is a way of overcoming poverty’

Determined Colombian teen a shining light in her community

Daniela, an Unbound scholar in Colombia, enjoys the view of Medellin from the local Unbound office. She’s sponsored by Tom and Beth in Kansas.


The conflict and violence that afflicted Medellin, Colombia, until the mid-1990s are well known. Many still think of Medellin as a dangerous area, but the people of Colombia are dedicated to showing the world that they live in a place that’s very different from the perceptions of many — a place of progress, hope and light.

Seventeen-year-old Unbound scholar Daniela is eager to share that Colombia and its communities are places of progress and determination.

Daniela and her family understand the realities of Colombia’s violent past as well as anyone. Her father was killed by an armed group when she was a baby, and she was raised by her grandmother while her mother spent long days and nights working. But this part of her history does not define her or her family. Instead, with the support of Unbound, she strives to set herself apart in her community.

“We have always been members of Unbound either within the community where we live or in the neighboring communities where Unbound has reached,” Daniela, who was sponsored at the age of 5, said. “The organization has helped me a lot. I practically lived my whole childhood with Unbound.”
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Dec 9 2017

‘We could always see his immense joy’

Q&A with Unbound staff member about Father Stanley Rother

Unbound staff member Gaspar Baran Guoz talks with the mother of a sponsored child.


Blessed Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. It was the final step before formal recognition as a saint. Father Rother, an American priest who was martyred in Guatemala in 1981, was a contemporary of Unbound’s late co-founders Bob Hentzen and Jerry Tolle.

Our organization has long felt a special affinity for Father Rother, who, in the Tz’utujil dialect of those he served, was affectionately called “Padre A’plas” (Father Francisco). Several of those who knew and worked with him are also members of the Unbound community. The following interview, which took place in Guatemala in October, is with one of those individuals.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Gaspar Baran Guoz. I live in the town of Cerro de Oro, in the Santiago Atitlan municipality. I was born and raised here. Thanks to God’s grace, I’m still part of Unbound. I’ve been working and serving the families for 35 years now. I don’t feel burdened for having worked all those years. On the contrary, I show the happiness I feel when I get to work, and feel the eagerness to continue helping the families.
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Dec 2 2017

‘We never saw him as a stranger’

Q&A with Concepcion in Guatemala about Father Stanley Rother

Concepcion sits on the steps outside the church in Santiago Atitlan where Blessed Stanley Rother served as pastor.


Blessed Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. It was the final step before formal recognition as a saint. Father Rother, an American priest who was martyred in Guatemala in 1981, was a contemporary of Unbound’s late co-founders Bob Hentzen and Jerry Tolle.

Our organization has long felt a special affinity for Father Rother, who, in the Tz’utujil dialect of those he served, was affectionately called “Padre A’plas” (Father Francisco). Several of those who knew and worked with him are also members of the Unbound community. The following interview, which took place in Guatemala in October, is with one of those individuals.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Concepcion, and on Oct. 11 I will turn 62 years old. I have 11 children. The eldest is 45 years old and the youngest is 15 years old. I now have 13 grandchildren.

My husband is 69 years old, and he works the in the field. I take care of the household duties, and whenever I have a chance I make traditional clothing.
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Nov 25 2017

Give Tomorrow: Scholars are the future

What sets Unbound scholarships apart

Unbound social worker Alexander in Guatemala.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve explored the power of Unbound scholarships and shared the story of scholar Rosaura in a new video. In the video, social worker Alexander reveals the difference an Unbound scholarship can make in a young person’s life by providing sustained support.

Scholars also participate in community service and serve as role models for sponsored kids. These activities provide an invaluable boost to a young person’s development. Students learn what it means to give back. Even though they have little means, they experience serving others who have even less.

“Since [Rosaura] has been in Unbound, she has shared her experiences and is a role model for many other youth,” Alexander said. “The scholars, to me, are the future of Guatemala.”

Young adults all over the world struggle to help support their families and still have the means to pursue their educations.

That’s why Unbound’s scholarship program is designed to set students on a path to a better future. With support and the invaluable life lessons from humbly serving their communities, Unbound scholars are creating a better tomorrow for themselves and our world.

We invite you to be part of creating a hopeful future — for all of us. Join our global community of compassion and support.

Donate today and #GiveTomorrow.

Nov 20 2017

Give Tomorrow: Why it works

Our scholarship program helps young adults forge their own path

Through Unbound scholarships, young adults around the world are pursuing their educational goals and creating opportunities for themselves, their communities and our world. Unbound scholars, like Rosaura in Guatemala, are motivated, resilient and hopeful about their futures.

Unbound scholarships help students build a better tomorrow through:

 

Opportunity unlocked
Getting into college in the countries where we work isn’t easy. In many cases, the options are to get an extremely competitive scholarship or pay out of pocket, which makes higher education inaccessible for many. That’s where Unbound comes in. We provide scholarships to students of all backgrounds who have a variety of educational goals. From attending a technical school to pursuing a master’s program, students set out on the path of education with Unbound.

 

Means provided
Many students travel hours by bus and on foot to get to class, and the expenses add up fast. That’s why Unbound helps many students with the extra costs that going to school brings — like transportation, books or school supplies.

 

Communities served
Unlike with a typical university scholarship, scholars become involved in their communities through service. The service component of the program gives students opportunities to develop leadership abilities and gain skills that will help them later in life, such as when they’re seeking employment. It also provides a chance to give back and instills a spirit of service.

 

Potential realized
Opportunities and sustained support set Unbound scholars on a path to graduation from the very beginning. And when they complete their educations, they begin a new journey of economic self-sufficiency that will take them further in life, empowering their families and communities along the way. That’s impact!

Unbound scholars have an opportunity like no other — the chance to pursue their dreams with the support of a global community. You can be a part of that.

Donate today, and help a student build a better tomorrow.
#GiveTomorrow.

 

Nov 18 2017

Give Tomorrow: How does it work?

Four facts about our scholarship program

Last week, we shared our latest video featuring Unbound scholar Rosaura in Guatemala. All over the world, students like Rosaura are making their way to a better tomorrow with your support.

So how does it all work? Check out these four facts about Unbound scholarships.
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Four facts about our scholarship program Last week, we shared our latest video featuring Unbound scholar Rosaura in Guatemala. All over the world, students like Rosaura are making their way to a better tomorrow with your support. So how does it all work? Check out these four facts about Unbound scholarships.

Around the world with Unbound