John Harney from Arizona visits with his sponsored friends Juan and Karen on an awareness trip to Colombia in May 2017.
An Unbound Awareness Trip is the ultimate opportunity to see the work of Unbound firsthand. Whether you travel to meet your sponsored friend or simply experience the beauty of another culture, your experience on an awareness trip will be like no other.
We’ll be your guides all along the way on this affordable and exceptional experience. Sponsors and non-sponsors alike are invited to travel to any of the 14 countries we’re journeying to in 2018, or check out a trip later this year — there’s still time to sign up!
Unbound sponsor Joseph Rivard of Gulfport, Mississippi traveled to Colombia in May on an Unbound Awareness Trip. He joined Unbound as a sponsor less than a year before the trip, and sponsors three young men in Latin America. Joseph is a retired professor of psychology at Central Michigan University. He reflects on how the trip impacted his faith.
Sponsor Joseph Rivard (right) visits with his sponsored friend, 17-year-old Jan Sebastian, at Jan’s home in Colombia.
Like most Americans and others living in a “first-world” country, life is never perfect. Every Christian I know has a story to tell; stories that speak of the death of a loved one, sickness, stress in a career, family trouble, etc. Each of us, armed with faith, endeavor to overcome our own struggles. We journey through our lives doing the best we can to work through our own deficiencies while trying to understand and serve God in the midst of our confusing and sometimes tumultuous life journey.
When I left for Colombia in May, I knew this trip would be different from other mission-style trips I have made in the past. I knew it would be different, simply because God is always about things “now” and “new.” There were a lot of things in my life journey that could have justified not going on this trip, because life is that way — always filled with challenges and obstacles. Yet, whenever I quieted my worries, I was convinced in my heart that this trip was something God was calling me to do. He didn’t command me to go; God has never arbitrarily demanded things of me in that way. It was more of a gentle stirring and a pull on my heart that communicated invitation and opportunity.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection was written by writer/editor Maureen Lunn.
I’ll never forget the first time I drove a car by myself. It was summer, I was 15 with a learner’s permit, driving in my grandpa’s hunter green Ford Ranger. My parents let me take the 15-minute drive down the highway to go to youth group at church, and then straight home. I still remember how amazing, how grown up, that felt! For a young person in America, that inaugural drive may be one of the greatest feelings of independence many of us will experience.
For people around the world, an opportunity for this type of independence also holds a lot of power, both personally and economically. For Ronaldo, a young man in Guatemala, the freedom to make choices for his future led to improving the economic situation of his entire family. One of his earliest memories of being in Unbound is of saving his sponsorship benefits to buy livestock.
Social worker Anibal Perez (right) visits with Angelica and Emerson, the mother and brother of sponsored child Ada in Guatemala. This photo was featured in a story that received second place in a feature writing category at the Catholic Press Awards.
Unbound is pleased to announce that we brought home two honors from this year’s Catholic Press Awards, sponsored by the Catholic Press Association.
Maxensia shovels compost made from pig manure produced on her farm in Uganda. She uses it to fertilize her coffee plants. Maxensia’s son, Lawrence, 21, is sponsored by Albert in Washington.
Maxensia, a widowed mother of eight, tends to her coffee plants in a village in Uganda. Nearby, 11 pigs sunbathe in a sty built of rough wood.
At age 50, Maxensia has become an entrepreneur. Her pig farm is growing, and she also runs a small coffee farm.
After her husband died 17 years ago, Maxensia struggled to provide for her children’s basic needs. Her son, Lawrence, was sponsored in 2006, and she joined the Unbound support group for parents of sponsored children. Through the group, she got a boost toward economic self-sufficiency.
“I have gained a lot by being a member of the group,” Maxensia said. “I have been empowered to improve my life and that of my family.”
In Uganda, like in many other countries where Unbound works, parent groups serve as the foundation of the sponsorship program for children. When a child is sponsored, parents or guardians join the local group. They receive training from Unbound staff, save money by making small contributions to the group savings and gain access to loans. In parent groups, the impact of sponsorship is multiplied through the power of community.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection was written by Senior Writer Larry Livingston.
Last week we observed the summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year. Going forward, the days will grow increasingly shorter and the nights longer, until December 21st and the beginning of a new cycle.
In Christian tradition, this time of year is symbolically associated with the birth of John the Baptist, just as the winter solstice is with the birth of Jesus. It was John who, knowing that his work served a purpose greater than himself, said of Christ, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
There is grace in the recognition that we are each called to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. When we choose to ‘decrease’ — in personal gratification, in ego fulfillment, in material comfort — for the sake of others, we follow the model of John the Baptist and, like him, give glory to Christ.
Loving God, thank you for our Unbound sponsors and the generosity that allows sponsored friends to ‘increase.’ As we reflect on the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives, may we grow in the humility and compassion that allow us to serve others with joy, and may all we do reflect your goodness on the Earth. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.
Unbound is rolling out changes to our blog line-up and scheduling starting this week! We’ll still post three times a week, but now it will be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Also new will be the introduction of our Faith Reflections series, which will typically publish on Wednesday.
What are Faith Reflections?
Each week, Unbound delivers a faith-based reflection to inboxes around the world through our Prayer Partners email. These reflections cover a variety of topics, such as Unbound’s values or special observances, and offer the chance to join the Unbound community in reflection and prayer. Everyone is welcome to sign up to receive these emails, but we also want to make these reflections more accessible outside of the inbox.
From now on, we’ll also share the weekly reflections on the Unbound blog. This will make them easier to share with others or search for a specific topic, all without cluttering your inbox.
Maria and her 8-year-old son, Samuel, who is sponsored by Curtis and Susan from Louisiana, share a tender moment outside their home in Colombia.
A mother looks out at her neighborhood as the light creeps over the mountains, the crowing of roosters filling her ears. Her home sits high on a mountain, the city of Medellín sprawling before it.
The mother’s eyes pass over the half-finished wall at the front of her house. She and her husband have been building their home a little at a time over the years, and now have four finished rooms and a bathroom with running water.
She turns from the waking city and enters her home, ready to start breakfast. But first she peeks in at her four sleeping children in their shared bed. Soon they will be awake and getting ready for school.
A soft beeping fills the room as the mother turns to the cooktop. She takes her phone from her pocket and sees a small light flashing to indicate a new message.
The mother smiles as she reads the message. The monthly benefit money from Unbound was just delivered to her child’s sponsorship account, and she and her family already have a plan for how to use it to better their lives.
Unbound seeks to be a gentle agent of peace in the world, and we celebrate all the moments of connection we are privileged to witness between members of our community of different faith traditions.
Throughout the world, Muslims are concluding the month of Ramadan. A period of fasting, prayer and acts of charity, Ramadan reflects the pillars of Islam.
The Ramadan fast, from sunrise to sunset throughout the month, is an act of personal discipline aimed at helping the faithful grow closer to God by focusing on the interior life. Many Muslims, like Christians who fast during Lent, also believe the practice helps them grow in solidarity with others.
In a 2015 story featured on the Unbound blog, Fatuma, the mother of former sponsored youth Fosia in Kenya, spoke of how Ramadan has helped her grow in compassion for her neighbors, many of whom do not share her Muslim faith.
“During the Ramadan fast, we especially feel connected to the many in our neighborhood who go without food because of poverty,” she said. … “When we break our fast in the evening, we make sure that we share our food with our neighbors. When we get food from Unbound, and one of our neighbors has nothing, we gladly share with them.”
By Abby Melgren, volunteer outreach coordinator
Abby Melgren (right) rests with other Trailblazers after running the Hospital Hill Run 5K June 2.
Kelly and Kyle Akers have joy on their faces as they near the finish line. In addition to being a Trailblazer, Kelly is also the digital strategy manager for Unbound.
When the summer heat is unbearable, and when the hill just a few paces away is unthinkable, one thing keeps me going: I’m running for a reason.
Unbound first took part in Hospital Hill Run in 2014, and later became one of the first Charity Partners. In 2014, the Unbound Trailblazer program was launched, giving both sponsors and Unbound supporters a way to support scholarship students through fundraising. The first Trailblazers quickly learned that the name of the race is a bit misleading. There’s not just one hill, but many.
However, the partnership is too important to let a few hills scare us off.
By Abby Melgren, volunteer outreach coordinator When the summer heat is unbearable, and when the hill just a few paces away is unthinkable, one thing keeps me going: I’m running for a reason. Unbound first took part in Hospital Hill Run in 2014, and later became one of the first Charity Partners. In 2014, the Unbound Trailblazer program was launched, […]