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.
By Maureen Lunn, writer/editor
Unbound staff member Maureen Lunn from Kansas City at an overlook in Medellin, Colombia.
A sign on the wall of an Unbound program office in Cartagena, Colombia.
I’ve had the privilege of trotting around the globe quite a lot in my life thus far, and by my mid-30s had set foot on every continent except South America. (Well, and Antarctica. But that doesn’t really count, does it?) So when I had the opportunity recently to travel to Colombia with Unbound, I knew it was going to be a special journey. I was right.
A week in Medellin and four days in Cartagena provided some of the most exceptional cultural experiences I’ve ever had, some of the craziest views I’ve ever seen and some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. Here are 10 impressions that have really stuck with me from my 10 days in the country.
A workbook provided by Unbound offices in Colombia has space for families to record their goals and how they plan to use their sponsorship benefits to meet those goals.
Ever wants to be a soccer player and get a college degree.
Ana Maria is studying technology in industrial processes.
Gloria’s son Juan wants to be an engineer.
Maria wants to improve her dressmaking business and help her son realize his dream of being a fireman.
They all have unique goals for themselves and their families. And because they’re part of the Unbound program in Colombia, they receive their benefits via child accounts, which gives them flexibility in using the funds to achieve their goals.
Brayan has lost 44 pounds since joining a running group in his community in Colombia. His newfound love for running has also helped boost his self-esteem and taught him valuable life lessons.
It’s a new year, and resolutions for health and happiness abound. A few years ago, Brayan from Colombia resolved to get healthy and lose weight, and he’s sure come a long way since.
By John Fredy Arango, Unbound staff member in Medellin, Colombia
John Fredy Arango, an Unbound staff member in Medellin, Colombia, walks though one of the neighborhoods he serves.
Sponsored children take part in an Unbound activity in Colombia.
The Colombian government has been in conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerrilla movement, since the 1960s, as well as other armed groups. More than 50 years of violence has had an impact on people from all parts of the country. Unbound staff member John Fredy Arango reflects on the recent evolution of the conflict.
I was barely in my mother’s womb when the echoes of war were already shaking my body. I was born and grew up, I became a young man and I heard those sounds of war again, but this time they were stronger. I saw how they were numbing the hopes and neutralizing the dreams of those around me.
Nathalie helps her mother, Martha, make empanadas.
Colombia has a long history of violence between government forces and militant groups. But increasingly there seems to be hope of a more lasting peace between the Farc rebels and the government, with the possibility that a deal could be signed later this month and the implementation overseen by the UN, according to the BBC. Though peace may be close, the decades-long conflict has created a huge impact, especially for families like Martha’s.
Martha and her family are originally from Antioquia, Colombia, and are part of a large number of internally displaced people.
Director of global strategy, Paul Pearce, left, walks with a group of mothers in Cartagena, Colombia.
Recently, Jose Rodriguez, project director for Colombia at CFCA headquarters in Kansas, traveled to Colombia to visit with mothers of sponsored children.
During the workshop, mothers gathered to answer a question: “What is your dream?”
Many women had the opportunity to share what they were interested in pursuing and CFCA had the chance to help them make it happen.
Watch the video to learn more about how CFCA becomes a catalyst for these women to achieve their dreams.
Watch the video!
Aura and her son Alexander, who is sponsored through the Hope for a Family program.
What do you get when you cross CFCA, a computer and a mother willing and ready to make a difference for her and her family?
Read more to find out!
Here are just a couple of the awesome ways that sponsored children, aging friends and their families serve as agents of change in their local communities!
1) Fathers of sponsored children honored for work with blood donations
The CFCA-Antipolo staff was recognized at the Dugong Bayani Awards for efforts to save lives through blood donations.
CFCA-Antipolo was among the national recipients of the Dugong Bayani Awards.
“Dugo” means blood, and “Bayani” means hero.
The award is a special recognition given to a group or organization by the Philippine Blood Center of the Department of Health. The award honors heroism in saving lives through blood donations.
Since 2002, CFCA-Antipolo has held blood drives with the families and the community.
Some communities are partnering with the Philippine National Red Cross and some with the Philippine Blood Center of the health department.
Many sponsored youth and their families, as well as project staffers, are blood donors. The ERPAT fathers groups often spearhead the blood donation activities. (ERPAT stands for Empowerment and Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities. The groups were started by dads of CFCA sponsored children.) Read more
Andres in Colombia holds one of the turtles he crafts out of recycled materials.
My name is Andres, and I have been sponsored for six years through CFCA in Colombia.
My father works as a bricklayer and my mother is a housekeeper. My father works by seasons, and sometimes we do not have any income to sustain our family.
One day I had a great idea. I went with my mother to the CFCA office where she met with her mothers group. I like to go and help her during the meetings. At the meeting, I met a mother who knows how to make crafts. She was making many things with plastic, and I was very curious about it. Read more of Andres’ story