Ingrid (left), a sponsored youth in Guatemala, displays her high school diploma with her mother, Rosalinda, in front of their home.
By Stacy King, lead trip coordinator
As a member of the Unbound trips team, I’ve had the honor of traveling with sponsors and coworkers abroad, and meeting some awesome sponsored families. Many of the families have shared their beautiful and inspirational life stories, and hearing them never grows old. But every once in a while, a story will connect and touch my heart in a special way.
Saritha Mendanha, program coordinator in Hyderabad, India, presents at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.
Saritha Mendanha is Unbound’s program coordinator in Hyderabad, India. With two master’s degrees, in social work and counseling & psychotherapy, Saritha has worked for Unbound for eight years. She began as the program coordinator in Chennai in 2009 and took on the same role in Hyderabad — Unbound’s largest project in India — in 2012.
Unbound has 37 projects in the 19 countries where we work. The projects serve as regional hubs in areas where sponsored members live, and are the coordinating centers for community-based programs that span the area. Each of these hubs is led by a coordinator who helps guide and manage the Unbound program in that area.
At both Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 and at an employee-wide presentation earlier in the week, Saritha shared about the innovative programs happening in her project in Hyderabad. With an emphasis on guiding and mentoring young adults, the Hyderabad program is finding unique — and fun — ways for sponsored children and young adults to find their path in life.
Cristina and her husband, Epifanio, in their home.
Whether it’s providing workshops for sponsored members and their families or encouraging children and youth to stay in school, education has always been a pillar of the Unbound program. And we know that each person has unique needs and abilities, so Unbound social workers work with sponsored members to find the education that’s the best fit, from taking formal classes during the week or opting for technical school or a training program.
With the assistance they receive from Unbound, individuals around the world are choosing to continue their education, and some are even able return to their studies after having to take a break. And Unbound doesn’t just limit the encouragement to children and youth. One of the best examples of this is sponsored elder Cristina from Guatemala. Cristina is 63 years old and has been a part of the Unbound program for more than four years.
Maria, 22, is a former sponsored member who now works as a social worker for Unbound while pursuing a nursing degree.
Children learn many things from their parents. Maria, 22, from Costa Rica, is going to school to become a nurse, has a job as a social worker with Unbound and is a former sponsored member and scholarship recipient through Unbound. She credits her parents, Francisco and Maria, with teaching her and her eight siblings many important lessons. One of the many values she and her brothers and sisters have learned from their parents’ example is the importance of hard work.
“We have always worked, since we were children,” Maria said. “Our parents instilled [work ethic] in us and taught us to recognize the value of things. By working, we learned to fight for what we wanted. In spite of the fact that we had to work, we had a very beautiful childhood.”
Charles welcomes customers to his tailoring business.
Charles works on a garment that he will later sell.
When hit with a tragedy, the idea of moving forward can be daunting. For 62-year-old Charles from Kenya, his wife’s passing meant learning how to function without his life and business partner.
Raising 14 children and grandchildren together, including their 13-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, who is sponsored through Unbound in 2011, Charles and his wife knew they had to maintain steady sources of income. His wife had opened a small tailoring shop, and Charles started working with her after he lost his position as a supervisor in a sugar company nearly 20 years ago.
“I had taken my wife to a tailoring school and she had learned to make women’s clothes,” Charles said. “I learned from a friend how to make men’s clothes. … We made a strong team.”
Brayan smiles as he does his homework because he likes to study and is proud of the good grades he gets.
For Brayan, an 11-year-old boy in Bolivia, sponsorship through Unbound could not have come at a better time.
After his father left three years ago, Brayan and his family were in a tough situation. His mother, Lucretia, had to leave then 8-year-old Brayan at home with his older sister for long periods while she worked far away to pay off a bank loan. Fortunately, Brayan heard about Unbound from a friend at school who was sponsored.
“I told my mother and she was able to reach the office and talk to the coordinator,” Brayan said. “I have now been sponsored for three years. I had to wait for about a year to find a sponsor.”
Alexander is a scholarship student in Lima, Peru. He was initially attracted to acting, but his teacher saw that he had a knack for art. Alexander chose to pursue graphic design to connect art and media, a perfect choice for today’s technological age .
Beatriz is an Unbound scholar in Santa Ana, El Salvador. She grew up walking an hour each way to school, and now her perseverance still shows in her commitment to her studies and supporting her mother.
On Nov. 29, help students achieve their goals in higher education by donating to our Education fund on #GivingTuesday.
When you support education through Unbound, you’re investing in the dreams of students. Your contribution means children and young adults can continue their education into secondary schools, technical schools or even university programs.
On this fifth annual International Day of the Girl Child, we join in calling attention to global efforts to ensure equality, offer opportunities and provide safe environments for the world’s 1.1 billion girls, so they may grow up happy, healthy and ready to meet the future.
Gilberta (front), her mother, Cristina (center), and sisters Nicolasa (left) and Juana are a close-knit family.
Gilberta heads to school with her book and pink backpack. “I love school,” she said.
For this observance, we highlight one girl’s story and her future goals.
Read about Gilberta
Yami is a sponsored youth in El Salvador.
For some Unbound families, there are more obstacles to receiving an education than just the cost. For 18-year-old Yami, it has been a struggle to complete her education because her family lives in a remote, mountainous village in El Salvador.
After finishing the 9th grade, Yami temporarily stopped attending school. The nearest high school is hours away, and the transportation cost and distance became too overwhelming for the family.
The trek to the highway is an hour walk or a 40-minute horseback ride. It goes along a deserted path and across a river. On top of all this, it’s not safe for Yami to travel alone, so her father, Jaime, accompanies her.
However, she is determined to finish school.
Social worker Anibal Perez (right) visits with Angelica and Emerson, the mother and brother of sponsored child Ada in Guatemala. As a student, Anibal was sponsored and had a scholarship through Unbound. Because he comes from similar circumstances as the families in the program, he says, “I understand their struggle. …”
Former sponsored child
and scholarship recipient
Anibal Perez remembers how important support from the Unbound staff was growing up.
Now, in his role as a social worker with Unbound in Guatemala, Anibal works with 322 children and their families to support them and be part of their lives.
“I understand their struggle and can be sort of a role model for them,” he said.
Anibal credits his family, his sponsors (Dennis and Mary in Illinois) and the Unbound staff for making it possible for him to graduate from high school.