Tag: family

Mar 10 2018

Returning to their roots

Texas parents visit Guatemala with adopted sons

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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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.”

Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.
Jul 1 2017

Parents increase benefits using the power of community

Groups in Uganda, Philippines provide support and encouragement

Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.

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.

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An image of a woman filling out a workbook.
Jun 23 2017

Child accounts offer the most flexibility for families

Making sponsorship benefits personal

An image of a mother holding her son on her lap.

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.
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An image of Blanca wearing her running medals.
Jun 12 2017

Running for love

Guatemalan mom dedicated to family, sport


People go running for many reasons. Some do it to get healthy, some for the competition and some to support a cause. Blanca is a 29-year-old mom of four living in Guatemala whose daughter, Berberlin, 13, is sponsored by Wayne from Montana. Blanca is also a runner. Her main reason for running is simple: to support her family.
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Image = Emma with her sons, Jekim and Mark, and her husband, Danilo.
May 24 2017

Living Unbound: It’s difficult to overcome poverty without backup


By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor for Unbound

One reason it’s hard for families in poverty to get ahead is the lack of a financial cushion.

An illness, a natural disaster or a job loss can mean starting over when you have little or no savings. That vulnerability is something Unbound helps families address with support from sponsorship.

Our programs around the world help families build their capacity for personal and economic growth. Local staff works with families to set goals and make plans to achieve them. The aim is for families to be able to meet their basic needs through a combination of income they earn, access to capital and sponsorship benefits.

A key component on the path to self-sufficiency is savings.
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Apr 28 2017

Mothers invest in their children and community

Image = Emiliana and her daughter, Kenia, outside their home in Guatemala.

Emiliana and her daughter, Kenia, outside their home in Guatemala.

Mother’s Day is a special time for Unbound. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate the mothers in our lives and in our Unbound community.

Mothers are at the heart of the Unbound program. To put it simply, we believe in the wisdom of mothers. And honoring that wisdom is a key principle of how we operate.

In the countries where we work, mothers are most often the primary caregivers of their children. They work tirelessly to provide for their children the best opportunities for a happy, healthy life.

In a community in Guatemala, one expression of this care is a monthly neighborhood cleanup.

“We decided to do monthly cleanup activities because we wanted to have a nicer environment and we wanted to teach our children the importance of a clean community,” said mom Emiliana, whose 14-year-old daughter, Kenia, is sponsored through Unbound.

Emiliana leads an Unbound mothers group, in which 12 to 15 mothers of sponsored children gather monthly to discuss issues in their community, pray together and talk about their involvement in Unbound. She also serves as coordinator for the three additional mothers groups in her community.

The mothers work together to invest in their community and their children.

Each of the four mothers groups in Emiliana’s community clean a different area every month. They clean up roads, the town square, around the church and in neighborhoods. For communities where trash collection is haphazard, these cleanups significantly improve the health and beauty of the neighborhoods where the families live.

Image = Mothers in one Guatemalan community work together to improve their environment while mentoring their children.

Mothers in one Guatemalan community work together to improve their environment while mentoring their children.

But the cleanups aren’t just about neighborhood beautification.

These efforts are a way for the mothers to spend time with their children and model for them what it looks like to proactively invest in your community.

Emiliana says the activities have helped strengthen the bonds between mother and child and have been a great way for mothers to mentor teamwork and environmental consciousness in their children.

“I am happy because we are getting positive comments from our neighbors,” Emiliana said. “I think we are not only mentoring our kids, but also the rest of our community.”

As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, we recognize the multitude of ways that mothers around the world invest in their children and communities. Their hard work, dedication and unrelenting service and sacrifice inspire us. We’re thankful to partner with innovative moms the world over who are working every day for a better future.

Visit unbound.org/moms to learn more about how we invest in mothers.

Eustaquia stands arm in arm with her husband, Felipe, outside their home. After his accident, she became the family's main provider.
Mar 1 2017

An eye for value that others overlook

Elder in Mexico recycles for a living

People committed to recycling recognize beauty and worth in what others discard. Some also recognize a way to generate income. Eustaquia is an elder who recycles to earn a living. Now 76, she lives in Mexico with her husband, Felipe, whom she describes as her “wonderful companion.” Together, they raised seven children, now all grown and married.

Felipe was seriously injured in an accidental shooting 14 years ago, after which he suffered debilitating memory loss and was unable to work. As a result, Eustaquia needed to find a way to earn an income and began recycling.

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Peter (left) and his family sit on the front step of their new home.
Jan 13 2017

Building dreams in Tanzania

Family goes from renting to owning

Peter (left) and his family sit on the front step of their new home.

Peter (left) and his family sit on the front step of their new home.


For many in the Unbound community, meeting basic needs such as nutrition and housing were a daily challenge before being sponsored. For parents Peter and Agnes in Tanzania, unemployment and low wages made it difficult to earn enough money to send their children to school and improve their situation in life.

That changed when their youngest son, also named Peter, was sponsored.

With the help and support of their son’s sponsor, Mary from Missouri, and local Unbound staff, the couple took an important step on their journey out of poverty — building and owning their own home.

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Ofelia stands in the kitchen of the home she shares with her daughter and son-in-law in Guatemala.
Dec 30 2016

With age comes wisdom

Ofelia stands in the kitchen of the home she shares with her daughter and son-in-law in Guatemala.

Ofelia stands in the kitchen of the home she shares with her daughter and son-in-law in Guatemala.

Seventy-eight-year-old Ofelia proves the age-old adage, “with age comes wisdom,” to be true.

“My first advice is to trust God,” Ofelia said. “If you want life, ask for it. Pray. Get on your knees and ask God to give you more life.”

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