By Regina Mburu, Unbound’s communications liaison for Africa
Regina Mburu and sponsored elder Michel in Madagascar.
Sponsored elder Michel from Madagascar.
Visiting Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, I felt the refreshing breeze of renewed energy and excitement blowing my way.
Madagascar is located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. I was a bit nervous about the weather because the last time I visited, which was four years ago, there was a day that was so chilly I had to ask for extra blankets from the hotel where I was staying. It was a pleasant welcome when I arrived to see a brilliant blue sky and feel the sun’s rays cast their glow on my skin.
My colleagues from our program in Madagascar were waiting for me at the airport. As it is often said, a radiant smile is the universal sign of welcome. I felt welcomed.
Sponsored youth Damaris, 23, has faced an uphill battle since childhood to complete her education. Nevertheless, she’s close to reaching her goal of a college degree in human resources.
Every path out of poverty is lined with obstacles. Damaris’ journey has been extraordinarily difficult.
Most sponsored children need additional support to help them continue their studies past primary school. For Damaris, it took sponsorship support and her willingness to work while attending school to afford her living and education expenses.
It took a village
Jonah, 10, sits outside his school in Kampala, Uganda. When his mother, Jane, moved away temporarily for work, Jonah struggled to stay in school. Members of the local Unbound mothers group stepped in to provide support and help him keep up his studies. Today, Jonah is doing well in school, loves math, and Jane is back home and active in the mothers group.
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Blanca sits outside her home with her two youngest sons, Mynor (left) and Osber (right).
Blanca displays some of the trophies she has won at running competitions.
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.
Ronaldo takes his sheep out to graze in a field near his home. He has raised livestock since he was first sponsored in 2006.
Ronaldo is an 18-year-old sponsored youth
who lives with his parents and five siblings in Guatemala. He’s an impressive young man with wisdom beyond his years, and he learned early on one of life’s most valuable lessons about economics.
“Saving is very hard because we always need the money,” he said, “but spending it can be very easy. You have to really think about how you will spend your money and spend it right.”
Ronaldo thinks a lot about “spending it right,” and that farsightedness has guided him ever since he first became sponsored in 2006. (His current sponsor is Michael from Arkansas.) It led Ronaldo to choose livestock as a sponsorship benefit, a choice he’s never regretted.
Jane and her son, Jonah, who is sponsored through Unbound and has been cared for by many other mothers in the community.
From left: Annet, Sarah and Joyce, members of the Unbound mothers group who supported and cared for Jonah while his mother was away working.
“We are all family,” said Annet, a mother who chairs an Unbound parents group in Uganda. “We keep check of each other.”
It’s not a stretch to say that without this community care, 10-year-old sponsored child Jonah’s life might have turned out differently.
The families Unbound works with around the world face significant challenges in creating a better future for their children.
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.
Trailblazer Gary Thompson celebrates after finishing the 2016 Hospital Hill Run half marathon course in Kansas City, Missouri.
Run 70 marathons by age 70.
That was Gary Thompson’s goal, and he exceeded it. His most recent race was the Shamrock Marathon last month in Virginia Beach. It was his 72nd marathon at “70 years young,” he said.
For Gary, a professor in the law and criminal justice department at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, running is about more than fitness. It’s about travel, being social and doing something good for others.
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Eusebio enjoys some time outdoors with his “soulmate,” wife Tiburcia.
Sometimes a person doesn’t realize how bad things have been until they begin to see how much better they can be.
That’s the way it was for sponsored elder Eusebio, 73, from Guatemala. Six years ago he injured his leg while collecting firewood. But because he couldn’t afford proper medical care, the wound never healed and eventually developed into a trophic ulcer.
When Eusebio became sponsored through Unbound in 2014, he was finally able to see a doctor. He learned just how close he had come to losing his leg and, possibly, his life. He began receiving treatment, which continues today.
By Becky Findley, Unbound International Evaluations Manager and Unbound Trailblazer
Becky Findley after completing the 2015 Kansas City Marathon as an Unbound Trailblazer.
Becky Findley (left) with fellow Unbound Trailblazer Xandra Alpiser.
We’ve all been there. That point during a run when you begin to think — “how much longer? Why am I even doing this anyway?” Unbound Trailblazer and staff member Becky Findley shares her reflection on her pursuit to overcome these feelings and become a “real” runner.
I’ve almost reached mile 22, and I’m feeling beat. The weather is unseasonably warm and humid, and my legs are sore. I signed up for this marathon to test my limits, and, in this moment, I think I’ve found them. In this moment, the topic cycling my brain is the question of why I signed up for this race.
Like most runners who began in adulthood, starting to run was a struggle. Going to the park was a humbling act. Other runners zipped past with an elegant combination of speed and athleticism while I struggled to find my stride with the grace of a duck. Quickly, I’d lose my breath, slow to a walk and wonder if I would ever be a “real” runner.