Tag: Living Unbound

Aug 18 2018

The grace of sponsorship flows both ways

Janelle Stramm with a photo of her late sponsored friend, Lucinda.


By Janelle Stamm, accounting specialist

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was beyond scared and prayed that God would be with me for whatever was ahead.

Soon afterward, in the spirit of dedicating my cancer journey for a higher purpose, I decided to sponsor an elder through Unbound. I chose an 84-year-old woman named Lucinda from Guatemala. What drew me to Lucinda was that her Unbound profile said she had remained strong in her faith through illness. When I read about her, I thought we were in similar situations because

I, too, was relying on my faith to navigate my way through having cancer.
Though we were both sick, the health care options available to us were vastly different. I had access to excellent health care choices and she had only medicine to relieve pain. But she had spiritual wealth and shared it by visiting others who were sick. Her practice of offering compassion had a profound impact on me. It gave me hope for whatever was ahead for me.
Soon after my treatment, I was back to doing everything I did before like running and yoga. Yet, I felt different. I felt more joyful about everything. Faced with my own mortality, I learned how God is present in our lives and how to recognize his presence through my relationships with others.

Lucinda and I exchanged many letters before she passed away. Although she could not write herself, her sentiments were shared by a social worker named Ingrid. With Ingrid’s help, Lucinda and I shared our favorite colors and flowers.

I was humbled when I read in a letter, “Mrs. Lucinda thanks you for the help you give her every month, since she is able to receive vegetables that are very useful so she can eat very well.” And I was again humbled when, in another letter, Ingrid wrote, “Mrs. Lucinda …. always asks God to bless you in all your daily activities.”

After corresponding for more than a year, I finally shared with Lucinda how much she influenced me. I’ll never know her reaction because she passed away shortly afterward.

In her honor, I participated in a triathlon, raising funds for the Unbound Health Fund. After the event, I wrote a card to Lucinda’s family. I shared with them how she greatly influenced me, and that I was honored to know her, even though it was for a short while.

Sponsored elder Teresa, in Guatemala, takes care of her grandson Luis. In the evenings, Luis reads to his grandmother. It is a special moment of sharing for both of them.
Jul 28 2018

Everyone craves connection


At Unbound we focus on relationships. In partnership with the families we serve, we build communities of trust, accountability, mutual learning and respect. When combined with financial support, the bonds of love formed between sponsors and sponsored friends and their families become pivotal to the success, improved health and happiness of those we serve. We believe the relationship thrives in part by its reciprocal nature. Both parties, sponsored friends and sponsors, blossom and benefit because of it.

While this connection is important for children and youth in their growth, it’s especially critical for elders as they cope with the social isolation that often comes with aging. And the problem of isolation is likely to grow as the world’s population gets older.

According to the 2015 U.N. “World Population Aging” report, “Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. Population aging — the increasing share of older persons in the population — is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.”

In our “Living Unbound: The resiliency of elders” series, we explore our distinctive and trailblazing approach to serving this aging demographic. Members of the Unbound community also share with us some of the blessings and challenges they’ve experienced along the way.

In Nairobi, sponsored elder Erastus demonstrates his determination in searching for a community of peace and acceptance. Unbound staff member Janelle Stamm recounts how she bonded with her late sponsored elder, Lucinda in Guatemala. Each account reveals real hopes and real hurdles. They confirm that the elderly have much to teach and much more to do. Improved quality of life and increased social interactions help them share their hard-earned gifts with others. We also take a look in this issue at steps we’ve taken to disrupt elder isolation, as well as introduce readers to how we’re seeking to measure our results.

Unbound strives to offer quality and necessary services for elders. Human connection remains an important aspect, one that requires the participation of sponsors, staff members, communities of sponsored individuals and their families, and countless others.

Feb 3 2018

A home in the hills, a school in the city

Sandra, a sponsored youth and Unbound scholar in El Salvador, logs many miles in her pursuit of an education. Her tenacity is serving her well as she makes steady progress toward a degree in English literature.


This is the fourth and final post in a series of stories focusing on the challenges of finding adequate, affordable housing in the economically developing world. It is told through photographs and originally appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of our print publication Living Unbound.

By Henry Flores, communications liaisons director

Poverty limits the creation of dreams, blocks visualization of goals and buries hopes. But poverty isn’t something everybody experiences in the same way. It’s an individual, personal and intricate problem.

Some people face a lack of decent housing, while others have a hard time getting to school or just can’t pay for their next meal. The time and energy they spend on finding ways to solve their daily struggles takes away from the time, vision and resources they need to build a better future.

Sandra, 23, always dreamed of attending college. Her father, a coffee farmworker, and her mother, who works as a cook, barely earn enough to cover the needs of their family of five, and providing a college education for Sandra wasn’t a possibility.
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Jan 27 2018

Through the eyes of a camera

This is the third in a series of stories focusing on the challenges of finding adequate, affordable housing in the economically developing world. It is told through photographs and originally appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of our print publication Living Unbound.

Navigating their way

Eleven-year-old Stephanie and her mom, Joy, cross the Almacen River every day to go to school and work. Located in the Bataan province in the Philippines, the Almacen is typically 18 to 25 feet deep, but in heavy rains can overflow its banks and flood nearby homes. The boat ride takes 10 to 15 minutes, and Stephanie walks another 10 minutes to school. While she and her mom have grown accustomed to the boat ride, the risks of this mode of travel remain.
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An image of a girl in traditional Guatemalan clothing riding a bike.
Jul 17 2017

This is what makes Unbound different

An image of a girl in traditional Guatemalan clothing riding a bike.

Sponsored child Merlyn, 12, enjoys riding her bike in the streets around her home in Guatemala. Merlyn’s parents, like others in the Unbound program, have a voice in choosing the benefits that best serve their family’s needs.


The stories in our recent issue of Living Unbound are about the innovative ways that your sponsorship helps people around the world, delivering personalized benefits that give families the means to lift themselves out of poverty.

What you may not see is how exceptional these solutions are. Unbound is leading the way toward a new kind of service. The programs that you support look first to the wisdom and the creativity of the people we all serve. Conditional cash transfers help families take charge of their own lives. Parent groups provide opportunities for members to take microloans to start businesses and change whole communities.

And these methods work. Contrary to the myth that giving people money makes them lazy, research around the world shows that conditional cash transfers like the ones Unbound employs have positive long-term impacts. Children stay in school longer, their overall educational and health outcomes improve and they grow up to get better jobs.

Together, you and the rest of the Unbound community of sponsors provide opportunity.
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Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.
Jul 1 2017

Parents increase benefits using the power of community

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

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 an Indian woman cutting excess plastic off bottles.
Jun 14 2017

Living Unbound: In photos

It took a village
An image of 10-year-old Jonah sitting outside his school in Kampala, Uganda.
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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Image = Ndagire sets dishes on a drying rack after washing them. Her Unbound parent group taught her about the hygienic benefits of a dish rack.
May 31 2017

Living Unbound: Parent groups support safety, health

Image = Ndagire sets dishes on a drying rack after washing them. Her Unbound parent group taught her about the hygienic benefits of a dish rack.

Ndagire sets dishes on a drying rack after washing them. Her Unbound parent group taught her about the hygienic benefits of a dish rack.

As we’ve shared in blog posts over the last few weeks, Unbound’s highly personalized benefits are creating opportunity for families of all types around the world. In Uganda, parents of sponsored children are taking steps toward safety and health in their homes with the help of sponsorship.

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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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