Tag: love

Feb 10 2018

A celebration of ‘togetherness’

Indian family surprises St. Louis couple with a traditional wedding ceremony

Jeff Smith, Amy Benoist and their sponsored friend, Sravanthi, pause for a photo outside Sravanthi’s home in India. Jeff and Amy visited Sravanthi as part of an Unbound Awareness Trip.

When Amy Benoist and Jeff Smith of St. Louis got married in 2015, little did they know they’d have a second wedding just two years later — in India.

A sponsor through Unbound since 2012, Amy had planned to visit her sponsored friend, 19-year-old Sravanthi of India, as soon as she was able to save up the vacation time. In October of last year, she and Jeff set out on an Unbound Awareness Trip to meet Sravanthi and experience the beauty of India together.

Amy had written to Sravanthi six months earlier to let her know she and Jeff were planning to visit. That’s when Sravanthi’s family got the idea to surprise the couple with a traditional Indian wedding ceremony.
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An elderly woman stands outside her home.
Dec 23 2017

A simple Christmas wish

Sponsored elder, Unbound staffer share Christmas joy

An elderly woman stands outside her home.

Sponsored elder Salvacion stands outside her home in Zambaoanga, Philippines.

Throughout the year, Unbound’s communications liaisons interview dozens of people to help us share the stories of the people we serve. Sometimes, they meet someone who inspires them in unexpected ways. That’s what happened to Tristan John Cabrera, who is based out of an Unbound office in Quezon City, Philippines, when he visited 84-year-old sponsored elder Salvacion in Zamboanga. Salvacion has been sponsored by Stephanie from Louisiana for almost 16 years.

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” (Psalm 71:9)

On a recent visit to our program in Zamboanga, in the southern part of our country, I felt so touched by a particular elder from there. Her name is Salvacion, or “Lola (Grandma) Salvacion,” as they call her. Many residents of Zamboanga, including Salvacion, speak a Spanish-based language called Chavacano. Visiting the city, I heard, “Bienvenidos de Zamboanga,” which means welcome to Zamboanga. I don’t understand much of the Chavacano language, but since some residents also speak Filipino, which I speak, we can still communicate.

Here in the Philippines, we are very caring toward our grandparents. We take care of them no matter how hard it is, most especially if the elder is bedridden or unable to walk anymore. I remember my “Lola” (grandmother) who took care of me when I was a child while my parents were working. I wasn’t able to take care of her when she was really weak because of her age, as I was only 7 years old. I wished I was old enough at that time to give my Lola all the best care that I could give.

Salvacion lives in a small home made up of scrap materials that might collapse anytime. The pathway going to her house is flooded with thick mud, and I myself was actually hesitant to walk on it. She just wears her old boots and washes them out as she goes back and forth.

According to her neighbor, who also happens to be a sponsored elder, Lola Salvacion is a strong woman. She lives independently. She doesn’t bother her neighbors just to ask for food or drinking water. They just check on her every morning to see if she is still OK, and sometimes they give her food.

It must be really hard for Lola Salvacion to live alone in the area, especially considering her age. At 84, she can still walk, but you can see she is already struggling. Her voice is husky and dry, with teary eyes. I notice her back is already bending as she stands and walks. But seeing her without anyone who could hold her hands while walking is very painful for me. Everyone with me is looking at her as she walks in the mud, thinking she might fall.

Everyone is saying, “Ingat ingat nay,” or “Careful, Mother.”

I am holding my camera because I want to show people how strong she is through the pictures and videos.

As we go along in my interview, I ask her if she has one wish for Christmas, what would it be? She said it would be to eat chicken, either adobo chicken (a Filipino specialty with meat marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and other seasonings) or fried chicken. Do you know what comes to my mind? (And I know if you are in my position, you will do the same thing.) I decided to treat her to lunch, together with the program staff and our driver. It’s a surprise for her.

We visited a food chain serving fried chicken. Lola Salvacion looks so happy seeing where we are heading (going to Jolibee, a popular restaurant in the Philippines). We ordered what she likes with fries and a soft drink. I decided to pack my food and give it to her. She accepted it and told me that she will just eat it tomorrow. She also packed the remaining foods that she had and she said, “I can reserve these foods and eat it when I get hungry.”

After we ate, she confidently smiled at me. She said, “’Thank you very much,’ and I said, “’No, no, no, I must be the one to say thank you. You are really inspiring, you touched my heart, and I know your sponsor and the others will be happy to see your story.’”

Sometimes there’s no need to ask too many questions because the answer is already there in your eyes. The way I look at her, I remember my grandmother and how she would do everything to take care of me while my parents were at work. Lola Salvacion’s situation, living alone, is not common here in the Philippines. We really take care of our grandparents. We do everything we can to assist them until the end.

I know Lola Salvacion she has already found a family through Unbound. Love of neighbor, love coming from staff and parent leaders, her sponsor and love coming from within. That’s what makes Lola Salvacion keep on going strong in whatever challenges she encounters.

Let’s give love to our grandparents. They are also the reason why we are here in this world. They made a lot of history to secure our future right now.

Give love to the grandparents of the world. Sponsor an elder today.

Claudia, right, with sponsored child Josesuan, center, and her mother, Evelin.
Mar 20 2017

Love crosses all cultures

Unbound staff member reflects on lessons from travels

Claudia, right, with sponsored child Josesuan, center, and her mother, Evelin.

Claudia, right, with sponsored child Josesuan, center, and her mother, Evelin.

By Claudia Vázquez-Puebla, outreach volunteer director for Unbound

Thirty-three years ago, my father made the decision to move our family from Zacatecas, Mexico, to the U.S. Having four daughters and a son, he wanted all of us to have an opportunity to get an education and have better options for our futures.

Many generous people guided and cared for us as we were welcomed into schools and communities in Oklahoma and Kansas. This afforded us opportunities to earn college degrees and work in careers focused on giving back to our communities.

In the last four years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with Unbound to Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Philippines and, most recently, India. All of these countries are characterized by vibrant cultures, patriotism, passionate Unbound staff and, most importantly, sponsored members overcoming poverty. The families that I met have grounded me spiritually and challenged me to think about my needs versus my wants. These are important lessons that have reminded me of my own journey out of poverty.

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Sponsored elder Eusebio, 73, from Guatemala.
Feb 22 2017

Enjoying the benefits of restored health

Guatemalan elder finds new perspective on life

Eusebio enjoys some time outdoors with his "soulmate," wife Tiburcia.

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.

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Julia, a sponsored elder from Bolivia.
Feb 15 2017

For the love of God

Bolivian elder living out compassion and forgiveness

Julia and her husband, Dionicio, in their home in Bolivia.

Julia and her husband, Dionicio, in their home in Bolivia.

The experience of having been hurt by others is, sadly, not an uncommon part of the story of many elderly people who live in poverty. Being poor carries with it great vulnerability and it only increases with age.

Many endure their hurts with grace and even learn to forgive. Those who find it within themselves to not only forgive, but actually reach out in compassion to the people who’ve wronged them, inspire us.

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Aug 31 2015

Finding golden friendships in his golden years

Alan, a 75-year-old sponsored elder in Costa Rica.

Alan, a 75-year-old sponsored elder in Costa Rica.

At 75, Alan would not strike anyone as a likely candidate for adoption. But the Unbound mothers group in his community didn’t let that stand in their way. They have taken Alan into their hearts and care for him as one of their own.
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Feb 14 2013

Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Guatemala

CFCA-Guatemala celebrates Valentine's Day

Irma, an Unbound social worker, and the “secret friend” gift box for Valentine’s Day in Guatemala.

Valentine’s Day in Guatemala is known as “the day of love and friendship.”

In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, some Unbound staffers organize giving activities to make the occasion extra special!

“On Feb. 1 we make little pieces of paper with our names on them,” said Irma Leticia Raquec Ros, an Unbound social worker. “Everyone gets to pick one. The person whose name appears on the little piece of paper will be your secret friend for the next couple of weeks.”

Every day after that, Irma said, staffers will bring small items such as cookies, chips and candy into the office and put them into the “secret friend” gift box (the bright red box pictured next to Irma).

“We have fun playing this game,” said Rocio Esmeralda Suguach, another Unbound social worker. “At break time we all come rushing to see what we got!”

On the big day, Feb. 14, the Unbound staffers will bring a larger gift such as a teddy bear, roses, clothing or special chocolates. Then the gift-givers reveal themselves to their no-longer-secret friends!

“Every day is a special day, but Valentine’s Day gives us the opportunity to say ‘I love you,’ ‘You are special’ and ‘Thank you’ to our friends, family and everyone that touches our lives,” Irma said.

CFCA-Guatemala staff celebrate Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from this Unbound office in Guatemala!

Feb 7 2012

Twitter chat: Love and marriage traditions around the world (#cfcachat)

CFCA Twitter chat in February 2012

Yesterday we conducted a Twitter chat about love and marriage traditions around the world. It’s just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Read the highlights: “Love and marriage traditions around the world” on Storify

We’re grateful for all the participation and engagement during this hour-long chat. If you haven’t had a chance yet to join our Twitter chats, we’d love to see you next time!

Feb 7 2011

Marriage traditions in Guatemala

Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and in the spirit of love, affection and marriage, we thought we’d share with you some marriage customs in Guatemala.

Henry Orlando, 24, was sponsored through Unbound from 1996 to 2008, when he graduated as an agricultural technician. He married Silvia, on Nov. 27, 2010. In this interview, Henry describes the traditions before and during his marriage ceremony.

How did you get engaged?

Silvia and I were engaged for three and a half years. Around Christmas 2009, we decided to get married.

We fixed the date for ìla pedidaî (asking the bride’s parents for her hand in marriage). Our ìpedidaî took place April 1, 2010. Usually an engagement ring is given, but I did not have the means to do so since I am attending the university.

Guatemalan bridal party

Pictures of the bridal party after the wedding service.

All my family acted as ìtortulerosî ó people who intercede for the groom during the pedida. My mother cooked a turkey, chicken and baskets of bread for my wife’s family as a sign of my commitment.

There is always a feeling of anxiety or fear during the pedida because the bride’s parents may be less than amicable or because they may not like the groom.

During the pedida a time is set aside for ìlos consejosî (advice). I received advice from my wife’s parents.

The custom is to get down on one’s knees in front of the older members of the bride’s family and listen to them offer advice for a good marriage. I had to listen to the advice of eight people.

Generally, the tradition in Patz˙n is to have three such pedida ceremonies, but my wife is from a distant village, so we only had one.

Tell us about the wedding.

The wedding took place in Patz˙n on a Saturday. My wife and her family left early from their village to have breakfast at my aunt’s house. Typically, they are served tamales and French bread.

My wife’s family arrived in Patz˙n at 6 a.m. The wedding was at 11 a.m. Two buses transported about 150 people and my family’s guests. Approximately 300 people attended.

The ladies in my family dressed Silvia in my home. She walked to church with her family, I walked with my family, and there, the two families met.

Two children carrying pillows with the wedding rings enter first. Another child carries the ìarrasî ó 13 coins the groom offers the bride after the ring ceremony so God may give them abundance and well-being. The bride and groom enter next. Two children hold up the veil.

After we were married, the best man and matron of honor put over our shoulders a cord to symbolize our union as a couple.

A private lawyer married us at Silvia’s house in a civil wedding one month before the religious wedding.

What does the bride wear? The bridegroom?

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