Unbound’s director of sponsor experience, Mary Geisz, traveled to Kenya for the first time on an Unbound awareness trip, where she was rewarded beyond expectation.
By Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa
On an Unbound awareness trip, a group of sponsors arrived in Meru, Kenya, early in the morning, eager to meet their sponsored children. With dances and ululations (shouts of joy) from the mothers, the sponsors were ushered in, anticipation written on their faces.
The usually calm man from New Mexico, Jude Fournier, was not so calm on this particular day. The sponsor of twin girls Elizabeth and Faith for four years, he excitedly paced back and forth, overwhelmed with the anticipation of seeing the two girls.
The moment he had been waiting for had finally arrived.
By Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound
As concerns grow about the spread and potential effects of the Zika virus, some of our sponsors have asked whether Unbound will cancel any of our planned trips to the field. Many of these sponsors are traveling with Unbound on an awareness trip and are excited to meet their sponsored friend for the first time.
I am happy to say that we have no plans to cancel any of our upcoming trips.
As part of our standard procedures, the awareness trip coordinators and I monitor current events that could impact travelers. Here is some of the key information we are reading from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding Zika virus:
- “Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant.”
- “Pregnant women (should) consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.” Read more.
- A WHO committee advised on Feb. 1, 2016, “The Committee found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus. At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.”
Regardless of what is or isn’t making headlines, we urge all our travelers to read the CDC’s Traveler’s Health page and speak with a medical professional regarding travel and their health. We provide information useful for that conversation such as the elevation of the areas they’ll visit and whether or not the lodging is air conditioned. We also require pregnant travelers to obtain medical clearance from their doctor in order to travel with us.
Many illnesses can be avoided by preventing mosquito bites. We refer travelers to the CDC’s Mosquito Bite Prevention PDF for guidance on preventing mosquito bites. A favorite prevention method of our team is using Permethrin to treat clothing as directed by the CDC.
Karen Allemang, trip and volunteer manager for Unbound
Adilia is in her last year of college in El Salvador studying business with an emphasis in tourism. She knows that her key for success is education.
She said her challenge is to overcome her reality, and she opened her arms wide to show her home.
“We are a family living in poverty,” she said.
We’re excited to embark on our second annual blogger trip next week, and we hope you’ll follow along.
Five extraordinary bloggers and social media specialists will travel with Unbound to Guatemala where they’ll meet children, families and elders in the Unbound program. The bloggers will post stories and photos about their experiences on their blogs and social networks.
Want to help spread the word? You can follow the journey and share their stories on your own social media channels. Maybe you know someone who will be moved to sponsor a child!
Meet the team of bloggers traveling with us to Guatemala.
Want to learn more about our blogger trips? Read blog posts and meet the bloggers from our blogger trip to El Salvador in 2014.
Our third blogger trip will be in Merida, Mexico, in February 2016. Where should we travel for our fourth blogger trip? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.
By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor for Unbound
I witnessed generosity in abundance while in the Philippines for Pope Francis’ mid-January visit.
It was the kind of generosity in which people give, not from excess, but of themselves.
Pope Francis went to Tacloban to be with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan as another storm approached. I heard more than one person say how the gift of his presence gave them courage to face trials in their lives.
“He is one of us,” they said.
The people who sponsor through Unbound are a rather diverse group. Some sponsors are children still in grade school, while others have been retired for years. They represent an array of backgrounds, ethnicities, occupations and beliefs. And while the majority of our sponsors were born and raised in the United States, many were not.
Mercedes Lima has been a sponsor for 21 years. Though she has called Florida home for quite some time, she is originally from a small town in El Salvador.
“I grew up in a very poor place,” Mercedes said, “that’s why I understand the suffering and sadness when you don’t have an opportunity to move forward.”
By Elizabeth Alex, community outreach and media relations director for Unbound
You meet some of the nicest people in a slum.
I learned that lesson the moment Kusma welcomed me into her home — a tiny, two-room place packed into a congested street — with the sounds of motorcycles, car horns, cows, food carts and the chatter of children joining the smells of exhaust, cow dung, dust and curry just outside her door.
The “door” is actually a few cloths draped in front of the entrance. The roof is a piece of tarp attached by some sticks and rope.
I met Kusma at the Unbound office in Agra, where she helps her mothers group raise money sewing shoe covers for visitors to the Taj Mahal. She invited me to visit any time.
Read more about Elizabeth’s visit
Tom Slattery remembers the day he first saw a picture of Francisca, the elderly woman he sponsors in the Philippines.
He and his wife decided to sponsor someone after hearing a priest speak about Unbound at church one weekend. Tom’s wife, Nancy, chose a child. Tom picked Francisca after seeing her photo because “everybody was gravitating to the young people,” and he thought an older person would need support as well.
That was in 1996, when Francisca was 84. She’s 103 now.
“She is a beautiful human being,” Tom said. “She has meant a lot to me over the years, and to my wife.”