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I heard a short story today about my fellow traveler Bert. It sort of perfectly exemplifies the countless ways in which Unbound sponsorship can bless and change lives… not only for the sponsored child or elder friend but for the sponsor too!
Bert visited the “comfort room” at his outing today. Afterwards, he proceeded to the centralized hand washing station, which was situated between the men’s and women’s facilities. At the sinks, he encountered a young girl. He watched as the precious little one pushed with all her might on the faucet. With concentration, she tried numerous ways to get the water to come out. But all to no avail. Bert then quietly got her attention and waved a few fingers in front of the sink’s sensor. Immediately, fresh water came from the sink and the little girl could wash her hands. Delighted, she soaped up and scrubbed her hands. Then, ready to rinse the soap, she turned to Bert again–surely he was the magic man who knew how to make water flow! Wordlessly, Bert smiled and again waved his fingers and the water, and another set of smiles, appeared.
A sponsor, a small act of support and encouragement, a little “lesson”. A big blessing for both of the people involved…
Photos from Manila Antipolo Day:
Every day here in the Philippines, I’m learning about the countless ways Unbound sponsorship touches the lives of those served by this organization. Today, we witnessed some of the programs that enable not only sponsored children but also their parents to lift themselves from challenging circumstances created by poverty, calamity and societal challenges.
After a birthday celebration for Gari, Nate and Mavic, our driver Dario whisked us across Quezon City, our home for these few days, to Antipolo. Once again, as we neared our destination, small groups of Unbound families began to appear alongside the busy streets. They waved handmade flags and signs, flashed bright smiles and greeted us as though we were visiting royalty. I’ve found this amazingly hospitable welcome to be a tradition in the Philippines. Wherever we go, we are welcomed with open and loving arms.
At our first stop in Antipolo, we attended a fascinating meeting of Unbound parents who participate in Unbound’s Family Savings Program for parents of sponsored Unbound children and youth. Meeting in small groups, the participants assemble twice a month to put money into combined savings accounts and to lend to other community members. These loans are used to build small businesses. The members own and operate their own businesses as cooks, convenience store owners, ceramics artists, seamstresses and even rice vendors! During the first portion of our meeting, the members conducted their “SWOT” analysis to discuss the successes, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing their entrepreneurial efforts.
Next, we broke into small groups with two sponsors entering into personal encounter with the women. Don and I sat together in a group of women who not only participate in Unbound together, but who also support each other as neighbors and friends. As one of the members, a single mother of six whose husband passed away, shared her challenges, the obvious love of this group was poured out in front of us. With very little safety net around her, this member not only serves her family and runs her business. She also makes time to volunteer at her children’s school in the feeding program. One of her daughters is part of Unbound as a sponsored child. The program has provided not only financial support and fellowship, but also a path to a brighter future for both daughter and mother.
Far too soon, we had to say goodbye to these amazing women and travel to our next destination: the Antipolo staff offices. There, over a delicious lunch prepared by Unbound volunteer moms, our staff “angels” Carmen and Raygie gave us an overview of their services in this part of Manila. A white board in the office gave an overview of the members served by their staff of six during the month of February: 352 sponsored children (ages 6 to 12), 570 sponsored youth (ages 13 to 20), 275 college students (the Service Scholars), and 131 aging sponsored members–a total of 1,328 individuals. In truth, the impact is much larger because only one family member is officially counted into these statistics. But as we have seen, the entire family is included in the supportive services Unbound provides.
- Take the challenges
- Have faith in God
- Set your goal
- Know your priorities
- Believe in yourself
- ACT ON IT (emphasis theirs)
- Manage your time wisely
- Apply your learnings in real life situations
- Do your best
- Be positive
- Never give up
The next stop on our agenda saw these commitments brought to life. At the Community-based Entrepreneurs’ Expo, we witnessed what those savings and lending communities have created. Gathered with hundreds of Unbound parents, we had the chance to purchase handcrafted items from the small businesses they run, fueled by loans from their Family Savings programs. Time and time again, I was not only astounded by the quality of their products but also by the ways in which these members have beat the odds to strive for brighter futures. Being with them, witnessing their courage but also their inventiveness, makes me want to strive to do more in my own work.
Why? Because when we prosper, we are more readily able to share our gifts with those around us.
One of my final encounters of the day was with Mark, a young professional who came to the Expo to offer his personal testimonial. Mark became a sponsored child at the age of seven. Now, several years later, he is not only a professional working with Accenture, but also an Unbound supporter. Like many of the Unbound “graduates” we met who are now sponsors, Mark understands the amazing difference that one sponsor’s financial contributions can make in the life of a child or aging friend. He shared with tears in his eyes not only his gratitude for Unbound as an organization, but also for the sacrifices his sponsor’s family has made to support him and his family. Mark gives back now, because he believes in the mission of Unbound.
Mark’s is a story of hope. Being here this week fuels me to do more, to be better, to dream big, but also to try in some way to mirror the Unbound member families’ love and hope in my own little community. My photo of that “Commitments” sign will be going up on the wall in my office!
And you? How has witnessing what I’m sharing here this week touched your heart?
If you feel at all moved by what you’ve been reading, today would be the perfect day to “ACT ON IT” by becoming an Unbound sponsor!
My patron saints for this adventure will be St. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and his companions, who gave their lives for their faith, and Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance). Please join me in praying for Our Lady’s intercession in the work of Unbound and for the courage and conviction of St. Lorenzo to lovingly reach out to those most in need.