Sponsor a child

When This Couple Decided To Sponsor A Child, Little Did They Know It Was The Start Of A Beautiful Friendship

For over 41 years, Unbound’s unique referral program has profoundly changed the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world.

In 1996, a visiting priest arrived in Baudette, Minnesota, and spoke to parishioners at Sacred Heart Church about an anti-poverty organization called the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA). He then presented packets with photos of individuals in developing countries who needed sponsorship. As married couple Mary and Jerry Drewes watched, a little Filipino boy named Edmond caught their eye. This was the start of what was to become a life changing experience for many years of their lives.

CFCA, based in Kansas City, was founded in 1981 by brothers Bob, Bud and Jim Hentzen, their sister Nadine Hentzen Pearce and friend Jerry Tolle. Bob and Jerry had been former missionaries in Latin America where they had witnessed the devastating effects of poverty on families who wanted a better life for their children. With the faith and teaching of the Church as guides, the Founders “envisioned a program that would invite people to partner with families to support, encourage and empower them.”

Much later, in 2014, the association changed its name to “Unbound”. It currently operates in 19 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia and partners of more than 278,000 children, seniors and their families with more than 229,000 sponsors.

The overwhelming nature of sponsorship

Over the years, Mary and Jerry have had a sponsorship relationship with eight people through Unbound. The couple – who are parents to three adult children, an adopted son and a daughter who is now with God – say the sponsorship has been hugely rewarding.

Catherine (left) helps her sister, Milagros, with a coloring activity in the family home in Ecuador. The financial support the family receives through sponsorship from Milagros has been of great help. Parents Veronica and Caesar (not pictured) used funds for food, a bed and mattress for Milagros, and supplies and uniforms for his education.

Photo courtesy of Unbound

“Little Edmond from the Philippines was our first,” says Mary. “We then sponsored his sister who is a college graduate and primary school teacher. Jerry sponsored an elderly woman in Ecuador who suffered from arthritis – she has since passed away. And more recently, we sponsored a Tanzanian girl in her late teens who dreamed of starting her own business. She stayed in the program while attending business school, was able to purchase a plot of land for her business as well as housing for herself and her family.

Currently, the Drewes are sponsoring three children: a boy from Kenya, a girl from Madagascar and a grade 6 boy who lives in a crowded slum in Ecuador.

Mary says what separates Unbound’s programs from others she knows are “the relationships that are built and the reciprocal gifts of all the stakeholders involved, which are at the very heart of the program and at the heart of our beliefs. Christians”.

In Mary and Jerry’s experience, everyone plays an important role in Unbound’s work – sponsored individuals, their families, Unbound staff and sponsors – and it works best when they operate in crew. “We learn from each other and we love each other. This is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Trinity… this is the daily message of Pope Francis for all of us,” Mary says.

Tatiana, now 13, enjoys studying at her home in El Salvador. She has been sponsored by Unbound since she was 3 years old. An active and energetic girl who enjoys dancing, playing soccer and reading, Tatiana dreams of becoming a nurse when she grows up. “I was born to help others,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Unbound

Help Erick – and all his family

Unbound’s ability to put the needs of the people it serves first is exemplified by a recent event with one of the Drewes’ sponsored children – Erick in Ecuador.

Erick likes to play soccer, so over Christmas Jerry sent some extra money and asked that it be used to buy a soccer ball for Erick. “The person we spoke to in Kansas City said they couldn’t guarantee the money would be used for a soccer ball in case a more urgent need arose,” says Mary.

Fast forward several months. There was a pandemic outbreak in Erick’s home area and he wrote to Jerry to say that his mother had been forced to keep the children indoors. He and his siblings couldn’t even play outside. The school had switched to remote learning but the family only had one mobile phone for the children to do their homework and it was decided that Erick’s brother in year 7 would take priority.

“Erick later told us that the money from Unbound was used to get the family Wi-Fi, which eliminated the dilemma of remote learning and freed up the phone for his father so that he can answer business calls again,” says Mary.

Personalized support and transparency

Another key differentiator of the Unbound program is its emphasis on empowering families – it is the family who decides how they will use the personalized support. Typically, they prioritize nutritious food, education and job training, health care, improved living conditions, and seed capital for a small business or farm – but it’s up to them to decide.

Jensen, an Unbound sponsored student, is studying at home in the Philippines. Like other students around the world, Jensen has been forced by the pandemic to adjust to distance learning. Because Unbound allows flexibility in how sponsorship funds are used, he was able to buy a new laptop.

Photo courtesy of Unbound

Unbound devotes 92.6% of its expenses to program support. In August 2021, it reached a major milestone: reaching $2 billion in funds sent to help families overcome the challenges of poverty. The organization has been awarded 4 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator and is the only child sponsorship organization to receive an A+ rating from CharityWatch.

The first awareness trip

For sponsors like Mary and Jerry, one of the greatest joys of being part of Unbound is taking “outreach” trips. The Drewe made two such trips to visit their sponsored friends. One was in Guatemala with Mary’s brother who had three sponsored children there at the time. But their very first trip in 2006 to Edmond remains etched in their memories.

“Our relationship with Edmond began with the usual exchange of photos, cards and letters,” says Mary. While the family didn’t speak English at home, the children learn it at school and growing up, Edmond was able to write to them in English without translation assistance from the Unbound staff.

“Edmond remembered us with handmade cards on major religious holidays and assured us of his daily prayers,” says Mary. “His letters were filled with words of love and gratitude for what we, through Unbound, have done for him. He considered the people in the program part of his family.

Leslie, center, sits outside her home in the Philippines with her children, (left to right) James, Dominic, Jana and Trisha. Dominic is sponsored by Unbound. Leslie makes a living making and selling popcorn, but she was unable to work during the pandemic restrictions. His family, like many others, received support through Unbound’s Critical Needs Fund.

Photo courtesy of Unbound

As with any affair of the heart, Mary and Jerry found that letters were not enough and soon they wanted to meet Edmond and his family. They were finally able to travel to the Philippines for an outreach trip.

“We will forever remember being escorted as guests of honor in a parade that started at our hotel in Legazpi and ended at the Astrodome where we were greeted by 4,000 children waiting,” says Mary. “Edmond accompanied Jerry and me as we were driven through the streets by a marching band, police cars with blaring sirens and a motorbike escort. Edmond was a very confident young man, but I think that day was greatly contributed to his self-esteem.

The Drewes were deeply moved by the experience, although the highlight of the trip was probably the whole day they spent with Edmond’s family. “The yard was swept with leaves and the bamboo house was neat and tidy, with shoes neatly stored under the eaves to keep them dry in the rainy season,” Mary recalls. “We were served a meal of rice and coconut milk and learned that Edmond, as an elder, picked these coconuts by hand by climbing barefoot on the palm trees.”

In the suburbs of Nairobi, Kenya, Peter writes a letter to his godfather. Letters are the main way that sponsors and their sponsored friends get to know each other. Many sponsors have taken advantage of Unbound’s convenient eLetter option to communicate with their sponsored friends.

Photo courtesy of Unbound

Sustainable change and transformation

Today, Edmond is a college graduate and works for a large tech company in the Philippines. Not only do many Unbound sponsored children graduate from high school, but a number earn professional certificates, college degrees, and even graduate degrees that allow them to start successful businesses and enter professions. Some of these trained professionals have even become Unbound staff members, in turn inspiring the young sponsored children.

For Mary and Jerry, who have now been married for over 56 years and have five grandchildren and two adopted grandchildren, Unbound has been an amazing way to help others transform their lives and themselves through to the rich relationships they have nurtured through their sponsorships.

Over its 41 years, Unbound has shown itself to be limitless in what it can accomplish in its ability to connect people around the world in relationships based on love, compassion, collaboration and mutual support. .

This content has been brought to you in partnership with Unbound.

Vincent de Paul

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