Unbound reaches significant milestone with $2 billion in aid
Sponsorships have helped almost 1 million individuals in developing countries since Unbound’s founding 40 years ago
Top-rated child sponsorship charity Unbound has sponsored almost 1 million children and elders living in poverty around the world since its founding 40 years ago in 1981. This month, the international nonprofit marked another milestone when it reached $2 billion in funds distributed for programs that help families overcome the challenges of poverty.
From its Kansas City, Kansas, headquarters, Unbound provides financial aid and other assistance to children, youth and elders in 19 countries throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. Individual sponsors and donors provide funding for Unbound, which is lauded for transparent financial management and directs 92.6% of its total expenditures to program support.
“The number of lives we’ve helped improve over the past four decades with $2 billion in personalized support is humbling, and it’s an important milestone in our history of providing programs that honor our sponsored friends’ dignity and help them forge paths out of poverty – all with an unwavering commitment to responsible financial stewardship,” said Scott Wasserman, president and CEO. “The World Bank estimates 120 million more people will fall below the poverty line because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which just strengthens our resolve to continue helping marginalized people around the world emerge from poverty as happier, healthier, contributing members of their communities.”
Unbound’s child sponsorships provide economic support that empowers youth and their families with the tools they need to achieve self-sufficiency. Local staff members work with families of sponsored children on how to best use their benefits – which typically come in the form of direct cash transfers – to achieve goals they set for themselves.
Most sponsored children have representation in the program through small parent/guardian groups that help direct how the funds are allocated and give participants a sense of connectedness – addressing two of the most significant components of poverty, which are lack of choices and isolation.
A key differentiator in the Unbound program is empowerment of the families – they decide how they will use the personalized support and most commonly prioritize these needs:
- Nutritious food
- Education and skills training
- Health care
- Improved living conditions
- Seed capital for a small business or farm
“If I did not have sponsorship, then it would have been impossible to achieve my aim,” said Pinky, a nurse in northeast India who was sponsored in 2003 when she was 6. “It changed my life a lot.”
Pinky lives near Bhagalpur and recently completed a nursing internship – an accomplishment that likely would not have been possible without support from Unbound. Her family’s financial situation was dire when she was growing up. At the time she was first sponsored, her father had to travel to Mumbai – more than 40 hours away by car – to find work, and her mother did not have a job. Pinky's sponsorship came when the family needed it most. She made her dream of becoming a nurse a reality through hard work, perseverance and support from her sponsor.
Unbound families thrive on the financial support as well as emotional encouragement in their sponsors’ written correspondence. They invest in their children’s education, generate more income, become active in their communities and grow to be self-sufficient. Individual monthly sponsorships start at $40.
Pinky (far right) and her siblings, Peter and Mary, stand with their parents, Ursula and Jawahar, in front of their home in India. Pinky was sponsored by Unbound in 2003, when she was 6. She lives near Bhagalpur, India, and recently completed a nursing internship – an accomplishment that likely would not have been possible without support from Unbound.
Education can help reduce poverty, but tuition, supplies and transportation are expensive. Many students must choose between continuing their education and providing much-needed income for their families, which leads to higher dropout rates at each level of school. Unbound started its scholarship program in 1998 to help students complete their educations and pursue careers that enable them to be self-sufficient while simultaneously improving their communities.
Take Jeaneth from Quito, Ecuador, for example. With help from Unbound, she earned a bachelor’s degree in educational sciences with a minor in natural and environmental sciences, biology and chemistry from the Central University of Ecuador, while realizing her dream of becoming a teacher.
"I want to be a teacher who can guide her students well,” Jeaneth said. “I could help them to keep their dreams from breaking."
Since it began offering scholarships, Unbound has granted more than $47 million to thousands of students from middle school through graduate school around the world. Former scholars continue to participate in the Unbound community in part because of the values instilled throughout their educational journeys. Nearly half of Unbound’s global team includes former scholars who chose to serve the community after graduation.
Jeaneth, pictured here with her brother, Alex, lives in Quito, Ecuador, and with help from Unbound, earned her degree in educational sciences with a minor in natural and environmental sciences, biology and chemistry from the Central University of Ecuador, while realizing her dream of becoming a teacher. Alex has a sponsor through Unbound, and support from the organization also has provided him with opportunities to overcome adversity.
What started in 1981 as a child sponsorship organization expanded to include adults age 60 and older just three years later, when Unbound founders observed isolated and abandoned elders in the communities where they worked needed help, too.
The Unbound elder program helps break the cycle of isolation and provides steady support to older adults living in poverty. Local staff members work with each elder, offering support for nutrition, health care, recreational activities and direct cash assistance. More than 30,000 elders in 19 countries benefited from Unbound sponsorships in 2020.
Unbound is a listening and learning organization. Since 1981, Unbound has learned a lot from walking with families on their paths out of poverty. The best teachers have been the families in the Unbound program. In celebration of 40 years on the road with families, Unbound shares 40 lessons learned on our walk together.