COVID-19: Five things helping Unbound respond

A family in Quezon City, Philippines shares a message of gratitude with the Unbound community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread through countries around the world, many nonprofits have had to suspend or significantly alter their methods for delivering goods and services and staying connected to the marginalized communities they serve.

At Unbound, here are five dynamics that we're seeing help in the midst of the crisis:

1) Personalized benefits model — With this approach, families are able to design their own personalized micro-programs to meet their own unique needs. Unbound provides families with funds and resources, but then gives them the freedom and the autonomy to decide how they want to use those funds to fulfill their own goals — whether those are educational, vocational, personal or some combination.


2) Cash transfers — Individual cash transfers are one of the most effective — and studied — strategies to alleviate poverty around the world. Unbound began using direct cash transfers more than 15 years ago. Since then, the organization has become one of the world’s largest providers of cash transfers, dramatically increasing the effectiveness of its development efforts. Unbound continues to deliver support to families during the pandemic by transferring cash directly into their bank accounts. In April, Unbound will send more than $8 million in direct support to the families in its programs.

“Our families need continuity and sustained support now more than ever. Many people experiencing extreme poverty around the world face having to work each day to feed their family that night, and the pandemic is forcing an impossible choice: Social distancing or starvation. A steady flow of resources and a supportive community are essential to help each of us be more resilient and recover during this emergency.” — Dan Pearson, Director of International Programs at Unbound.


3) Power of moms — In addition to cash transfers, Unbound finds that its training and development of mothers is another advantage that helps it stay connected to the families it serves. There are more than 10,000 Unbound mothers groups around world, each with an elected leader. As COVID-19 continued to spread, mother leaders began communicating with local Unbound staff via WhatsApp about the latest challenges they face. The mother leaders are also reporting updates on Unbound elders in their neighborhoods, as elders are one of the most vulnerable groups receiving support from the organization.

“While our staff in most of the countries where we work are working from home and cannot travel to the neighborhoods of our families during this time, having a mother leader in every community where we work helps us stay updated on the latest unique needs and challenges facing each community,” said Pearson.


4) Local staff — Unbound staff around the world are from the communities and regions they serve. Many were sponsored as children, and are uniquely qualified and gifted people who have a profound understanding of the challenges families face.


5) Intergenerational connection — Social distancing is the best response to the spread of COVID-19, but social isolation was a painful reality for many elders even before the pandemic. Children, families and elders are all part of the Unbound community around the world, which allows the members of each group to know and support the other in ways no organization can.

Due to the extreme poverty facing many families in Unbound’s programs, along with the informal economy at a near standstill, Unbound sponsorship may be families’ only consistent source of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more on how Unbound’s benefits have become ‘more important than ever’.

How you can help in the pandemic

Your gift to the Disaster Response fund helps families most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Cash transfers are made to the individual bank accounts where families receive their Unbound benefits. This gives families the most flexibility to address urgent needs while doing their part to stay healthy and keep their communities safe.