June 15, 2023 | Child Sponsorship

For Their Families

In communities around the world, fathers step up to be there for their children

By Larry Livingston

So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. — Luke 15:20

As that Bible verse from the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us, sometimes a father doesn’t wait for his children to come to him. He goes to them. He picks them up. He comforts. He teaches. He forgives and hugs and makes right.

He is there. That is what makes him Dad … Papá … Baba … Tatay.

Following are stories of four men — fathers and father figures — from Unbound communities around the world who are there for their children. Each bears the burden of poverty but has not let it deter him from caring for those he loves.

These Unbound dads live in places where it’s not uncommon for men to abandon their families, where many are broken by unemployment or alcohol or the weight of cultural expectations. But these dads stay strong because those depending on them need them to be.

A load off his mind

Marwa is a subsistence farmer in Tanzania. When the precious and scarce rains make it possible, he grows kale, tomatoes, spinach and other vegetables. The family keeps some of what he harvests, and the rest is taken by Marwa’s wife, Robby, to a nearby marketplace to sell. The most she’s ever made in a day is $4.50.

For families like Marwa’s, survival is a constant preoccupation. But something else weighed on Marwa’s mind. His son Wambura, 12, has had serious health issues since he was born. Marwa spent many anxious moments in the hospital at his son’s side.

“I had a lot of stress thinking about him,” Marwa said. “I was never settled. … Now things have changed. I can relax.”

What changed was that Wambura was sponsored through Unbound. The benefit funds they received allowed the family to acquire health insurance. The boy still has medical concerns, and probably will the rest of his life, but now they are more manageable and without devastating cost.

“I can barely express how grateful I am,” Marwa said. “I pray every day for Unbound [sponsors] to continue and be blessed for how much they help people.”

Marwa hoes a patch of land near the mud hut his family now lives in. Occasional showers soften the ground enough to work, but the lack of adequate rainfall makes it difficult. Like other East African nations, Tanzania is going through a prolonged drought.

Marwa’s family stands outside the new cement block home they’re building with funds from Wambura’s sponsorship. From left are older son Bahati, Marwa and Wambura wearing his school uniform. Mother Robby stands behind Wambura.

Joy from sorrow

Manuel, a sponsored elder from Guatemala, has had a life largely defined by loss. His father died when Manuel was 10. He lost his wife after they had been together only nine years, leaving him with four small children. He’s outlived two of them.

But there was consolation in the deep relationship Manuel developed with his grandson Elmer, who he raised after his daughter Julia died 12 years ago.

Now 24, Elmer still lives with Manuel. The only ones in the home, they provide support and companionship for one another. Manuel prepares the meals and Elmer takes care of the chores his 85-year-old grandfather can no longer do.

A man of deep faith, Manuel is grateful despite his losses.

“Early in the morning I give thanks to God for a new day and offer my day’s work to him,” he said. “At night, before going to sleep, I thank him for the day I spent, for everything I did, and to ask for a restful night and a new sunrise.”

After Manuel’s daughter Julia passed away 12 years ago, Manuel took in her son Elmer. They have been together since then. Julia was responsible for both Elmer and his grandfather being enrolled for Unbound sponsorship. After her passing, Manuel took over participating in the meetings of the Unbound mothers group in his community.

Manuel prays in the beautiful Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Church of Our Lady of the Pillar). “God never leaves us helpless,” he said. “… If God did not exist, we would be the most unfortunate in life, but we aren’t. God is love for us."

Early in the morning, I give thanks to God for a new day and offer my day’s work to him. At night, before going to sleep, I thank him for the day I spent, for everything I did, and to ask for a restful night and a new sunrise.

— Manuel, Sponsored elder who raised his grandson

Making them his own

David came into the life of Lalaine and her children in the Philippines after the children’s father left. That was a commitment that would scare some men away, but David embraced it. Now he’s a father to the older children and the younger ones he and Lalaine had together. He’s also a source of strength for his wife, and her partner in providing for the family.

“Without my husband, I think I cannot be able to do it all alone,” Lalaine said. “He gives me strength and determination to continue what we are doing, and we comfort each other whenever we feel weak and hopeless.”

Feeling hopeless was a temptation for many in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. There was no construction work for David, and Lalaine, a vendor, couldn’t sell food because of restrictions on public gatherings. But with help from emergency funds the family received from Unbound’s Quezon program, they got through the crisis and are back on track.

Today, Lalaine and David work together in their vending business. They sell siomai (Asian dumplings) and balut (fertilized duck eggs) from a rented cart. They hope that soon they’ll have saved enough to buy their own cart and expand the business.

Homework time is family time in the home of David, far left, and Lalaine, far right. The children are, from left, Daniel, David Jr., Josh and Rich. Josh is sponsored through Unbound.

After he and Lalaine have packed the foodstuffs they hope to sell that day, David takes a last look to makes sure everything is secure before setting out on his daily route.

Realizing his dream

In 2020, Felix and his family had to leave their home when the area where they lived in Rwanda was condemned as swampland. Not only did they lose a home, they also lost the location of their modest store. With the local marketplace closed because of the pandemic, there was nowhere they could sell, which meant no income.

Fortunately, help came in the form of Unbound sponsorship for their son Fiston, now 6. This enabled the family to receive emergency pandemic relief funds and to become involved in their local Unbound parents group, from which they could take loans for setting up a livelihood.

Felix and his wife, Marie, took full advantage of their new opportunities. They rented a house and set up a better stocked store than the one they had before. It has allowed Felix to fulfill a dream he’s had since childhood.

“This is my passion,” he said. “There are people that like farming, there are people that love construction while others love carpentry. But for me, I love business.”

Felix proudly displays the store he and his wife, Marie, run in their rented home. It’s the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. The family is saving to buy their own property so they won’t have to live and work in the same space.

Marie supervises as son Fiston does homework. She and Felix also have a teenaged daughter and are expecting their third child soon.


Easing their way

There are thousands of other dedicated, hard-working fathers and mothers in the Unbound world struggling — sometimes against tremendous odds — to ensure a better future for their children. Find out how you can help ease the burden of a family living in poverty by sponsoring a child, youth or elder through Unbound.

Watch the video below to meet Godfrey, another amazing father who’s embraced the opportunities that came from belonging to the Unbound community!

Henry Flores, Oscar Tuch, Nickson Ateku, Tristan John Cabrera and Danika Wolf contributed photos, video and interviews for this story.