May 02, 2023 | Staff

Supporting Families, Communities and Causes

Spring 2023 Community Snapshots: A new community in Costa Rica, sustaining forests in Santo Domingo, new beginnings in Tamil Nadu

By Kati Burns Mallows

Community Snapshots are informational blurbs on quarterly happenings from Unbound’s field offices and communities around the globe. They give readers a glimpse into the activities, initiatives and events occurring within the Unbound community, beyond the deeper stories that appear on News & Stories.

Information and photos for spring 2023 "snapshots" shared by program staff via the organization’s channels.

Latin America — San Jose Program

A new community, a new Unbound ‘family’
In the southernmost part of Costa Rica in the Puntarenas province, staff from Unbound’s San Jose program have been diligently working on the formation of a new Unbound community.

“Zona Sur,” or South Zone, as the community will be called, was the only zone in the country where Unbound was not actively working. According to Catalina Barrantes Vargas, an evaluator with Unbound in Costa Rica, national studies had shown that Zona Sur was one of the most poverty-stricken communities in Costa Rica. The region has a population of around 9,000, with 33% living in either poverty or extreme poverty.

“After so many years, this is the first time that our program has started a new community from [the ground up],” Barrantes Vargas said. “To start, we will be working with around 500 families.”

Organized in coordination with the community’s local leaders, Unbound staff visited the community in early 2023 to meet with families, learn more in-depth about their realities and share about the benefits of the Unbound program.

The sponsorship process will move a bit more slowly for Zona Sur than other communities, according to Barrantes Vargas. For example, when a sponsored individual from one of Unbound Costa Rica’s other zones leaves the program, that individual’s sponsor will have the opportunity to sponsor a child, youth or elder from Zona Sur.

The last step in the formation of the Zona Sur community will be to define the structure of “Circulos de Esperanza,” or the mothers group.

“Depending on how this goes, we will begin to introduce Agents of Change projects and the entrepreneurship program [Unbound’s Small Business Accelerator],” Barrantes Vargas said. “We are very excited about the response of the families and the excitement they feel about being a part of this great family [Unbound].”

A man rides a bicycle down a roadway in the new Zona Sur community. Staff with Unbound’s San Jose program visited the newly formed Unbound community, which is in the southernmost region of Costa Rica, in February.

Unbound Costa Rica staff member Jean Carlo Arias holds up an Unbound poster during an early 2023 visit to meet with potential families in the newly formed Zona Sur community.

A homestead in the new Zona Sur community in Costa Rica where an estimated 2,700 families live in extreme poverty conditions.

Staff members with Unbound in Costa Rica met with families who live in the new Zona Sur community to learn more about their daily realities.

Staff with Unbound in Costa Rica spent time in the new Zona Sur community, learning about families and teaching them about Unbound. Pictured above (left to right), staff members Catalina Barrantes Vargas, Carolina Cordero and Adriana Arcia teach community members about Unbound’s nine program characteristics.

Latin America — Santo Domingo Program

Scholars commemorate International Day of Forests
Our lives are linked to forests in one way or another. According to the United Nations, the sustainable management of forests and their use of resources is key to combating climate change, to contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations, and even plays a crucial role in poverty alleviation.

Despite all the benefits, forests are endangered by fires, pests, droughts and deforestation. International Day of Forests is recognized annually in March to shine a light on the importance of forests. This year, Unbound scholarship holders and staff with the Santo Domingo program in the Dominican Republic commemorated the month by carrying out a day of “afforestation” in the upper part of the municipality.

Afforestation is the process of establishing a forest on land that was not previously forested, aiding in providing a remedy to deforestation. Scholars spent the day working together planting foliage and learning about the importance of forests.

Unbound Santo Domingo Program Evaluator Maria Ferreira said the event is intended to bring awareness to the need to maintain and increase wooded areas and to protect and conserve nature.

“Let us remember that forests provide the world’s population with goods and services essential for our survival and contribute to food security, water supply, clean air and soil protection,” Ferreira said. “Their [forests’] sustainable management is fundamental to achieving development.”

Scholars and social workers with Unbound Santo Domingo gather greenery to plant as part of International Day of Forests in March.

Individuals with Unbound Santo Domingo spend the day planting in the upper part of the municipality.

A bird’s-eye view of the beauty of Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic, which is home to 6,000 species of plants, 2,000 of which can only be found there.

Saving with a purpose
The Santo Domingo program instilled hope and motivation in families during the first quarter of the year using a tactic that was as practical as it was colorful.

According to program evaluator Maria Ferreira, Unbound staff started off 2023 with workshops aimed at encouraging Unbound families to set measurable, achievable, determined, relevant and specific goals (called M.A.D.R.E. in that program). To help teach families the importance of saving, program staff handed out colorful piggy banks.

“The piggy banks invited sponsored families to save for a purpose, either to meet a goal or to help in [another] priority of the family,” Ferreira said.

Families accepted the initiative with great enthusiasm, seeing it as a way to achieve their short, medium and long-term goals.

Family members who are a part of the Unbound Santo Domingo sponsorship program gathered for enlightening workshops in early 2023 that sought to reinforce the importance of goal setting and saving.

Parents of sponsored youth and children with Unbound Santo Domingo enthusiastically hold up their newly acquired piggy banks following the workshop.

Latin America — Lima Program

Home visits lend support, solidarity to families in poverty
Staff members in Unbound’s programs around the world spend precious hours of their time each year traveling to connect with, check in with and meet with sponsored individuals and families.

Sponsoring a child, youth or elder through Unbound provides support for families in poverty in a number of ways, including allowing them the opportunity to “self-direct” their own path out of poverty. When an individual becomes sponsored, families use the sponsorship funds for what they need most, typically prioritizing such things as education, food, housing and health care. Local staff meet with families to listen and identify how Unbound can help the entire family achieve their goals.

In Unbound’s Lima program, in the district of Comas in Lima, Peru, staff conducted home visits to sponsored families at the beginning of 2023. The purpose of their home visits was to show support for the families, guide them in any new sponsorship correspondence processes and learn about the challenges they face every day.

Unbound Lima staff member Fania Rossmery Carnero Silva shared photos of the trip.

Unbound Lima staff member Fania Rossmery Carnero Silva pauses to take a photo with a sponsored family and other staff members in front of the family’s home in Lima, Peru.

Unbound Lima staff members meet with the families to listen to their needs and ensure they understand any new requirements of sponsorship.

A shot of the Comas district of Lima, Peru, and the neighborhoods traversed by Unbound Peru program staff during their home visits.

India — Tamil Nadu Program

Mothers groups bring communities together with traditional celebration for ‘new beginnings’
Pongal is considered to be one of the major festivals of South India, mainly celebrated in Tamil Nadu Jan. 15-18, with grandeur and joy.

According to Unbound Tamil Nadu program coordinator and evaluator Antony Bosco Jacob, the Pongal festival signals a time for “new beginnings,” when celebrants spend four days thanking nature and livestock and worshipping the sun as the “life force behind all creation.” The Pongal festival season is the season when crops like sugarcane, turmeric and rice are being harvested in the region. The month itself is believed to be favorable for marriages, engagements, and all religious and spiritual activities.

Across Tamil Nadu this past January, mothers of Unbound sponsored individuals gathered in their respective communities to celebrate the annual Pongal festival. The theme of this year’s festival was “Samathuva Pongal,” which means “celebrating the festival as one community.”

The mothers and sponsored children cooked pongal, which is also the word for a South Indian dish of rice cooked in boiling milk, participated in an art competition, competed for prizes in various fun games and performed traditional cultural dances, among other things.

Mothers of sponsored children cook pongal, a traditional rice and milk concoction, in clay pots over stones during the annual Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu, India. Once the pot starts overflowing, the mothers chant, in one voice, “Pongal, o, Pongal,” to share their joy for the occasion. 

At the annual Pongal festival, sponsored children and mothers, along with other festival attendees, enjoy dishes that have been enhanced with coconut and bananas.

Mothers of sponsored children gather in their communities in Tamil Nadu in early 2023 to take part in cooking pongal over stones during the Pongal festival.

During the annual Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu, sponsored children and their mothers took part in the “rangoli” competition, depicting their artwork on the sidewalks.

Other fun activities that the community participated in during the Pongal festival included musical chairs, balloon bursting and performing a traditional kummi (or folk) dance. Pictured above, another competition, known as “lemon spoon,” involves participants walking while balancing a lemon on a spoon.

India — Jharkhand Lahanti Program

Supporting student productivity and performance
Even the best students can struggle with test anxiety. With adequate preparation and time-management, students can overcome feelings of stress that arise during exam times.

Staff with Unbound’s Jharkhand Lahanti program realize the importance of both physical and mental well-being on students’ abilities to perform well during exams. They organized a workshop this past February for students in grades 10 and 12 who were preparing for the final board exams.

Nancy Hembrom, program evaluation coordinator, said a lack of stress management skills can be detrimental to one’s health if not addressed and can lead to being unprepared for exams.

“It’s crucial for aspirants to have the proper guidance and emotional support to be able to manage their stress during these challenging times,” Hembrom said.

During the workshop, experts from the education sector were invited to speak to the students on how to best prepare for exams, while health professionals gave advice on managing stress during exam time.


A group of students with Unbound’s Jharkhand Lahanti program pause for a group photo following their workshop on stress management and exam preparation.


Students with Unbound’s Jharkhand Lahanti program conduct fun exercises that help with stress management.


Experts from the education sector were invited by the Jharkhand Lahanti program to speak with students in grades 10 and 12 during a workshop on how to best prepare for upcoming board exams.

The Philippines — Manila Program

‘Embracing Equity’ through art
This past March 8, staff from Unbound’s Manila program attended a talk show on the importance of “Embracing Equity,” which was the 2023 theme of International Women’s Day.

Two of the Manila program’s sponsored youths attended and participated in an #EmbracingEquity painting contest and mini-painting exhibition sponsored by France Volontaires of the Embassy of France in the Philippines and Micronesia.

Ivan, a 21-year-old Unbound sponsored youth, won first-place recognition in the art contest for his painting entitled “Intra-Personal,” while 17-year-old sponsored youth Jimuel placed third for his painting entitled “We Are All equal.”


In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, sponsored youth Ivan (center) received first place in the art competition for his painting “Intra-Personal.” About his artwork, Ivan said: “I interpret that equity is subjective … This painting reminds us of different levels of subjectivity when it comes to acceptance and self-love. Embrace it all together to gain equity because it all begins within you.”


Pictured is sponsored youth Jimuel’s painting for International Women's Day, called “We Are All Equal,” which won third place in the art competition. His painting depicts giving based on people’s individual needs so that everyone is equal. About his artwork, Jimuel said, “My drawing is about unity, equality, peace and cooperation. Unity is needed for everyone to be equal, and I believe that equality is the key to a peaceful and prosperous future.”