As parents, we try to create culturally enriching experiences for our kids and global awareness as much as possible. We want to get them out of the protective bubble to see that so many of their complaints and wants are first-world problems.
However, cultural experiences in suburbia are often limited to Chipotle and the local library and world travel with little ones isn’t always in the cards so I wanted share a way that we are able to provide a little perspective from our own dining room table.
In 2016, I learned about the organization Unbound.org who partners with youth and elders across the globe to help families become self-sufficient. My kids and I sat down at the computer and sifted through profiles of boys and girls from all over the globe until we found Emilson – a boy that was my son’s age who liked soccer and wanted to go to school but couldn’t afford it.
Why Emilson? He had a mud floor. My kids couldn’t get over it. They were so troubled and determined to get Emilson a proper floor. Probably the last on the “needs vs. wants” lists as it goes in rural Guatemala – but hey, they were passionate to help.
Every couple of months we sit down and write Emilson and his family a letter. We tell them about our lives, ask questions about Guatemala, practice our Spanish, and think about what life is like in a Central America. Our favorite part of this process has been getting his letters. We squeal and rip open the letters to see what drawings he’s done for us, what school is like for Emilson, and what life in Guatemala looks like.
I know programs like these exist but I initially picked Unbound because it came highly recommended personally by a friend that did a trip to meet her sponsored child.
Also, 92.7% of their money goes straight to program support. Children can handwrite notes and snail mail them or create an online account to set up recurring auto payments and send e-letters with uploaded pictures. With the online portal, you can search for a child based on age, birthday, country, etc and everything is digital. Look at this precious Rica in the Philippines. I want that haircut and she shares a birthday with my good friend! Am I the only one that gets attached just by reading the profiles?!
It was also important to me to choose an organization that isn’t pushing Christianity in developing nations. I’ll just leave that right there.
As a mom, my favorite part of the sponsorship is the way that Emilson has been weaved into our lives as almost a pseudo brother. The kids make comments when doing chores like “This is easy compared to Emilson” or “Why can’t Emilson FaceTime us?” I like to see them thinking outside of their veiled view.
Our last letter from Emilson, his mom wrote that they had been saving some of our money to buy some farming equipment and now they are able to harvest the fields more efficiently and use the machinery to help their village. It’s rewarding to see that our $36 a month has an impact on so many people.
Every holiday and birthday we give him extra money and you’d think that we sent them a Ferrari. They are always writing with such gratitude and love for our family. We feel the same.
Beyond the nostalgia of having a pen pal, I love this relationship for these reasons that I don’t think I need to elaborate on. It goes way beyond sponsoring a child. You’re teaching…
- Understanding the Value of a Dollar
- The value of hard work.
- Education is a gift.
- You can always be a helper.
- Your words matter.
- Establishing a long-term travel goal.
- Family is everything.
- How to type and format letters/emails.
Start a sponsorship now to have a relationship that will make traveling meaningful. Unbound organizes trips all over the world that are very affordable. Example: A week in central America for $650 (not including airfare) to stay with locals, meet your sponsored family, and learn about their life and customs.
Check out these affordable trips with destinations all over the globe that are rich in culture and will leave your family with incredible perspective and lasting memories.
We’ve done a lot of traditional travel destinations and now that the kids are a bit older, I’m ready for them to see parts of the world that don’t have souvenir shops at the exit gates.
So while you may not be able to take your kids to far off lands – you can make lifetime friendships. I’m not sure when we will see Emilson and his family but it’s going to happen. Believe that.
As a Girl Scout troop leader, we sponsored a girl from Guatemala through Unbound. After much deliberation our troop voted on Claudia, an 11-year-old living with her blind mother and elderly grandmother. Each girl in the troop brought $4 a month that they earned themselves through selling toys, lemonade stands, and doing household chores to give Claudia. I just love watching what the giving and connecting has done for those girls. Maybe think of ways that you can do this with another friend, family, or group?
Thanks for reading. If you chose to sponsor, please use my link and let me know! I promise that this will be a lasting, meaningful, and fun experience for the whole family. It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget the millions of other corners of the world.
Please send me a picture by tagging @UnboundOrg and @hickeys_everywhere. If you donate over $50 or sponsor a child using the link above I’m sending you a a few fun travel things from my “Ultimate Gift List“!!