Back from El Salvador

Here is my weekly column for The Southern Cross, along with two children in need of sponsorship. If you have it on your heart to sponsor an elderly person or a child through Unbound, please consider either Rocio or Brandon. There is also a link to see other people waiting to be sponsored. Thank you so much for all your support and feedback of this wonderful, life-changing adventure.


I climbed into bed one recent Friday evening, pulled the covers up to my chin and nestled my head on my comfortable pillow thinking, “weird! Just like that, I’m home.”

I’d spent the previous week in Central America, in the mountains and valleys of El Salvador to observe the poverty and the people of this land so very far away.

So strange, I remarked at one point during my visit, how this trip is only three hours by plane and takes us a million miles away. It’s not that far, and yet it is.

I was in El Salvador at the invitation of Unbound, a charity that allows sponsors in First World countries to offer financial and spiritual support to the children and elderly of the developing world. About ten years ago, Paul and I started sponsoring a boy in India — a boy who is now a young man and thriving in school because of his hard working parents but also through a small monthly donation our family is willing to make.

In these years that we have supported Lawrence, our boys have come to see him as our adopted brother. At least one of the boys prays for him daily, and we treasure every letter and update we get from him. We send $30 a month to support his material and educational needs, a little money that goes a very long way indeed.

Through our support of Lawrence, I’ve come to respect and admire the work of Unbound, the organization that helps us help a young boy on the other side of the world. We decided to sponsor Lawrence years ago after hearing a priest share about the impact of a monthly donation — how one family choosing to sponsor one child can impact that entire community. And we had a moment of grace where I looked down the pew, past our four young sons, and whispered to my husband, “we should do this.”

And we did. And it has changed our life.

Two weeks ago, I went with several writers and a few staffers from Unbound to visit their center in Santa Ana, to see this kind of sponsorship in action. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, except I needed to go. I wanted to go. And so I did, I loaded up and spent a week meeting the men and women and children who are supported in their life through your generous donations.

I was honored and humbled to be invited into the homes (some of which are structures of mud and metal) to meet the families affected by deep poverty — but who, in their hopes and efforts to offer their children more than this life, are being supported by a donation through Unbound. I met women whose lives were transformed through their involvement in Mother’s Groups, groups of women (and men) coming together with Unbound’s help to keep their children active and in school. Things that seem so simple to us here, which are revolutionary concepts in these developing countries. An attitude that says “there is more to you than these challenging circumstances you are in right now.”

And of course, I was changed through my trip more than I had dreamed. That’s how these things always seem to go. I went with an idea of what I would find, and left with a different world view entirely.

Of course it was tempting and expected to be discouraged and overwhelmed at the state of the world, but instead I was somehow inspired. I saw the hope and courage of the people I met, that they were bigger than this poverty of their life. I saw women who want a better future for their children, children who are willing to dream of a better future for themselves.

One boy, Daniel, is sponsored through the program. And while he still (amazingly) lives in a home made of plywood walls that is covered in plastic, he is pulling himself out of poverty through his commitment to his education. He is an intern at a local television station and hopes to one day be a journalist, to be a voice for so many of his people that have no voice.

For the price of one trip to the drive-thru, a family in the U.S. is offering Daniel hope and a future. That’s what my trip taught me — that we really can make a difference. And because of that, we should be willing to try.

Would you like to sponsor someone in El Salvador? Here are a few people in need:

rocioRocio was supported through Unbound until her sponsor left the program. She is a beautiful young lady who loves studying mathematics and calligraphy. She lives in an adobe hut with electricity but no running water. Her father is a mason earning $100 monthly.




carlosBrandon is a little boy who has been waiting for sponsorship since June 2012. He lives with his mom and dad, whose combined monthly income is $50. Brandon said he likes going fishing with his dad, since they live near the river. He also likes getting to play soccer in the community field near his home.


  1. Hi hope and pray that Rocio and Brandon get sponsors soon! Lovely observations on the time in El Salvador.

  2. So glad you got to do this trip. I heard about Unbound the same way you did — when a visiting priest shared the program during Mass a few years ago. I felt the same tug, and since then I’ve been sponsoring a woman who lives in Guatemala. Her letters are such a spot of joy. When I hear about what $30 a month is able to do for her, I’m amazed and made so painfully aware of how privileged I really am. Life is about giving back and it means a lot see the photos and the face of the person you are helping. Unbound is a terrific organization and I urge everyone who is on the fence to check it out.

  3. Katrina says:

    Wonderful article! My family is grateful to be sponsoring two children in the Unbound program, a boy in Mexico and a girl in the Philippines. We are so thankful for their friendship and my daughter loves receiving cards and pictures of them. Truly the best $60 we spend each month.

  4. If you want to delete this comment, I’ll understand. I’m not happy with “Unbound” though our family continues to sponsor three children, one each in India, the Philippines, and Guatemala. We have been sponsoring children since 2003 (I think, may have been earlier) when they were CFCA, Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Over the dozen years we have been sponsoring children, we have noticed a decided move away from the “Christian” aspect of their mission, and were not surprised when they dropped it altogether. Just today, we just got a letter from one of our sponsored children in India with whom my 17yo son corresponds (actually, this son pays the $30/mo support out of his earnings as our parish organist). In his last letter, my son wrote about our Catholic faith (we knew Praneeth was Hindu). In the letter we received today, Praneeth wrote, “I know nothing about Catholics.” Isn’t that odd, I thought. Here is a child whom we have been sponsoring through a supposedly Catholic organization for THREE years and he knows NOTHING about Catholics? I know from another friend that Unbound pays for children to attend Muslim schools.

    It is obvious that “Unbound” has completely abandoned any Christian mission regarding the Church and saving souls for eternity. They are 100% focused on social ministry. There are other good organizations that care about the body AND soul that we are now looking to support.