Currently Thinking About Josue

If you have read my blog for a while, you may know that my involvement with Unbound originated with my in-laws. More than a decade ago, they decided to sponsor Silvia, a young girl in Guatemala. They chose Silvia because she was around the same age as my daughter, Tenley, my niece, Elizabeth, and several other of their grandchildren. My mother-in-law, Barb, and I held many conversations over the years about Silvia, putting together birthday and Christmas packages, reading her letters, and preparing letters back to her. One of the high points of our sponsorship journey was Tenley’s and my meeting Silvia and her mother in 2011!

Josue’s Story

When Unbound asked me to share the story of a child on my blog as part of an effort to find him a sponsor, I felt like Barb, who passed away in 2013, was looking over my shoulder as I read this line about Josue’s father: “There’s a software JAWS (Job Access With Speech) that tells you what’s on the screen.” Jose, the father, who is blind, works in local radio for a small town. The software and access to a computer is essential for him to try to make a living for himself, Josue’s mother Daysi, Josue, and his two other children.

I’ve shared profiles of other children hoping for Unbound sponsorship before. Because I am intrigued with the “currently” prompt which I saw on Simply Elle, I’m going to try to blend a little creative writing with a LOT of factual data to share a profile of Josue’s family with you!

CURRENTLY: Jose and His Familia

Currently Thinking About Josue

READING

From Josue (he prefers to be called Toñito): I am 5 years old, so I am not reading yet. I like to draw and I like coloring books. My parents pray that I will get an education so that I can read and have more potential for work as I grow up.

EATING

From Daysi (Josue’s mom): Jose gives me four dollars a day to get food for the five people in our family. Because he is blind and his job options are limited, the income from his radio announcing in this small town is not consistent. Even four dollars a day is often difficult to come up with.

THINKING ABOUT

From Jose: I am thinking about my dreams for Toñito and my other children. I dream for them to be good people, but the situation here in El Salvador is difficult. As a parent, I do my best to educate them to be good people who will grow up to make good decisions. I would like for my children to get an education and go to college.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

From Jose: I am looking forward to my children growing up and having more options than I have. When Toñito was born, Daysi was only 27 weeks pregnant. He stayed in the hospital for three months as the doctors worked on his heart problem and repaired a hernia. Now that such a difficult start is behind him, I am looking forward to a healthy future.

LEARNING

From Jose: The more I can learn about computers, the better. Before I had access to a computer, I had to work under the hot sun, selling items in the market. I have also worked as a shoe maker, sold newspapers, made crafts for sale, and made furniture. I did anything I could to try to move forward.

LOVING

From Jose: My family. The joy I feel inside my heart. Trying to motivate others! My wife Daysi’s humility and fighting spirit.

WORKING ON

From Jose: I continue to learn all I can about computers, because that helps me have other wage-earning possibilities. JAWS (the software) tells you what is on the screen, but I only have a PC and keyboard, so that limits how much JAWS can help me.

LISTENING TO

From Jose and Daysi: In a household with three kids, there’s always noise! I hear the sounds of our town’s animals, and love it when the local musicians are playing.

LAUGHING AT

From the whole family: The local street dogs do funny antics!

WISHING

From Jose: As a parent, I feel like I am a drowning man anxiously holding an arm out of the water for someone to throw me a rope! This request for sponsorship is not for me: it is for my child. All three of my kids are growing up and they need to be prepared for a world threatened by climate change yet enhanced by advanced technology. Where we live, there are no job opportunities; if you don’t have an education it is almost impossible, and I am very worried for them.

If someone decides to sponsor my son, to say “Here I am, I’m next to you,” I will be endlessly grateful. I would send so many blessings to that person because, honestly, I would not have words to express how I would feel.

Notes from Paula

I hope this “currently” exercise gave you a glimpse into the life of Toñito and his family, and the reasons why sponsorship can make such a huge difference!

A little more about the family’s living situation: They live in a humble adobe home. Jose says, “I know there are many repairs that need to be made in my house, but my biggest concern is having money to buy food for my wife and children.” They do not have running water; they have a community well. They do have electricity, but it was very hard to obtain.

Although four of Jose’s clients pay monthly, most of them are seasonal, which leads to variability in income. He also teaches Braille four days a month to supplement the family income. The family net income is around $100 a month (remember they spend about $4 a day to eat, and last time I checked $100 minus $120 did not lead to a positive balance).

A contribution of $36 per month can help Toñito have his basic needs met so that he can grow, get an education, and thrive.

More About Unbound

Unbound’s website is accessible by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Facebook by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Twitter by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Instagram by clicking here.

Read selections of my previous writing about Unbound here, here, here, here, and here.

Again, to sponsor Toñito, click here. If you are not in a position to sponsor now, please consider sharing this with someone who may be. Prayers are ALWAYS accepted and appreciated!

Currently Thinking About Josue

UPDATE: Josue has been sponsored! What a blessing! I am so grateful to my friend who decided to sponsor him!!! There are many more children, youth, and aging awaiting sponsorship in 22 countries around the world! For more information, please click here

 

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A Slurpee-Free #7QT

— 1 —

slurpee

I don’t even like slurpees that much (it would be one more thing to report on LoseIt) and face my coach’s nitpicking. I give her plenty of material about which to nitpick (case in point: a recent comment read “you could have had three cups of broccoli for the calories you spent on that rice pilaf”). But I do love the tie-in of today’s date (7/11) with the fact that 7-Eleven stores are giving out free slurpees today. There is no shortage of sadness in Tallahassee that the nearest 7/11 is in Jacksonville (2.5 hours away).

— 2 —

Control A good male friend is going through a tough time emotionally, following the breakup of a relationship. One of the topics we came around to when discussing root causes was the perception some women have had that he has a need to control things. And compassionately I say, as a platonic friend, they have a point. When I dipped my toe in the waters of bringing this up today, the logical next question was “how do I change it?” I guess the good news is that awareness is the first step. The bad news is that the second step isn’t clear nor is it easy. Maybe part of the truth lies in the fact that at 55 and not having been married, maybe he can choose to not change a thing. But to be in a marriage or long-term relationship, he needs to learn to see things as these woman have seen them. This is going to be a tough nut to crack. Walnuts

— 3 —

Four have become five. My father-in-law moved in with us in early June, after a hospitalization during which it became clear he was incapable of continuing to live on his own. This is one of those situations that, if I were not personally in the middle of it, I could see being fantastic blog material, full of observations ranging from the profound to the mundane, with a filament of love woven throughout. But I haven’t figured out how to discuss it without messing with his dignity and, frankly, I feel way too close to the situation to make any perspective-filled observations (yet).

— 4 —

Is it July 18 yet? My daughter and I will be traveling to Boston on July 18. She has been invited to a gathering of “the Tenleys, an event put together for people named Tenley (I think they’re all females) to meet the woman we all consider the original Tenley, Tenley Albright. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this is literally a dream come true.

— 5 —

Is it July 21 yet? I suppose the answer to this is “no,” since the answer to question #4 is “no,” but besides the excitement of the Boston trip, we will be heading to New York City after Boston (with a stop in Connecticut in between). We will be doing Tea at the Plaza, something neither of us has ever done, and I can’t wait!

plaza

— 6 —

More Than Miles. Tomorrow I will be running a 4.5 mile trail race. The trail is called the “Swamp Forest Trail” and it has rained a good bit today, so the “swamp” part will be assured! Tomorrow also marks the 1 year anniversary of my match with Gareth, a young man who has MCAD, a mitochondrial disorder. We were matched through I Run for Michael. Why does it matter that an almost-50-year-old back of the pack runner dedicates her miles to a child hundreds of miles away? For me, as a mom, it matters to support another mom (and dad) whose child faces such difficult challenges. It matters to support a young man who, despite the challenges of his MCAD, still gives back to others (he has coordinated a “Get Up and Go for Mito” walk the last two years. The group has many more runners than it does children to whom miles can be dedicated. If you know a child / individual who wants a runner, click here for more info.

IR 4 Gareth Cropped

— 7 —

Christopher has support! The last time I participated in #7QT, I wrote about Christopher, a little boy in El Salvador who I was asked to discuss in my blog as his family hoped to get a sponsor from Unbound for him. I just learned that he has been sponsored! I am so happy to hear this. Would also love your prayers as I will be volunteering at Good Shepherd Catholic Church here in Tallahassee this weekend as an Unbound priest discusses the program and shares information about sponsorship. It is always exciting to see people start their sponsorship journey (and to talk with people who have been sponsoring for a while already). Having the opportunity to go to El Salvador in June and see the program in action helps me visualize the program’s operations clearly and I am grateful for that trip.

The #BlogUnbound Team

The #BlogUnbound Team

 For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

(I am also pleased to link this post up to Faith Along The Way’s Saturday Soiree.)

7 Quick Takes – My World for a Wheelchair and Other Observations

I don’t usually blog on Fridays, but when I saw the “7 Quick Takes” format on Filling My Prayer Closet, I thought I’d give it a try!

1 – My World for a Wheelchair

Twice this week, I have had the responsibility for taking my father-in-law to the hospital for diagnostics followed by a neurosurgeon appointment. Our hospital has an awesome (and affordable!) valet service, but the “valet service unit” and the “wheelchair unit” are completely disconnected from one another. Wednesday, after the valet said it usually takes 30 minutes to get a wheelchair, I was trying to walk my father in law in when it became clear that he could not continue; fortunately another patient got me a wheelchair. Today, the valet staff said they would call one for me. It “only” took 14 minutes this time but, honestly why is it so difficult?

2 – I Am The Parent of an Adult

My daughter, Tenley, turned 18 yesterday. EIGHTEEN! With all the emotion that brings up, I have to admit I kind of love it that one of the touches she liked the most about the day was the “Frozen” balloon I had put in her car to surprise her when she left for work.

2014-06-25 19.53.07

3 – SUP Boarding Rocks

I read in Jennifer’s post that she is going to have an opportunity to do SUP Boarding soon. I had an opportunity to do it while I was at the beach last week and it was so much fun (and, surprisingly, quite the upper body and stability workout!).

All in the family ... staying afloat (mostly!)

All in the family … staying afloat (mostly!)

4 – Cycling Sure Would Be Fun

Even though my bicycle on vacation was a basic non-descript getting-around-the-beach bicycle, I was reminded of how much fun cycling is. I have always said I’ll wait and add on another sport once I reach my running goal of breaking 30:00 in a 5K but that’s taking quite a while, so I may need to sneak some cycling into my life pretty soon, not just when on vacation.

5 – My Heart Had Left My Job Long Before My Body Did

I left my job on May 2, 2014. When I had to return to the office earlier this week to drop off some paperwork, it was difficult to walk into the building. But not difficult in a sentimental way. Difficult in a “how did I simultaneously separate my mind and heart from this place while I kept coming day after day?” Now on to pursue that legacy I want to leave my kids.

6 – What Else Can I Do For Silvia and Christopher?

After my Unbound Blogger Trip to El Salvador in early June, I was asked to share details about Silvia, an adult with special needs including epilepsy, and Christopher, an adorable 3 year old, two individuals who would benefit from sponsorship through Unbound. I am searching for ways to expand the reach of my blog post. Does anyone have feedback about other methods I could employ to get the word out? (And even if you don’t have feedback, prayers would be mighty appreciated!)

Silvia, Age 21

Silvia, Age 21

Christopher, Age 4

Christopher, Age 4

***UPDATE*** Silvia has been sponsored (as of 7/2/14). I am so happy to hear this and grateful to whoever sponsored her!  ******

7 – Give As Much Praise As Complaint

After reading Laura Petrolino’s blog post about customer service the other day, I shared it on Facebook along with the suggestion that people should make sure and commend the good at least as often as they condemn the bad. Even in the midst of the wheelchair-challenged day (see #1), I encountered moments of professionalism and compassion, such as the other patient who found a wheelchair for me and the staff member (Delvin) who stayed with my father in law until I could bring the car around. Literally, each one was a godsend!

St. George Island, FL June 2014

St. George Island, FL
June 2014

 

Unbound Sponsorship: Lifting The Pebbles

When I saw this Hopi proverb on Twitter recently, it immediately evoked memories of the time I spent earlier this month in El Salvador on the Unbound Blogger Trip.  Of mothers and fathers who, because of Unbound sponsorship, knew that their child could go to school. Of mothers who held one another accountable in “solidarity groups,” where women learned skills that would help them support their children. Of aging people such as blogger Ali Ebright’s sponsored individual, Josefa, who can now be assured of sufficient food, adequate shelter, and community support.

Christopher and Silvia both live in El Salvador, and need to be lifted up by the support of Unbound sponsorship.

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Christopher, Age 4

Christopher has been waiting for Unbound sponsorship since June 2013. His mother and father both work very hard to provide for him, but their incomes are not consistent enough to ensure that he receives the benefits sponsorship can give, such as nutrition, health, clothing, and (when he is old enough) education.

Silvia, Age 21

Silvia, Age 22

Silvia is a 22 year old woman with special needs (she has had epilepsy since birth). She was sponsored for three years but her sponsor left the program. [Note: she has continued to receive her benefits through a contingency fund but she would thrive off of a relationship with a sponsor.] She lives in a 7-person home; this family subsists on $60.00 a month. She loves to play with toy cars. I would love to know she can get the most basic needs of food, health, and shelter met.

Sponsorship demonstrates Christ’s presence.

I recently read an article written by Rev. Kyle Smith, who is preparing to be a priest. He talked about how, when he elevates the chalice, “My thought and prayer … is … ‘Wow, who am I to be this close to Christ present in the Eucharist?'” He goes on to look forward to his priesthood, and “how more powerful an experience it will be to say the words that call down the Holy Spirit and make Christ present.” In my experience as a sponsor, and in every interaction I had during the Unbound Blogger trip, Christ was made present in tangible, daily ways even though we were not in a formal place of worship.

Christopher and Silvia are like the Hopi’s pebble … it is going to take more than one “finger” to lift them. They need their families; they need (and have) a God who loves them. Ultimately, they need someone to help lift them through the support of sponsorship.

For more information on sponsoring Christopher or Silvia (a $30 a month commitment), please visit this link. If you are not prepared to sponsor right now, please know that your prayers are powerful, as is your willingness to share information about the work of Unbound among people you know.

***UPDATE*** Silvia has been sponsored (as of 7/2/14). I am so happy to hear this and grateful to whoever sponsored her! If you are interested in sponsoring someone else, please follow this link. ***

It is not just Christopher or Silvia who will be lifted by Unbound sponsorship. Whoever sponsors them will also discover their heart soaring to new heights.

One of our sponsored children, Stanley, who lives in El Salvador.

One of our sponsored children, Stanley, who lives in El Salvador.

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Igniting Communities

Pentecost 26 ~ The Holy Spirit

Today is Pentecost, so I have seen many references to fire throughout the day, including “igniting the fire, kindling a fire,” and other fire-related phrases. These phrases took my mind back to last week’s visit to El Salvador’s communities as part of the Unbound Blogger Trip.

Blogger Rachel Balducci observes Morena's Cooking Space Photo Credit: Unbound

Blogger Rachel Balducci observes Morena’s Cooking Space
Photo Credit: Unbound

Cooking options range from primitive wood fires created from wood that must be gathered by the head of household, to limited gas-powered cooking. Fellow blogger Ali Ebright of GimmeSomeOven observed an eco-stove in action; the eco-stove diverts smoke through a chimney in order to keep it out of children’s lungs, helps the family use their limited resources more efficiently, and saves trees by decreasing wood consumption by 66%*

Blogger Ali Ebright cooks huisquil with Maria. Photo Credit: Unbound

Blogger Ali Ebright cooks huisquil with Maria.
Photo Credit: Unbound

As a result of the challenges faced by the families served by Unbound, the process of preparing to cook and then actually cooking the family’s food can be arduous. Imagine having to scavenge outdoors for wood in order to provide for your family. Imagine wood that is soggy from the frequent rains during rainy season (May through October).

It is relatively simple for most of us in the US to prepare meals for our families (turn a dial, light the grill, give in to exhaustion and visit a drive-through). The aisles of a typical American grocery store overwhelmed me with their excess of variety and options upon my return from El Salvador. We have ease, abundance, and social programs that attempt to make sure no child goes hungry.

Some fires take a lot of planning, labor, and good fortune to light. Some are ablaze so rapidly that it’s impossible to define the moment of ignition.

Of course Pentecost isn’t about a single mom in El Salvador seeking enough dry wood to make a cookfire. But it is in attending to these small details of living that we can tangibly reflect the Holy Spirit alive in us.

These families in El Salvador who are involved in Unbound, 85% of whom are headed by single mothers, do not have lives that anyone would consider “easy.” What they do have is one another. I heard testimony after testimony of the impact Unbound had on families: children who had adequate food, students who could keep going to school instead of dropping out to work, aging adults who had the support that is so frequently nonexistent. I saw mothers’ groups holding one another accountable and managing “cooperatives” where very small (in the scheme of things) loans were granted to help them start businesses and create better lives for their children.

A Mothers' Group in Las Lomas. Photo Credit: Unbound

A Mothers’ Group in Las Lomas.
Photo Credit: Unbound

I have volunteered frequently at churches where priests are giving a homily about Unbound, after which parishioners are invited to review folders of children and aging people who are awaiting sponsors.

I am convinced if I could by some feat of time travel drop the entire congregation into an Unbound project in El Salvador (or any of the 20 other countries served by Unbound) for just 15 minutes, they would come away with new sparks of understanding and interest in Unbound’s work. This is not to take away from the priests’ work; it’s just different when you look these people in the eyes. Unbound is not about handouts; it is about people who have the dedication and desire to improve their lives who need resources and support to do so.

I know the $30 a month cost of sponsorship, as reasonable as it is, is prohibitive for some of you. There are other ways to give: a one-time donation to the scholarship fund, for example. If nothing else, your prayers are welcome. This is a big project serving people with big needs; prayers can most certainly help a strong program remain so.

Today’s scripture spoke of “divided tongues.” In our week in El Salvador, we didn’t all speak the same language (thank you, interpreters for your help with THAT!). But we shared a commitment to fanning the flames of community, support, and compassion that underlie each Unbound project. Flames that will forge dignity for each participant.

A traditional dance. Photo Credit: Unbound

A traditional dance.
Photo Credit: Unbound

*Note: I gathered these facts about eco-stoves from ENLACE El Salvador. I do not know what brand of eco-stove Ali saw.

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Helping Javier Stay On Track With Sponsorship

On Monday, June 2, 2014, I walked down these railroad tracks about three quarters of a mile …

Javier Railroad Tracks

Entering a community in El Salvador …
Photo credit: Unbound

I was on my way to meet Javier. Javier is 8 years old. His favorite color is yellow, his favorite subject in school is “lenguaje” (languages), and he (along with his brother Josue) plays soccer (futbol to him) on a team called “Guzman.”

El Salvador Javier Four cropped

He also has a mom (Silvia) who desperately wants Javier to be able to stay in school, stay healthy, and keep his dreams alive (currently he dreams of being a firefighter).

Javier’s father Josue rises very early every morning, traverses these same railroad tracks to get to a bus on which he travels about an hour and a half away to procure fish that he comes back to the community and sells. Despite his constant efforts to provide for his family of four, sales of fish do not provide financial security and threaten Javier’s ability to succeed in school.

I am pretty sure I will never forget how many times Silvia, Javier’s mom, mentioned “zapatos” (shoes) when I asked how sponsorship through Unbound could help Javier. (In addition to education costs, sponsorship also provides assistance for housing, nutrition, health, and “formation” (leadership activities that help build morale and self confidence among youth).)

After I met Javier, as I was preparing to write his story, I couldn’t stop thinking about my son’s early childhood, when he was so obsessed with firefighters. About our trip to the fire station to meet the firefighters, about the firefighter Halloween costume, about the BuildABear figure that, once we clothed it (it was a dog named “Siren” of course) in a miniature firefighter outfit complete with boots and helmet, easily cost more than the $30 that a month of sponsorship through Unbound costs. I pray that Javier gets an opportunity to have a boyhood ignited with possibilities like my son has had.

Here is a little glimpse of Javier and Josue:

Javier’s 9th birthday is June 9, and I can think of no better gift than one of shoes … and the potential to fulfill his dreams … via sponsorship. For general information on sponsorship, please visit this link. If you are interested in sponsoring Javier, or know someone who would be interested, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the right resources.

HAPPY UPDATE AS OF 6/7/14: Javier has a sponsor! Whoever you are, thank you! There are still many children and aging awaiting sponsors. Visit this link for information! 

Javier, 8 years old, El Salvador, Future Firefighter

Javier, 8 years old, El Salvador, Future Firefighter

(Me), Javier, Josue (10), and Silvia (mom)

(Me), Javier, Josue (10), and Silvia (mom)

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El Salvador, Here I Come! #BlogUnbound

In less than seven hours, I will be boarding my flight to El Salvador. A schedule like that makes for a mighty short blog post!

Please read last week’s post to learn more about my trip to El Salvador as part of a blogging team.

My itinerary has gotten a bit more fleshed out since the last time I blogged. I now know that I will be able to speak with a mothers’ group that has a health focus, and will be able to discuss vaccinations.  I’ll be taking lots of notes and pictures and look forward to sharing everything with you!

And of course, I’ll meet Stanley, our family’s new sponsored child!

Stanley

Photo Credit: Unbound

Come along, let’s see what there is to discover!

The Big Green Pen Is Taking a Big Trip! #BlogUnbound

elsalvador

“I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands”

These lyrics from Avicii’s song “Wake Me Up” represent an approach many of us take when issues in our lives need to be resolved, whether they be relatively “small” personal challenges (“how am I ever going to get that birthday party planned?”) or relatively “big” global quandaries (“what can I do to eradicate world hunger?”).

For those “small” personal challenges, life has been trying to teach me for a long time now that it’s incredible how many people are willing to pitch in and help with just a little bit of guidance, encouragement, and (here’s the important thing) the fact that I need to ask in the first place.  For the “big” global quandaries, an organization called Unbound (formerly Christian Foundation for Children and Aging) adds so much more than my two hands to the goal of making a difference for people who are in poverty.

I have been involved with Unbound since my in-laws started sponsoring Silvia twelve years ago. I met Silvia and her mother in July 2011 when my daughter, Tenley, and I went to Guatemala on a Mission Awareness Trip. That’s when we started sponsoring Estela, also from Guatemala, and gained a first-hand knowledge of how our monthly contributions are used and how the letters we exchange with our sponsored children are an important part of the bond between sponsors and sponsored individuals.

I am thrilled to announce that I will be joining Unbound on a Blogger Trip to El Salvador June 1-6.  Details about the 3 other bloggers, 2 journalists, and 2 Unbound staff members who make up the team for #BlogUnbound can be found here. My goal as a participant on this trip is to make it come alive for those of you who can’t visit an Unbound site in person. I will be blogging and sharing about the trip via my social media channels before, during, and after the trip.

I will tell you unreservedly that one of the appointments on my itinerary that I am most excited about is meeting Stanley, a three year old child with muscular dystrophy who our family has decided to start sponsoring:

Stanley

I will be meeting Stanley and his family on my first full day in El Salvador, at his home.  On Tuesday, I will meet with the health committee of a mothers’ group, and on Wednesday, I will meet with a college student who commutes five hours a day to take classes. My fellow travelers will get to see an eco-stove in use, meet sponsored children and aging, visit families who sell clothing and homemade jewelry to make a living, and cook local dishes.

Through my long-time involvement with Unbound, I have come to believe wholeheartedly in its sponsorship model. I know that $30 a month can change lives. I know that the $30 is not in any way a “handout” — it is a way to provide help to people who want to make their lives and the lives of children who rely on them for support more stable and hopeful. I am particularly enthusiastic about the programs that teach people skills that they can then use to support themselves.

Believing in this model as I do, I hope to use this trip to El Salvador to become a more knowledgeable messenger and more energized motivator to link additional hands together to lighten the load of people who are struggling under the weight of poverty.

Between now and June 1 when I depart, here are a few resources to learn about Unbound:

Unbound’s webpage can be found here.

Visit Unbound on Facebook here.

Visit Unbound on Twitter here.

Visit Unbound on Instagram here.

Read some of my previous posts about Unbound here, here, here, here, and here.

Tenley meets Estela, July 2011

Tenley meets Estela, July 2011

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Bob Walked; Everyone Grew

Saturday mornings almost always find me doing my long run. I have run several times through the trails at Lake Lafayette. A few weeks ago, my schedule changed and I was able to participate in a Move Tallahassee walk through the same area. Walking the trail took three times as long as running it would have, but since I ended up among bird lovers and conservationists, things were brought to my attention that I would have missed before: uncommon juvenile birds nestled in the aquatic plants; trash that had been left by walkers prior to us; invasive and predatory vegetation. I left the day with a heightened appreciation for the advantages of slowing down.

When I read an article memorializing Bob Hentzen, President and Co-Founder of Unbound, after his death on October 8, I learned that when he decided to relocate from Kansas City to Guatemala in 1996, he walked. That’s right: 4,000 miles!

The walk from Kansas City to Guatemala can be hard on shoes...

The walk from Kansas City to Guatemala can be hard on shoes…

I can only imagine the human rights issues Bob saw on his walk (and continued to see when he settled in Guatemala).

Did he encounter racism before he left the United States? Did he see citizens of his home country withholding jobs, the ability to rent homes, common courtesy from each other based on which racial group they belonged to?

As he headed south, did he encounter citizens of Mexico, struggling for the right to health protection amidst the HIV/AIDS crisis?

When he arrived in Guatemala, did he immediately see the challenges faced by indigenous people in danger of losing their land and/or livelihood? Undoubtedly he saw what he already knew: that women and girls were in danger of being victims of violence and the inability to get educated.

I know from spending a week on a Mission Awareness Trip in Guatemala with Bob in July 2011 that he cared deeply about the women and girls of Guatemala who needed help to learn skills that would earn them a living; who needed support to get education beyond the initial early grades; who needed protection when spouses succumbed to substance abuse or simply left.

Bob with Guatemalan children

Bob with Guatemalan children

I have so many memories of Bob that have come flooding back since I learned of his death earlier this week.

  • How a few of the kids in the group (and, ahem, perhaps some of the adults) thought it was “quaint” when he walked in for the first time with his guitar. It’s possible a few eyes even rolled. By the end of the week, we were done with that though. I’d give a lot of quetzales (Guatemalan money) to hear Bob sing again.
  • His reference to a song he heard a Guatemalan child sing (paraphrasing here….) “we sing to drown out the sounds of the guns.”
  • The way he interacted with every single Guatemalan family along the way during our week. His little notepad, where he wrote down specific needs and facts. How despite taking notes in his little notepad, those families had his full attention. I remember him asking one teenager if she went to school. She said “no.” There was no judgment coming back from him. But I think a seed may have been planted in that girl’s head. It was clear that no one in Guatemala wanted to disappoint “Don Roberto and Doña Cristina (his wife).”
  • The way he interacted with his staff. I know how short tempered I have been with staff when I supervised. When you’re all crammed together in a mini bus for a week, there’s not a lot of privacy. I listened to him give directions to the Unbound staff and had a sense of abiding, quiet, humble leadership.
  • Despite all that abiding, quiet, humble part, I know that Bob would not brook any nonsense when it came to Unbound. When he talked about charity clearinghouses and auditors questioning how he allocated funds, he was resolute in making sure as much money (and resources) got directly to families as possible while retaining the necessary cushion of financial solidity for Unbound.

Back to walking and human rights. I doubt any of us reading this plan any 4000 mile walks in our lifetimes. What we can do, however, is slow down and walk through our town, our country, or another country and observe the human rights challenges, with an eye to doing something about them.

To extend that example to Tallahassee and my home state of Florida, human slavery steals the rights of women (and some men). In the United States, pick any of a number of issues.

As for other countries, if you have an opportunity to visit and see for yourself, do it. In the meantime, there are plentiful ways to improve your awareness and make a difference.  (One of my favorites is Half the Sky.) In memory of Bob, I also encourage you to visit the Unbound site and consider sponsoring a child, giving a monetary gift, or even simply spreading awareness by sharing Unbound’s message on social media (or face to face!).

One of Bob Hentzen’s most repeated quotes is:  “Society has told them [the poor] all along that they are not capable. We are here to tell them they are quite capable. You are not alone. We are walking with you.” When it comes to the topic of human rights, I encourage you to take a page out of Bob’s book and walk …. blazing a path of awareness and compassion.

Bob and Sponsored Children

Bob and Sponsored Children

(Each year, Blog Action Day “brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day.  Past topics have included Water, Climate Change, Poverty,  Food and the Power of We, with over 25,000 blogs taking part since 2007.” This year’s theme is human rights.)