by Deb Seminary
In 2002, Bill Schneider was attending church in up state New York when sponsorship packets on the chairs from an organization called Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (now Unbound) piqued his interest. “A person could sponsor a child or an elderly individual and the pastor recommended to me that I sponsor an elderly person since the children are usually the ones that get sponsored,” said Bill. “So I sponsored a 70-year old gentleman from the Dominican Republic. The Lord told me I needed to find out more about this organization, so I traveled to their headquarters in Kansas City. I found out that 93 cents out of every dollar donated goes directly to the program and they got top marks in the (non-profit) rating system.”
Bill liked what he found, so he sponsored a few more people. When he met Karen, in 2006, she became excited about the program as well. At their wedding they asked their guests to donate to the organization, in leu of gifts. The money they received helped to secure land for the Dumagat Tribe in the Philippines.
“A year or so later we decided we wanted to see how it was going,” said Karen. “We hiked three days into the jungle, it was an experience I will never forget. We saw where they are going to build a school with some of the money we raised.”
Bill said they asked some of the tribal members why it was important for them to have a school: “One lady said she wanted to read the Bible. A teenager explained she did not want to be made fun of because she could not read and write. And the men, who grow rice for a living, said they wanted to learn how to do math, so when they go in to sell the rice they won’t be taken advantage of. Education means a lot to them.”
The couple now sponsors 100 people each month and 36 of them are in the Philippines. “We just got back from Columbia and we sponsor 13 there,” said Karen. It is a big deal when we go on these trips, they are so happy to meet us, they bring their families, we visit them in their homes, which is a big honor for them and us. Sometimes they have traditional celebrations for us. We spend time with them and they really appreciate it.
“We get asked a lot why we sponsor outside the U.S. and not here in our own country. Most of these countries have no government programs to help them, no food stamps or Medicare, no social security. One of the families had no electricity. We are able to give hope to the hopeless.”
Unbound is now in 20 countries and the Schneiders have visited 13 of them. It is their goal to eventually travel to them all. When they do the Unbound trips, they usually add on another few days to visit an area close by. For instance, when they traveled to the Philippines, they visited Thailand after.
“These trips are transformational, life-changing,” said Karen. “I tell people they more important than taking your children to Disney World. If I could do it over again, I would have my kids sponsor someone, write them letters, then make a trip to visit them. Their world view will never be the same. It refocuses them to the reality that so many have so little and what we can do to make a difference.”
Sponsorship starts at just 30 dollars a month. “Some people may wonder how much impact a dollar a day may have,” said Bill. “It can really make a big difference in these countries where a dollar goes a long way.”
Unbound was founded in 1981 by three brothers, a sister and a family friend. They developed the sponsorship program to help people living in poverty and to help form real friendships between people from different cultures and economic circumstances.
They currently work with more than 300,000 children, youth and elderly people in 20 countries. They have more than 260,000 sponsors throughout the United States, with sponsors in every state.
A sponsorship directly benefits an individual and helps pay for education, skills training and livelihood programs. Unbound believes families and communities can overcome the challenges that face them when we all work together. Children go to school, elders have the nutrition and health care they need, and more mothers and fathers have the opportunity to start or grow businesses to support their families.
Traveling to visit those that are sponsored is not required. However, the trips are very affordable.
Trips to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean cost $500-$650 per person. Trips to South America cost $600-$800, and trips to Asia and Africa cost $800-$1200. This covers food, lodging and most in-country transportation. Airfare is not included.
For more information, contact them at (800) 875.6564 or visit unbound.org.