Top 5 Stories Of 2020

Looking back at a year marked by struggle, resilience and hope

December 30, 2020 | Be Informed

The year in Review

In a year unlike any other, individuals and families found ways to cope with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and a deepening of poverty around the world. Here are five Unbound stories of struggle, resilience and hope from 2020.

Sponsored elder Benetta in Nairobi says that she has no other option but to continue working during the COVID-19 pandemic because she's the sole provider for her four grandchildren.

1. as pandemic pulls more into poverty, families push back

With tens of millions of people around the world at risk for falling into extreme poverty — defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 a day — families participating in Unbound programs relied on grit and creativity to keep their livelihoods afloat during the pandemic.

In the Kibagare slum community of Nairobi, Kenya, 67-year-old Benetta runs a small charcoal business out of her one-room shanty that she shares with four of her grandchildren. She says she has to keep working to support her grandkids, who she’s been raising on her own since the death of her son.

In addition to charcoal, Benetta sells bananas, candy and peanuts. “Since the virus was reported in Kenya my business went down,” she said. “The food in the house also reduced. I sell my stock and whatever remains we eat.”

Benetta is one of more than 30,000 elders who receive cash transfers and personalized services through Unbound, which is the only major U.S.-based organization to include sponsorship of the elderly.

A single father of three teenage girls in Guatemala, Diego is one of the millions of people in the developing world who risk falling back into extreme poverty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, Diego had built up multiple streams of income — including a chicken farming business that had provided extra income to his family for years — but with lack of other income coming in, he was forced to sell his last chicken.

2. Amidst pandemic, a single dad's struggle for survival

Raising three teenage girls can be tough for any single father in any part of the world, but Diego’s doing it in the rural, southwestern highlands of Guatemala amid a pandemic. To 16-year-old Maria and 14-year-old twins Juana and Ana, he’s been their sole provider and protector — and the personal embroiderer for their traditional “huipil” blouses for the last 10 years.

Diego works in food service. With the pandemic interrupting the progress he’d made to give his daughters a better life, Diego says his faith in God helps him stay hopeful. “Sometimes, we say that we cannot and that there are impossible things, but everything is possible if we fight,” he said. “With effort and dedication, we can achieve something.”

Unbound helps families like Diego’s with sponsorship benefits delivered through cash transfers. This gives families the most flexibility to address their urgent needs and long-term goals. In 2020, more than 300,000 individuals and families received support through Unbound.
Sometimes, we say that we cannot and that there are impossible things, but everything is possible if we fight. With effort and dedication, we can achieve something.

— Diego, father of three daughters in Guatemala  

Photo one: In his home in the Philippines, Jensen unwraps the new laptop computer he purchased with the help of his local Unbound parent volunteer group. The group committed to helping sponsored students like Jensen acquire the equipment they’d need for online study.

Photo two: With his new computer up and running, Jensen dives into his schoolwork at home. Since the pandemic, this has been the reality for students all over the world.

3. Students cope with remote learning

As challenging as COVID-19 made life across the globe, it would have been worse if not for the ability many had to work and study from home because of digital technology. But for nearly half the people on the planet, that ability doesn’t exist.

According to UNESCO, while 87 percent of households in economically developed nations enjoy internet access, only 47 percent of homes in developing nations have it. In the poorest countries in the world, the percentage falls to 19.

"Many [Unbound] programs are sharing that digital learning is a big challenge and some have done some more in-depth surveys to better understand [the challenges]," said Melissa Velazquez, Unbound International Program Director for Latin America.

Some students have used resources from the Unbound sponsorship and scholarship programs to purchase equipment or data to access the internet, allowing them to continue their studies through remote learning.

Photo one: Young mother Gilma holds her son Edin after their home in Guatemala was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta. Gilma is the sister of sponsored youth Minor, not pictured.

Photo two: Debris is all that's left of Erwin Bonaobra's family home in the Bicol region of the Philippines. Bonaobra is a staff member of Unbound's Antipolo program in Angono.

Photo three: A photo captured by Jhana Duque, a staff member in Daet Camarines Norte in the Bicol region, shows some of the downed electrical posts that resulted in a widespread power outage.

4. Massive storms impact Central America, philippines

Hurricane Eta caused widespread damage and forced families served by Unbound in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to evacuate to shelters when it swept through Central America in early November.

More than a thousand families served by Unbound in the Philippines fled to evacuation centers as powerful Typhoon Goni bore down on the island nation Nov. 1, damaging homes and crops and complicating efforts to prevent illness from the coronavirus. Goni was followed later in the month by Typhoon Vamco, which damaged or destroyed the homes of an estimated 3,000 families served by Unbound, forcing many to flee to evacuation centers.

Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like earthquakes, severe storms, fires and health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kevin, 5, became the first child in Rwanda to be sponsored through Unbound.

5. unbound begins working in rwanda

In an immensely challenging year marked by one setback after another for the human family, people everywhere longed for good news. Unbound, after years of preparation, publicly celebrated the opening of its program in Rwanda, making Rwanda the 19th developing nation with an Unbound program.

A 5-year-old boy, Kevin, became the first child sponsored through Unbound in Rwanda. He was sponsored in January by Trevor from Kansas. By November, 500 children were sponsored in Rwanda.

Sponsorship through Unbound provides children and families with resources to meet needs like education, nutrition, improved housing, livelihood development and more.