Encouraging Learners

A lesson on how the support of others helps inspire lifelong learning

By Larry Livingston

November 09, 2021 | 40 Years 40 Lessons

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According to a metric developed jointly by the World Bank and UNESCO, less than half of children in low- and middle-income countries have sufficient reading comprehension by the end of primary school. In poor countries that deficiency is as high as 80%. Since education is the greatest asset a person can have to overcome systemic poverty, those are grim statistics.

Unbound has always placed a high priority on education. Every sponsored child must be enrolled in some form of schooling or vocational training. The organization also supports sponsored and non-sponsored students through its scholarship program. But, increasingly, members of the Unbound community who’d thought that their chance for an education had passed them by are discovering new opportunities.

Here are three examples of how people of all ages are being encouraged to take advantage of opportunities afforded them by belonging to the Unbound community.

Keeping her eyes on the prize

Chandani is a 14-year-old sponsored girl in India. Like many bright students, success in school came so easily for her that, by her own admission, she wasn’t motivated to study when she was younger. Her Unbound sponsor helped inspire her to work harder to achieve her goal of becoming a doctor.

“… After reading the letter from my sponsor saying that it takes lot of hard work to become a doctor and you have to study really well to achieve your dream … I was inspired and motivated to start studying seriously and moving forward in my education,” Chandani said.

Her father agreed with Chandani’s sponsor and reminded his daughter that her gifts come with responsibilities.

“He tells me that I have to become like an example to my brothers and sister,” she said. “Also, to other poor children in the village … so that they also can [escape the cycle] of poverty.”

Chandani has taken her parents' counsel to heart and shares their devotion to the community.

“I want them to … know that all the hard work they have put into bringing us up has reaped good fruit, and also that their children are working for others’ good.”


Chandani, left, studies with her brother Rajeev at their home in India. The oldest of four children, 14-year-old Chandani is encouraged by her parents to set an example of studiousness for her siblings and the other children of the community.

The community she needed  

Johana lives in Chile with her husband and three children. After years of struggling to get by, she was excited when her son Esteban became sponsored through Unbound. But she also hoped that belonging to the Unbound community would provide an additional benefit.

“I did not look for Unbound for the economic support only,” she said. “I did mostly because of the advice, psychological and emotional support I knew I was going to find there.”

Johana had dropped out of school after the 7th grade to help support her family. She’d always wanted to resume her education, but after getting married and starting to raise a family, it seemed like an impossible dream. But when her Unbound social worker heard her story, he encouraged Johana to consider returning to school.

Johana earned her high school diploma last year. She was invited to give a speech at the graduation ceremony.

“[I said] that everything can be done, if you set a goal for yourself, and if you have the will to do it,” she said. “That was the main idea of the speech. We need to remember to be grateful for all the opportunities that we have in this life.”

Johana plans to go on to college with hopes of becoming a teacher.


Johana studies at her home in Chile. When her son Esteban became sponsored, she was grateful not only for the financial benefits but also for the emotional support, including encouragement to continue her education.

Never too late to learn 

Lucia is a sponsored elder in Unbound’s Quezon program in the Philippines. Her story is proof that education is the work of a lifetime.

Forced by poverty to drop out of school as a child, she never gave up her desire to complete her education. The opportunity finally presented itself when Lucia was in her mid-60s. It came in the form of a program sponsored by the Filipino government that offered free tuition, with no age restrictions.

Though, Lucia says, she at first felt self-conscious as the lone elder in class, she persevered with the encouragement of the one person in the room whose support mattered most.

“My teacher is very kind and gentle. She tells me to just continue what I’m doing and my classmates will eventually respect me.”

Lucia is on the way to fulfilling her childhood dream. She recently graduated from junior high and intends to go on to earn her high school diploma. And, though Unbound didn’t provide direct educational support for her, Lucia said that sponsorship helped ease her financial burdens and made it possible to focus on her studies without worry. She’s grateful to her sponsor and the Unbound community.

“To my sponsor, thank you,” she said. “… I am so grateful that God gave me a person like you. … Please know that you will always be in my heart.”

Photo 1: Sponsored elder Lucia studies at her home in the Philippines. She returned to school as part of a government program that offered free tuition to people of all ages.

Photo 2: Lucia proudly shows her junior high graduation photo, taken in 2020. She plans to go on to receive her high school diploma.

In it for the long haul 

As the pandemic moves toward its third year, schools around the world remain closed and already struggling families find themselves without access to the equipment and technology increasingly required for online learning. Unbound is responding by allowing students in the scholarship program to use scholarship funds to purchase computers and internet access. Some local Unbound programs are also providing equipment to students so that they can continue their studies from home.

Over its 40-year history, Unbound has always adapted to the challenges of the times and responded to the expressed needs of families in the program. We don’t know what the future of education will look like, but with the support of its always generous community of sponsors and donors, Unbound will be there to accompany — and encourage — those eager to learn.

I did not look for Unbound for the economic support only. I did mostly because of the advice, psychological and emotional support I knew I was going to find there.


About the author:

Larry Livingston serves as senior writer/editor on the Unbound marketing and communications team. His travels for Unbound have taken him across the U.S. and to several other countries, where he’s had the privilege of meeting many sponsored persons, families, staff and sponsors.