Education Is Key 

In an increasingly challenging world, more than ever knowledge is the key to success for aspiring youth 

September 08, 2021 | Be Informed

This is how you can reach your dreams

Updated Dec. 21, 2021

In its overview of education around the globe, the World Bank said, “Education is a human right, a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability.”  

The renowned American scientist and inventor George Washington Carver, who was born into slavery, put it more succinctly. “Education,” he said, “is the key that unlocks the golden door to freedom.” 

Sadly, that key is becoming less accessible for many of the world’s children. According to the World Bank, in low- and middle-income countries, 70% of 10-year-olds can’t read a basic text, and with the disruptions wrought by the pandemic and the increasing need for technology in distance learning, that percentage is likely to increase. To make matters worse, education for girls is moving backwards in some countries.

Unbound is helping to address that inequity, one child at a time. Participation in formal schooling or vocational training is required for a child or young adult to be eligible for sponsorship. Rosa Sancoy, a regional coordinator in Guatemala, shared why the organization makes education a priority.

“Unbound’s dream is that all the sponsored children and scholars [scholarship program participants] have a better living condition,” she said. “Unbound desires that all the children and young people continue studying. Girl, boy, if you are in middle school, we encourage you to continue studying for a career. … This is how you can reach your dreams.” 

Aspiring sponsored and unsponsored young people may also be eligible for the Unbound Scholarship Program, which, in addition to financial support for tuition, travel and supplies, now also helps with the costs of computer and internet technology. The goal is to not only help these youth fulfill their academic potential but also become leaders in their families and communities. 

Photo 1: Relaxing in her Guatemala home, former sponsored child and scholarship recipient Luisa does some of the traditional embroidery her mother taught her. Soon to graduate with a degree in elementary education, Luisa hopes to become a school administrator. 

Photo 2: In his home in Guatemala, social worker Amalio looks at the university diploma he earned with the help of his Unbound scholarship. Though he originally intended to teach, Amalio had a change of heart after working with families in the Unbound program. 

Finding his path 

Amalio, a 27-year-old from Guatemala, serves as an example of what Unbound hopes young people will achieve through their educational goals. Sponsored at the age of 5, he became an Unbound scholarship recipient as a teenager. 

Graduating from university with a degree in elementary education, Amalio served as an intern in Unbound’s Guatemala office. Though he’d planned to teach, after working directly with families in the program he began to rethink his path. He now serves as a social worker for Unbound, where he continues to spread the word about the value of education.  

“[Education] is important in life because it gives you knowledge,” he said. “There are people who say that studying is not important, but it’s not like that. Studying … teaches you how to do things and know how to defend yourself anywhere.” 

The challenges of the times 

Across the planet, COVID-19 accelerated the use of distance learning, but in less economically developed nations where students often lack proper equipment and affordable internet access, it widened the already existing technology gap.  

An evaluation conducted by Unbound’s Ecuador program found that less than 8% of sponsored children’s families had sufficient regular income to pay for internet services needed for home-based education. Limited devices and multiple school-age children in a family created additional challenges, along with gaps in understanding how to use technology for online education.  

Some places saw schools completely shut down, causing worry that students might never return. This remains a particular concern for female students who were, in many cases, already struggling against deeply entrenched cultural norms. 

In Meru, Kenya, 94% of respondents in an Unbound evaluation expressed concern about the impact being out of school has had on children, with families reporting an increase in early pregnancy and drug use among youth. The findings led the Unbound team to focus on returning students to school.  

I really dream to finish my studies and eventually get a stable job so that I could be able to help and support my family. I want to give them a better life that they deserve for raising me as I am.

— Mary Jane, University student in the Philippines

Getting around roadblocks

Mary Jane lives in the Philippines and has been sponsored through Unbound since she was 10. Now 21, she was close to earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture when her studies were disrupted by the pandemic. 

Besides the delay in completing her degree, both her father and brother lost their jobs. The lack of income quickly brought the family to the brink of crisis. Fortunately, the Unbound Critical Needs Fund was able to provide emergency relief. Since the start of the pandemic, the fund has given more than $3 million in aid to families in Unbound communities around the world.

Mary Jane’s family used some of the relief money to start a new livelihood making and selling peanut butter. Using social media to market their product, they soon began to see a modest profit. Today, with the entire family involved, the business is growing. 

Meanwhile, Mary Jane is back on track with her degree program. She’s excited for the future.  

“I really dream to finish my studies and eventually get a stable job so that I could be able to help and support my family,” she said. “I want to give them a better life that they deserve for raising me as I am.” 


Sponsored youth Mary Jane enjoys the beautiful Filipino countryside. After her studies were put on hold by the pandemic, Mary Jane has now resumed her architectural degree program and is looking forward to helping support her family. 

Gratitude and confidence 

Luisa, from Guatemala, is now 26. An only child raised by a single mother, she was sponsored as a child and later earned an Unbound scholarship. Both were great sources of support. 

“Unbound has made an impact on my life in many ways,” she said. “When I was beginning in the program of sponsorship, they helped me with food [and clothes]. In recent years, individual [bank] accounts have been worked out. Monthly, I receive my sponsor’s support.” 

Luisa is close to earning her degree in elementary education with an emphasis on school administration. She also works with children who have special needs. As a scholar and a teacher, she’s passionate about her chosen field. 

“Education in one´s life is really important, and I am talking not only about the [information] that education gives us but also about all that we want in life, about improving our lives,” Luisa said.  

Holding onto the lessons of the past with an eye toward the future, Luisa is both confident and grateful. 

“I receive support from God, Unbound, my mom, my classmates, and all my family,” she said. “That gives me the energy to continue. When one is willing, one accomplishes things.”