By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, is about the size of Massachusetts. Mountainous, with pitted, mostly dirt roads in rural areas that become mud roads during the May through October rainy season; paved roads are found in cities like San Salvador and Santa Ana. This is the rainy season; everything is green, growing and flowering.
Still recovering from the 12-year civil war that ended in 1992, the country teems with people (2014 estimate – 6,125,512). More than half the population is Catholic and more than half are intimately acquainted with poverty. I don’t mean not being able to afford that new iPhone or take a vacation. Real poverty: living on less than $10 per day, with three or more children to feed, clothe, keep healthy and, hopefully, educate. Houses or shacks built with spare materials, usually old pieces of wood or sheet metal and plastic sheets or even bags to keep out the rain and wind, and dirt floors. If they are fortunate, a relative might share a home with them, and give the family their own room, with a sheet or shower curtain across the doorway for a bit of privacy. Inadequate, if any, plumbing, and cooking over open fires with little ventilation; both leading to illnesses. Long, back-breaking hours working in the fields, selling tortillas or other finger foods, popsicles or clothing from a push cart or cooking both for family and to earn money. And yet, there is joy and a drive to learn, a purpose to life. There is hope. Parents have dreams for their children, the children dream of their futures and of helping their parents.
Founded in Kansas City in 1981, Unbound, formerly Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, has worked to build strong families and communities and help people break the chains of poverty, ignorance and hopelessness. Today there are more than 300,000 Unbound sponsored children and elderly in 22 developing countries world-wide.
Since 1989, Unbound has worked with families and elderly folks in El Salvador. There are now 13,000 sponsored children and teenagers, and 968 older adults. Through Unbound’s programs and the love and monthly contributions received from their predominantly U.S. sponsors, they experience hope.
It is not a handout, more truly a hand up. In order to benefit from sponsorship, a child of school age must be in school or receiving schooling. The model is one of direct support, requiring a commitment of $30 monthly. Benefits are personalized to help meet each family’s particular needs and so might help fund basic necessities including food, clothing, school tuition and fees, uniforms, housing repairs, medical and dental care, or livelihood initiatives, literacy training for adults, Christmas and birthday celebrations and social outings and assistance for the elderly.
Small miracles, tiny transformations happen every day.
Recently, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, posted on Facebook a photograph of the young man that he has sponsored for a number of years. Ordained a priest for El Salvador last month, Father Nelson Edgardo Fajardo Guevara is one of those miracles.
Sponsors also benefit through opportunities to learn more about their sponsored friends and offer encouragement and support through the exchange of letters and photos. They also may choose to travel on mission awareness trips to meet their sponsored friends, see some of their life and the ways their contributions help. A mission awareness trip brings smiles, laughter and tears in quick succession and a sense of blessing.
Come, meet Faustina, Marlena and her Mothers Group, Delmy and their families.