Unbound, a Kansas City, Kan., anti-poverty organization, may hold the key to the U.S. border crisis

07/22/2014 4:36 PM

07/22/2014 5:20 PM

If President Barack Obama would visit Kansas City, Kan., he may find a solution to the crisis of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing illegally into the United States.

Two miles from downtown off Southwest Boulevard is the world headquarters of Unbound. The goal of this anti-poverty organization established in 1981 is to empower women in 21 nations to improve the lives of children and families.

That’s important especially now as U.S. officials grapple with the flood of children fleeing Central American countries seeking a better, safer life in the U.S. Unbound helps them enjoy a good life with their families in their home countries by empowering mothers and communities.

One of the biggest stereotypes and global lies is that poor people are lazy and stupid, said Scott Wasserman, Unbound president and chief executive officer.

“But no one works harder than a poor mom,” Wasserman said. “These are strong, hard-working women.”

Many may not be educated, but they are resourceful, eager to learn and do for themselves. They are just missing confidence and financial structure.

Obama needs to see how Unbound makes a difference. It receives no grants or government money. It raises funds through donations from people who want a personal relationship with individuals receiving assistance in other countries.

Donors contribute $30 a month, or a dollar a day to sponsor a child or elderly person. Letters are exchanged connecting the donor to the recipient, and visits are even arranged developing personal bonds.

In addition, Unbound organizes women in developing nations into mothers’ groups, where the women make decisions on how the financing can best aid the community.

Women, their spouses and children plan and then make their future better. Wasserman said last year $104 million went to mothers in countries in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America. More than 90 percent of all funds went directly to families. Women in those countries best know their needs and how to make the most of the human capital around them opposed to having Westerners telling them what to do.

Enabling more women would help end the U.S. immigration problem.

Wasserman said Unbound doesn’t pretend to know what’s best for people elsewhere. The experts are the moms; Unbound helps people connect with them.

“The moms are the boards of directors,” Wasserman said. Unbound does audits to ensure the funds are used properly.

One group in Guatemala used financing from Unbound to process cocoa beans into chocolate for market. Before that people had to travel four hours to a mill.

A Kenyan family used Unbound aid to construct a small poultry house to produce chickens and eggs. The manure from the chickens then was used to raise and sell sugar cane and passion fruit.

In India, a woman was able to use an Unbound loan to buy a sewing machine to start a tailoring business. She later bought an embroidery machine and started training other women in tailoring.

In Nicaragua a mother’s group set up a small business to cook and sell tamales to financially benefit the community.

Unbound has 165 employees in Kansas City, Kan., and 2,056 co-workers in nations it serves. It connects 270,000 sponsors with 325,000 beneficiaries.

“People are proud to be part of Unbound,” Wasserman said. “They don’t think of it as a handout.

“They see themselves as a member of Unbound because they run it. It all starts from personal relationships.”

Unbound helps women in other countries overcome stereotypes and lies. Obama needs to see what’s taking place here and support it so people of all ages in neighboring countries can make a better life for themselves in their homeland.

To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to ldiuguid@kcstar.com.

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