Empathy is the foundation of Unbound’s approach to international development. It was created with the goal of challenging poverty in new and innovative ways. As its Director of International Programs, Dan Pearson understands the importance of building relationships with the families and communities they serve.
The organization works with people of diverse faith traditions in 18 countries to build relationships of mutual respect and bridge cultural, religious, and economic divides. By empowering families with practical and trustworthy means, Unbound nurtures human connections that uplift us all.
In my nearly 30 years working in sports broadcasting, experience has taught me the importance of empathy in achieving success. On the baseball diamond, it’s critical to the team dynamics needed for results. So important, in fact, that I often emphasize it in my keynote speeches.
It’s a background that is interesting when contrasted to Pearson’s work in international development. But no matter how different they may appear to be, both rely on empathy to inspire change.
SINGLE: Overcoming Myths with Empathy
Dan spoke to the importance of debunking myths about people living in poverty, such as the belief that they are lazy or lacking in character. “It really began with our founders,” Dan said. “They worked overseas, and it was their realization that they had a lot to learn.”
It was the seed that started everything. But most important was to eliminate misconceptions that people are impoverished due to fault of their own. Unbound has worked tirelessly to change that narrative, and in doing so, has helped countless more uncover the endless potential that lies beneath.
DOUBLE: Mothers as Advocates
Empathy is key to a team’s connection and ultimate success. At Unbound, it achieves this by focusing on mothers as advocates for their children. Dan explained this is because the mothers often have the most impact on their child’s life. “She understands what her child needs, what her child’s gifts are, and their dreams are,” he said. “We just come alongside her.”
Over the course of its mission, Unbound has found that oftentimes, mothers don’t need solutions. They need financial resources from an organization that understands local culture and nuances. By providing women with a bank account in their name, they are empowered to make decisions that will advance their own goal achievement.
It’s an investment that not only benefits the education of children, but also the entire family unit as it breaks the cycle of poverty.
TRIPLE: Building Stronger Communities
The participation of local mother’s groups is critical to identifying – and ultimately supporting – the families that are most in need of help. Dan explained that this model helps Unbound identify the root causes of poverty within the community, and helps them overcome it even stronger. One reason why is that individuals unite solve problems as a team, based on relationships of mutual respect and support.
In addition to personal financial support, Unbound also provides loans to support small business ventures, which can lead to greater economic opportunities and growth as the entire community begins to thrive.
HOME RUN: Listening with Empathy
No matter your professional field, your level of success will have a direct correlation to your ability to listen. Unbound‘s ability to do this is one of the things that has made it so successful. By taking the time to truly listen, teams connect, learn about each other and explore motivations that will help make the most positive impact. It’s a lesson in winning that applies no matter where you are in the world.
Listen to the full interview here or tune in to Rounding the Bases every Monday and Thursday, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Learn More About Empathy from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:11
Hey everybody, welcome into Rounding the Bases Presented by Community America Credit Union: Believe in Unbelievable. Also a quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City, great partners of mine. If you’re hiring, looking to be placed, whatever it might be. Even just a resource, chiefofstaffkc.com. On location today. I’ll explain that in just a moment. But let’s get right to it. It takes courage to make a big impact. As well as hope, dignity and most of all human connection. Today we’re Rounding the Bases on location with Dan Pearson. He’s the Director of International Programs at Unbound, a global organization that has been challenging poverty since 1981 with its radically personalized approach. By working alongside diverse populations of marginalized and vulnerable, Unbound inspires confidence in each of the millions that it serves, and is helping them bridge divides and overcome great odds by showing just how capable and unique they truly are. That is just on the simplest level, an introduction, but we’re gonna get right into it right now. And I get to, it’s rare in this day and age of, even post COVID, where everything got easier from a studio, that I get to be on location sitting right next to Dan. You may not be able to see that if you’re listening to the audio version of this podcast. But Dan, thanks, I was gonna say thanks for coming on the show, which I do. But thanks for having me at your house. It’s great to be here.
Dan Pearson 1:39
It’s great to be here too.
Joel Goldberg 1:40
This is amazing. And I just got the tour of your facility, which is such a little small piece, because everything you’re doing is around the world. But I think it’s very powerful storytelling here. And I think without taking away from what anyone’s doing, because they’re, I don’t know how many 1000s of incredible organizations that are helping people out around the world. But I think that Unbound, along with being here in the Kansas City area, it’s unique. It’s different. Let’s start with that what makes Unbound among the many amazing, impactful organizations around the world, what makes Unbound unique.
Dan Pearson 2:17
I think it really began with our founders. They worked overseas, and it was their realization that they really had a lot to lear. That they weren’t there bringing answers, the families that they were serving had answers. And that was really the seed that started everything. And ever since then our approach is really all about getting rid of these myths, these false tales about people who live in poverty, that they’re lazy. They’re, there’s something wrong with their character, that somehow it’s their fault. If you get rid of that myth, then you can really discover there’s a lot of potential there.
Joel Goldberg 2:49
And there’s, there’s so much here, because I’m on the surface to say, Okay, you’re going in and you’re helping people out. But this isn’t just send some money to, in simplest form, a starving child. It might be a kid that that needs food. This is not a one time donation. This is about relationships. And this is about much more than that to because it’s about, from everything I’m learning, building communities, empowering people to make these decisions. And it I guess, it’s simple and easy just to say, here’s a check, there you go. But there’s also, I think, a lack of dignity in that too, not that people in need wouldn’t take it. But now suddenly, they are being empowered to make these decisions that affect their families, their lives, their communities. Can you expand on that?
Dan Pearson 3:41
That’s really something that we’ve discovered over and over everyday here is that the best advocate for child is almost always their parents. Their mother is who’s who’s involved with that child’s life, and has not been given the opportunities really to make that impact. So we try to partner with her. She understands what her child needs, what her child’s gifts are, what their dreams are. And we just come alongside her and we put money in a bank account that is in the name of that mother and child. And they have a goal that they want to accomplish through their participation in our program. And that money goes to reach that goal.
Joel Goldberg 4:14
There are a lot of quotes that I saw along the way. And by the way, at your offices here in Kansas City, or KCK. There are so many inspirational quotes, pictures. It’s all incredible storytelling, from everything that I saw. But I’m staring at one from your CEO, so I’ll just read it right off of the wall. I’ve got others in my phone, but “It takes courage, trust and hope to walk with someone on the path out of poverty. Unbound offers a platform that supports a personal connection between people across the globe, empowering all involved.” We’ll get into the specifics of what that walking means in just a moment because it’s a big part of the Unbound story. But there’s something to be said I always speak to a lot of groups and then a lot of motivational talking and all of that about culture, teamwork, leadership. And one of the topics that I love to talk about is empathy. And I described this as my personal definition, I describe empathy as walking in someone else’s shoes. That’s essentially what all of your sponsors and all of your volunteers employees are doing, right?
Dan Pearson 5:17
That’s right. It’s a two way relationship. The families overseas definitely receive financial benefit, and that we connect them with a local community. But the sponsors on this side also grow. They understand the world better. And they start to see that these families are ready. They’re ready to run. They just need some a little help to get started. But they’re very capable. And they’ve got so much potential, that it’s really a partnership.
Joel Goldberg 5:41
And it’s not just for a kid, right? I mean, it’s anything from kids to moms or dads or adults or elders. Tell me about that. Because it really is wide ranging.
Dan Pearson 5:53
Yeah, one of the things that makes Unbound unique is that we have a program for older adults in developing countries around the world. They’re really a forgotten population. The, the government programs and the nonprofit programs really focus on children and mothers, which is great. That’s the investment in the future. But the elderly often get left behind. So our programs also give them dignity and restore that dignity by also putting money into a bank account, bringing them together, reweaving, that connection, that social connection, that’s so important.
Joel Goldberg 6:21
The social connection was something that really was interesting to me, because, and I’ve traveled to third world countries, the communities can oftentimes be very tight knit. Incredibly giving, incredibly hospitable. But yet, what I found out was that oftentimes, say, you’re getting a group of moms together, and they’re building now almost leadership groups and community and communication. These elders that they never had within each other. And that surprised me a little bit, because you think that in these, you know, small, tight communities, everybody knows, but, but yet, that was, I don’t know if that was never encouraged, or what it was. So tell me about Unbounds ability to really bring people together. I’ll use the word empower, again, to start making decisions on their community’s behalf.
Dan Pearson 7:10
Absolutely. What’s happened is, over the last 50 years, hundreds of millions of people have migrated from rural areas to the cities, and they’ve come to the cities to look for opportunity. They make the sacrifice to come to the city. They’re never gonna make up probably where they were before, but their kids can finish high school. But what they lose when they moved to the city is that social network that they’ve depended on for generations. So we bring them others together in small groups to get to know your neighbors, to share ideas, to provide support. Because we’re learning that, really institutions, we have a role to play. But at the end of the day, when your kids sick, and you need to take her to the hospital, and you need someone else to look after your kids, it’s your neighbor. You turn to not an institution. And so we’re trying to reweave that community sense.
Joel Goldberg 7:54
I should let all my audience know a little bit about some of the countries that you’re involved into. That is also wide ranging. What what are some of those countries?
Dan Pearson 8:03
We work in 18 countries in Latin America, both Central America and South America and the Caribbean, and then also in Africa, and Asia.
Joel Goldberg 8:11
And you have been, I overheard you guys talking about this, too, how many places so far this year in 2022?
Dan Pearson 8:15
I’ve been on eight trips this year, typically travel about once a month. This week, this month, or this year has been a little slower because of COVID. But I usually spend about a week each month in the locations. We feel like it’s really important to, you mentioned empathy, to see the world from the perspective of the families. And for me, that means doing a lot of random home visits. I select families ahead of time. I don’t want to see just the stars of the program, I want to see what the experience is for the average family. So we go and visit them in their homes.
Joel Goldberg 8:43
So let’s talk about that almost from a different couple, a couple different perspectives here. Beginning to end, or at least the journey. Let’s start with say, a young child in Honduras. What’s the involvement? How, how do they end up getting involved in this? What are, what are the benefits and then what is the long term?
Dan Pearson 9:07
Typically a family is recommended to our program by their local mothers group, the mothers there. When I visit a community, everybody looks like they’re qualified, but the mothers in that community, they understand the nuances of the local poverty and identify the families that have the greatest need, will enroll a child in the program. They typically, right now they’re waiting for a year or more to enter the program. Though when they start the program, they open a bank account and we start depositing money regularly into that account, and they develop they have a goal that they’re trying to achieve and they use the money for that. The mother is enrolled in local mother’s group and she connects there, gets ideas to start a business. Maybe she might take a loan. A lot of the mothers create small cooperatives where they can take loans to start or expand their businesses. Over time that money is invested in the child graduating from school. Mom has better income from her business. And when she leaves the program, she leaves the program with her share that she’s saved over her duration in the program.
Joel Goldberg 9:58
And I know, getting back to, just, it’s not as simple as sending a check. There is, like anywhere in the world, there’s a cycle of poverty. That’s, that’s, I mean, right here in Kansas City and other places, that is really difficult to break. And I’ve got to imagine that this is the best chance to break that cycle, right? That long cycle that has the kid coming out with further education and not getting pulled away to having to work all day long as you know, eight, nine year old or whatever it is. What, what, what does that finish look like to you?
Dan Pearson 10:29
Our program has really expanded over the years. We initially focused very strictly on one child, because we felt like education was so important. It clearly is. But if just one child is educated, then they have the burden when they graduate from high school or college, have maybe 15 or 20 relatives who are depending on them for their sustenance. So we work more with mothers also now to spread out the benefit and sort of manage the risks and the opportunities better. It’s a really slow process, we most of us improve our lives little by little day by day. The tragedies that come really set us back quickly, like COVID, or a medical prognosis from the family, or tropical disaster. And so it’s the little bit day by day that we see improvement.
Joel Goldberg 11:13
I want to ask you about COVID In a moment, but then let’s talk about from a sponsor standpoint, somebody wants to sponsor a child, a family. What, what is that cycle, so to speak, like for them? Because this I know in most, if not all cases, becomes very personal.
Dan Pearson 11:29
Yeah, they will receive letters from the child. They can write back to the child to really develop that connection of seeing that child and their family as human beings. That’s one of the things that the families that we work with are often just ignored. They’re invisible to their communities. The communities that we live in have so many children, and these children, to be sort of noticed and seen by a sponsor, can have a huge impact. So there’s a relationship that develops. It all, it’s also a good way to make sure that your money gets where you want it to get. And you can watch that child grow and see them achieve their goals.
Joel Goldberg 12:02
There’s a lot of correspondence, yeah, back and forth. And even some visits at some point to right?
Dan Pearson 12:07
That’s right. Before COVID, and we hope very soon, we’re going to restart these trips. Before COVID, we had about 25 or 30 trips a year of sponsors, going and meeting their sponsor friends.
Joel Goldberg 12:16
So let’s talk about COVID. And it’s, you know, I guess the best and worst question to ask right now to anyone running an organization because it’s been a reality. And there, it’s amazing and interesting to me to watch companies, organizations getting back to work. Hybrid, work from home. But now you add in the extra element to have, you’ve got people all around the world, whether it be working for you, or whether it be the people that you are serving. And I’m just curious what the the COVID years, I guess I would say, I mean, in many ways, we’re still going through that, right? But what what did that look like for you?
Dan Pearson 12:58
We felt really fortunate that we had started this Cash Transfer model before COVID, because it allowed us to continue our programs really uninterrupted all the way through COVID. There’s also an element of dignity there, rather than standing in the in line to receive some benefit that somebody else thought you might need. Having money deposited in a bank account and you as a, as a parent, you withdraw that money and buy the things that your family needs. That continued all the way through COVID. Likewise, a lot of the, the intangible programming, the community building went online, we had mothers and families looking in on the elders who were isolated in the cities, going to the grocery store for them, things like that. We’re now getting back to community work, thank goodness and families are starting to restart their businesses and do the economic recovery part. We’re also worried about the kids who were out of school for a while and so far the kids in the program are returning at higher rates than we feared. So that’s good news.
Joel Goldberg 13:53
Yeah, that’s something that we’ve heard all over the United States too, right? Those that don’t have Wi Fi, kids growing up in underprivileged households, you can see it in any city, any urban core in America, right? And so there may not be good Wi Fi, so the kids aren’t able to get the kind of schooling that they needed. Now take it to another level. Mom is working two or three jobs. So the ability to have childcare and all that these are just problems here in the United States. What what did that look like in, in places? You’ve got a great little sort of model home model home, I guess you’d call it right? That would look like what someone is living at in one of the countries that you go into. And it looks like a tiny room. And anyone that’s ever been to a third world country has seen this before. But it’s a it’s a little room, a little house. You know, with a little place to cook, a bed, a desk. And you might have five, six people in one family there. What did school look like for these kids during COVID?
Dan Pearson 14:59
It really vary based on not just the technology that the family had. But the infrastructure: Do you have cell phone coverage? A lot of families, if they had a cell phone at all, it was, you know, limited minutes that they had and the all the kids were sharing it. Lock down definitely is a very different reality when you’ve got five or six people locked down in one single room.
Joel Goldberg 15:21
So you just never know what’s going to come, right? And we all knew that. I think we know that more. Now something else will challenge all of us as a society as as as the world as our country, and who knows what that next thing is. But you’ve learned, we’ve all learned from this too. And so I was wondering a little bit about what it’s been like for you, as you’ve been able to get back into some of these places for the first time, what it meant to you personally, but also what it meant to them as they were able to see you?
Dan Pearson 15:52
It’s been really wonderful to get back out there. For all of us that that personal connection, there’s no substitute to really being there on the ground. And the staff have done an amazing job. We are all of our we have 1800 staff around the world, and 40% of them are graduates of the program. So these are young people from the community itself who want to give back and they have been sort of bursting at the seams to get back out there with the families.
Joel Goldberg 16:18
So these are younger people, a lot of them that that were in the shoes of the the kids and the families that they’re they’re serving now at this point too. How does that all work? The 1800 in terms of what what their roles are. But also I’m curious, just from a culture standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, with Unbound where you have so many people representing you all over the world, how do you bring it all together?
Dan Pearson 16:44
We really feel like, in order for those local staff to empower the families, we have to empower the local staff. And so we talk a lot about power, these patterns tend to replicate in institutions or systems so that we in in our mind, how we treat our own staff here in Kansas City and how we treat our colleagues overseas has to mirror the way that we want them to treat the families and the way we want those mothers to treat their children.
Joel Goldberg 17:09
Okay, this all started 40 plus years ago, 1981. And it had a little something, at least at one point, to do with walking. A little something about a lot of walking. Really, let’s let’s talk about that. Because when you talk about and when I talk about walking in someone else’s shoes, your founder literally did that too. Explain the origins of it.
Dan Pearson 17:31
Yeah, our founder, Bob Henson had two long walks, one was from our office here on Southwest Boulevard to his home in Guatemala. And the second one was from Guatemala, all the way to Chile. And along the way, he visited all of the communities where we have a program. And it was really to send a message to to the families that we love them. That we are literally in their shoes. And also to send a message to us here in the US that there’s no more humble method of transportation than walking. So if the president of an organization can can spend his time doing that, it shows the value that we place on these families lives.
Joel Goldberg 18:08
I mean, I almost don’t want to get too off topic here. But I almost feel like if if we all spent some of that time in our country, walking into neighborhoods where we’ve never been to before or walking into communities, you know, you’re in the city, go into those rural areas, you’re, you know, you’re in a predominantly white area, go into an area that’s that’s predominantly black and start to understand the needs of people, you do become more empathetic. And it sounds like that’s what he was doing from day one. And then just seeing some of the pictures of him walking and holding kids hands as he was going. The way it was explained to me was he wasn’t just walking through these towns, he was stopping in these towns and meeting these people too. What did he say? You know, I know he’s no longer with us. But what did he say about the ability to meet these people?
Dan Pearson 18:56
Well, he said that you have to go at the same pace. You know, as you say, a lot of times those those of us who have a heart to, to reach out, we’re zipping by at 60 miles an hour in our cars. And so going at the same pace, coming alongside, not out front, not behind. But walking with and listening. That’s really the core of what we’re trying to do here is if you believe that people who live in poverty, don’t have a character deficiency or a skill deficiency, they just lack money. If you really believe in them, how would you structure yourself in order to listen to them and let them lead? Because those mothers, they are really the experts in global poverty. They know a lot more than I do.
Joel Goldberg 19:33
You said it a number of times, but we’ll get back too it. It all, either starts or ends or centers around the mothers in these communities. Right? Is that, I guess in general, that’s, that’s, that’s the thought process. But as you go into each of these communities, even some within the same country, certainly different countries, different cultures. Tell me about that and how important it is to adapt to the customs and the cultures of each of those neighborhoods or villages or cities, that may be completely different just based on where you’re at?
Dan Pearson 20:09
Yeah, well, that’s part of why it’s so important to have this empowerment of local staff and for the staff to be from that community to really speak with the voice of that community. We think of Unbound, not as a single program for 300,000 families, it’s 300,000 micro programs. Each family is a unique program with unique goals and unique challenges. And so we’re tailoring the program to meet their objectives and to really let them lead this this movement.
Joel Goldberg 20:35
Let’s talk a little bit about post COVID. If I’m allowed to say that and again, I’ve everybody’s got a different take on exactly where we’re at with this. It’s certainly better than it was a year ago, or months ago or two years ago for for sure. As things start to open up, as your sponsors get to go and see their kids. How do you envision that going and what might change too?
Dan Pearson 20:56
We’re seeing that a lot of the technology that the staff and families adopted during COVID is going to be useful going forward. So we’re looking to see what we can hang on to. We also have a lot of catching up to do. For decades now we’ve been moving forward at a global level in reducing global poverty. And this was our biggest setback. So we’ve got, we got a lot of catching up to do. And we’ve currently, in Unbound, we’ve got over 20,000 kids who are waiting to join the program.
Joel Goldberg 21:19
So well, I’ll mention this at the end, too. But let’s just throw it out there in case somebody doesn’t get to the end. How can people get involved?
Dan Pearson 21:26
They can go to the website at unbound.org. And there you can select a child based on you know, the age, the gender, the country that they’re from, a child that really speaks to you that that it that you want to partner with, with that child’s mother, that child’s father, and move forward.
Joel Goldberg 21:41
That’s pretty cool. I mean, sitting right behind us now are a bunch of mailboxes and each one has the picture of a kid and you open up the mailbox and there’s a there’s a file folder. I pulled one out from a girl, I can’t remember if if she was maybe Guatemala, I think it was and it said her favorite foods are fried chicken and sausage. And I thought okay, yeah, and bring it right over here, or bring it right to Kansas City. And she’ll do just fine. We have plenty of places that we can take her but it was, you know, beyond the the kind of silliness of that and my surprise of opening up and seeing this eight year old girl whose favorite food was fried chicken is just the humanity of understanding that each one of these kids and their families are completely different. And and that’s that’s certainly special too. What do you what do you hear from the families on this side that get involved?
Dan Pearson 22:27
That they really lost sight of the humanity of that personalization. When we talk about global poverty, it’s hard to see a face. We just see a mass of sort of passive people, but each person is a unique universe. And these children and their families give us insight into that. A lot of people we question what I have the strength to live as they do in their in the in the situations that they’re in. And what we realize when we connect on a one on one basis is that we’re a lot more alike than we are different.
Joel Goldberg 23:00
How did you get into all this?
Dan Pearson 23:02
I got started when I was in college, interested in a lot of different things. But I spent a summer in Ecuador. And because my Spanish wasn’t very good. I was assigned to dig latrines in an informal community there. And right away, I knew I had never done anything that was more important.
Joel Goldberg 23:18
It changed your life.
Dan Pearson 23:19
It did. Absolutely.
Joel Goldberg 23:21
You’ve been on this path for so long.
Dan Pearson 23:22
You see these moms and the so little opportunity that they’ve had their whole lives. Most of them have never had a leadership opportunity, never been able to show what they’re able to do. And when you see what they can do, it’s just clear. That’s the people are going to be on their side.
Joel Goldberg 23:38
And there’s something to be said about what we take for granted in the simplest of skills. It’s not a lack of intelligence. It’s a lack of opportunity. And education. I, you know, I saw this years ago. My brother went into the Peace Corps in a country called Togo, Western Africa, in between Ghana, and between two countries, west of Nigeria. And he was working with with women, moms, to help them develop small businesses. And just the simplest things, it wasn’t that they were unintelligent. It was that no one ever told them, no one ever taught them and and there were no examples of this thing. You give them the tools and anything is possible. And the light bulb goes off and suddenly all their skills shine. I’ve got to imagine you see that everywhere?
Dan Pearson 24:26
Absolutely. And COVID was a great example of that. We had a lot of moms who ran small restaurants or a little food stand immediately pivoting to using their text, their chat app on their phone to do deliveries. All of a sudden, women who had hair salons who switched to delivering home delivery of the haircare products. They, it’s ingenious the way that they are able to to adapt because that’s what they’ve had to do every day of their lives.
Joel Goldberg 24:52
They may have been better suited and ready to handle the stress the challenges have something as grave as COVID. Because they’ve dealt with that stuff. Not necessarily disease, but maybe in some cases, yes. But those types of challenges their whole life.
Dan Pearson 25:11
Yeah, the families that we work with, most of them, you work. What you earn today, you eat tonight. And so that’s the horizon that they’re operating on and surprising that many of us became familiar with for the first time, you know, through COVID. And what we’re trying to do through their participation of the in the program, by providing that the certainty of that financial stipend each month, they’re able to extend their their horizon of their decision making little by little, and we make better decisions when we’re able to think a little longer term.
Joel Goldberg 25:36
Alright, let’s talk with my baseball themed questions here, which I’m not sure that anyone in most of the countries that you’re serving, if I were to give them baseball themed questions, they might say, what is baseball. I know, there’s not a whole lot of baseball going on and say, Uganda. Maybe in some of those Central American countries, but explain this right, it would make sense to everyone. Whatever your sport of choice is around the world, the biggest home run that you have hit. What’s the biggest home run with Unbound?
Dan Pearson 26:04
The thing that comes to mind is about five years ago, we developed a program called Agents of Change. And it was trying to take the success that we’ve seen in the small groups of women and turn their focus outside. And so these are small grants $500. And it’s to do some, some work in the community too. A lot of these are infrastructure programs. But the key is that it’s the mothers themselves, it’s the group that decides what they want to do. And then their proposal is decided upon by representatives of other mothers groups. So it’s the community itself, the people closest to the problem, who identify the need, identify the solution and select which activities, which initiatives are going to get funded. And it is amazing. I was blown, have been blown away, that they were so much more prepared than I even imagined. They are very frugal, because they’ve thought their whole lives in terms of you know, cents instead of dollars. And so they wring every every advantage out of these grants.
Joel Goldberg 26:58
Yeah. And your staff, telling their staff was telling me about this, too, that the empowerment of these women to get together and say here is what we need in our community. And then to be able to articulate that and share that with Unbound and to be able to get that done. This is a voice many of them have never had or even thought to have had. Right? And now he’s talking about a homerun. They’re making stuff happen.
Dan Pearson 27:24
That’s right, there was a community in the Philippines that did one of these $500 Agents of Change programs. And the proposal was street lighting. This was a slum community. Very densely populated. And the main road down the down the city didn’t have lighting. And so it was a crime problem. So they got funded, they did the lighting, but because they were very frugal, they had some leftover money, my assumption would be that you add light into more of the side streets and alleys and things like that. But what they did is they put a sign that was declaring the name of the neighborhood out at the end of the neighborhood because this neighborhood ended at a very large, busy street. And people pass by 1000s of people every day and never knew that that community even existed. And what it said to me is that those people in the community, not only that they want to see, they wanted to be seen. And that’s something that as an outsider, we would have no idea. And so that’s why it’s so important to put the money and the decision making in the hands of the local community.
Joel Goldberg 28:19
Second baseball theme question, the swing and a miss. What’s a swing and a miss you’ve taken and what did you learn from it?
Dan Pearson 28:24
Yeah, about several years ago, I was in Guatemala and doing these random home visits. I visited the first mom and she was like, the the, the typical PTA mom, on top of everything. She had her small business, everything was running, she knew everything that was going on in that little village. The next visit, she went with me to visit the mom next door, very nearby. Get there, the moms inside the home, looking down and clearly struggling. She had been really depressed. Her husband had left her and her her own family blamed her for the dissolution of the marriage. And so they had really kind of cast her out. Her child was struggling in school, and was about to drop out. And it was simply because he couldn’t see very well. And she knew that but because of her depression, she wasn’t able to get herself down to the school to explain this to the teacher so that you see this cascade of things. And the swing and the miss there for me was this realization of oh my gosh, as an institution, we’re never going to have this level of visibility and insensitivity to all of these unique situations. Here, she was so close to this other mom and this other mom saying, My goodness, if I had just known, I wish I could have done something. And it was that realization that institutions are not going to ultimately be the solution. We need to provide a space for the community to rebuild itself.
Joel Goldberg 29:41
Powerful. Last baseball theme question is small ball, the little things that add up to the big results. What is small ball in the world of Unbound?
Dan Pearson 29:49
I think small ball is constantly questioning ourselves. This this idea that people who are living in poverty have enormous potential and that they aren’t sort of deficient. It’s something we have to remind ourselves of. I have to remind myself of everyday because it’s the water we swim in. And we have to always notice when we’re slipping into that, because what we found in our own experience is that every time we’ve given these families an opportunity, they’ve run with it.
Joel Goldberg 30:16
That keeps me going every day. Right? It is it does run for final questions. As we round the bases, just throw these at you. You visited so many places. I know this is probably a hard one to what what’s your favorite place to visit?
Dan Pearson 30:30
Oh, gosh, well, the places I’ve stayed longer, probably the I’ve lived for several months in several places, India, Guatemala, Colombia. So those are some some special places. But every place is really has its own unique interests.
Joel Goldberg 30:43
One thing that I don’t think is unique for any of these places, maybe some are a little bit different. And they go about it in different ways, is the hospitality. It’s something I’ve seen anytime I’ve gone to third world type of countries, and I haven’t been to a ton, but I’ve been to enough to see that common theme, that they will give you the shirt off of their back, even if they have nothing tomorrow. Tell me about that. And the hospitality in these places.
Dan Pearson 31:07
Yeah, the generosity of the families we work with is truly humbling, you know. I visited homes and been given, you know, the only chair, the last scrap of food. But they, that’s a sense of dignity, also to be able to host someone in your home. And so, being present with the families is very important to us.
Joel Goldberg 31:27
I’ll just, I’ll forever remember when I was visiting my brother in Togo, and I had been told, you know, don’t eat the street food, don’t eat, don’t drink the local water, all that and I’ve done a great job of, of avoiding that and staying healthy. And we’re leaving his village where he lived, his town and moving on to go to a little sightseeing and some other places. And he said that this family, they were gonna host the whole party outside, they made some kind of local brew. I don’t know what it was, it was some kind of a, kind of like a beer, kind of like a cider. And that was one thing I should not be having. Because you know, through the local water and all that type of stuff. And so I passed and my brother said to me you can’t. You have to have this. They actually reserved this, that they would have sold and made money today just to honor your leaving. And so I hit me pretty good at the moment. And later, it was worth every single moment of it. But that right there that forever stick with me because it didn’t matter if it was going to be a major sacrifice for their well being for a day or two. They they wanted to be able to take care of me. Yeah. And it’s and I think there are million stories have some like that. It’s just it’ll it’ll forever be with me. The third question as we round the bases, I know there are a million of these. But how about a story. It doesn’t have to be a favorite that just pulls at the heartstrings are a great success story. Where was that? Again, that forever reminder of why you do this.
Dan Pearson 32:49
First thing that occurs to me is a mother that I met in India who had been sort of humiliated by her mother in law for years and physically abused by her, by her husband. Through the program, she and the mother’s group, she was able to take a small loan, start a business, and it became quite successful. When I saw her a few years later, that business had grown to a point where she had had to hire some employees, including her husband. And the relationship, the power dynamic between her and her husband was completely different. She was safe. And they had learned to see her in a different way.
Joel Goldberg 33:23
And there are another million of those stories out there. Last and final question. The walk up question as we round the bases. We talked about how people can get involved. Just curious that the sentiment you get I asked you about this a little bit before of your sponsors that are here in the United States that have become attached to these families and what that has done for them in their perspective.
Dan Pearson 33:47
Yeah, a lot of times, we feel like the big problems in the world are too big. You know, it’s just a drop in the bucket if I tried to get involved in this. The genius of sponsorship is it breaks that down into I can do something. I can’t change the whole world but I can change the world for this one child. I can do that. It doesn’t take that much money for one family’s lives to be changed.
Joel Goldberg 34:08
And again, people can go to the website. Yes, unbound or unbound.org. That’s it, we’ll have it in the show notes. as well. By the way, too. I mean, if you’re in I’ve got a lot of people in my listening audience that are involved in organizations in Kansas City, like Centurions that have maybe been to your facility as well. It’s a great event space. So I’ll just throw that out there. And I’m sure you can go to the website and find that out as well. The cool thing in the room that we’re sitting in here is it tells the stories and tells it beautifully with pictures and and words and really explains what is going on. So this is a great place to have an event as well. Congratulations on everything that you guys are doing and hopefully a huge rebound from COVID. Just keep on rolling forward. Right. That’s what it’s all about. So I appreciate you hosting us here, hosting me here today. And continued success keep up the great work.
Dan Pearson 35:00
Thanks very much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai