What Good Can $500 Do?

You will be amazed at how much it can do for families living in poverty.

Jan 4, 2020

There are many programs that give money to poor communities for education, to bring safe drinking water, for medical care, and so much more. Nonprofits, aid workers, and donors work very hard to solve these problems worldwide.

One organization looks at things differently. Unbound, an international nonprofit founded by lay Catholics is doing things differently. They ask," What if donors simply gave money to families living in poverty and told them, 'Do whatever you want, as long as it’s for the betterment of your community?'”

This thought-provoking question is what helped launch the organization's latest initiative, the Agents of Change platform in 2017. This project distributes $500 grants to the people who are closest to the poverty issues to identify community need and to implement it according to the organization.

The grant recipients come from the Unbound mother's groups. The charity has trained more than 10,000 mother's groups globally. After all, who knows better about community needs than mothers.

“The person who knows the most about international development is a mom who can keep a household going on $2 a day. That’s the expert, so we’re going to listen to her,” said Dan Pearson, director of international programs at Unbound. “It doesn’t really demonstrate our belief in empowerment if final approval comes from a grant writer thousands of miles away at headquarters, so that didn’t happen —we let them choose.”

The projects have to benefit the community as a whole but since local mothers are choosing them, the projects are tailored to individual community needs.

To date, Agents of Change has given more than $800,000 to groups in 14 countries (located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America) and an estimated 900 community projects have been completed including, safety initiatives, playgrounds, clean water access, restrooms in schools, lighting in health clinics, well covers, and many more.

Officials at Unbound say they probably couldn't have identified these needs in their Kansas City, Missouri headquarters. The organization that is rated the highest child sponsorship charity in the United States is doing an excellent job at helping poor families at the community level, but they aspire to do so much more.

Pearson said that Agents of Change is just the first step in the organization's ultimate goal of eradicating poverty, and they are working on it, one $500 grant at a time.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.