Category Archives: Asia

Dec 1 2008

World AIDS Day: The stigma of AIDS in India

AIDS is still a taboo topic in India. But ignoring the problem is only making the situation worse.World AIDS Day logo

It is estimated that 2.4 million people in India are currently living with HIV. That means that India ranks 3rd in the world in terms of the number of people†with HIV,†after South Africa and Nigeria.

Andhra Pradesh, a state in the southeast of India, has the highest prevalence of HIV in the country.†Hyderabad is the capital of Andhra Pradesh, and CFCAís project in Hyderabad is partnering with local non-profit organizations and community-based organizations that meet the needs of AIDS-affected children.

AIDS-affected children are either HIV positive,†or†their parents are. The children of HIV-postive†parents may or may not be infected. But either way, they face the stigma of AIDS in a country that doesnít want to face this growing problem.

People living with HIV are stigmatized and sometimes rejected by their communities, families and even spouses. A 2006 study commissioned by the National AIDS Control Organisation found that 25 percent†of people living with HIV in India have been refused medical treatment on the basis of their HIV status.†Human Rights Watch has carefully documented the treatment of children affected by HIV/AIDS, and they found routine stigmatization and abuse of these children.

ìIn some families, the person who is HIV positive†wonít even tell their spouse or their in-laws for fear,î says Sukshmana Thakur, the CFCA Hyderabad social worker who works with AIDS-affected children. ìThe AIDS-affected children donít tell their friends or teachers. The headmaster will know, but it is very confidential. The children are afraid that no one will play with them if they know the truth.î

Even organizations serving HIV-positive†families are stigmatized. An orphanage serving AIDS orphans in Hyderabad has been forced to move location seven times because landlords keep evicting them once they find out that the children come from HIV-positive†families.

Some HIV-positive†parents are fired when their HIV status is disclosed or when they miss work because of illnesses caused by opportunistic infections. These families are poor to begin with, and losing a job makes their situation even more desperate.

CFCA sponsorship is providing hope to some AIDS-affected children in Andhra Pradesh. AIDS-affected children who are sponsored are able to go to school and have a nutritious diet even when their parents may be too sick to work. CFCA helps these children with clothing and medicines also, if they need them. ìSome of the AIDS-affected sponsored children have parents who are beggars,î says Thakur, ìbut the children are able to go to school anyway because of sponsorship.î

The CFCA Hyderabad project is currently expanding its work with AIDS-affected children, and 162 more AIDS-affected children from the area will be available for sponsorship soon.

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Nov 25 2008

An opportunity to care

After the 9 a.m.† Mass on Thanksgiving Day, sponsor and choir director Paige Shortal will give her fellow parishioners an ìopportunity to care.î Shortal plans to set out 30 child folders from CFCA, inviting others in the congregation to become sponsors, too.

Shortal sent notices to her congregation in Washington, Mo., outside of St. Louis. Following is the message she sent to church members, talking about her sponsorship experience and the meaning that sponsorship has brought her life:

After a priest from Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) preached at all the Masses about the fine work of this organization, Pat and I began sponsoring two children from Guatemala ñ a sister and brother the ages of our oldest two grandchildren.

I confess, I occasionally wondered if my $30 a month was being put to good use. Last year I went to India and had the opportunity to visit a CFCA project in Hyderabad. There I saw what $30 a month can do.

Paige Shortal sits with a circle with the mothers of sponsored children.

Paige Shortal sits in a circle with the mothers of sponsored children.

I was especially impressed with their philosophy of serving the whole family. They have formed mothers circles ñ groups of 30 women who are the mothers of sponsored children. Each woman contributes 50 rupees a month (about a dollar) to the treasury, and from that money, the women are allowed to borrow small amounts to start up businesses.

You wouldnít believe the quality of the small business ventures I witnessed, started with just a few dollars. I had my business cards printed by one mothers circle business ñ Grace Printing. I also bought a beautiful dress for my granddaughter from a seamstress who started her own mirror-work business.

In Hyderabad I became a believer in the CFCA effort and promised to do some work for them when I returned home. Soon after I came back, there were 25 new sponsors in Washington, many of them from the choir. We also added 10-year-old Vignonís picture to our refrigerator gallery of sponsored children.

Last month I got a call from the CFCA headquarters in Kansas City. Because of the economic issues in the U.S. and around the world, there are kids who have been too long on a waiting list for sponsorship. I promised to try to find 25 more sponsors from Washington.

These are hard times in the US and $30 doesnít stretch very far. But in India and the other countries where CFCA children are sponsored, that $30 can literally save a life. And not just save it, but offer a quality of life that will spread and grow throughout the family and the community.

I met one sponsored ìchildî ñ Mary ñwho is now in her 20s and in medical school. She plans to come back home as her villageís pediatrician.

Mary also sings in her college choir and she and I sang a duet for her family as part of the grace before our dinner. I donít think Iíll ever sing Silent Night again without remembering Mary and the pungent smell of curry.

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Nov 24 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to India

Mission awareness trip†
Nov. 5-18, 2008

Societyís forgotten experience ëbeautiful transformationí

ìThey are the leftovers of society, but we are moving them to center stage. We want them to be fully human and fully alive.î óSuresh Singareddy, project coordinator, Hyderabad, India

An extra bonus on this trip is the chance to meet for the first time our new sponsored girl in the Hyderabad project. From an hour away in the countryside, 6-year-old Archana came on motorcycle with her mother and father.†

Suresh told the sponsors: ìThe government calculates that we have approximately 55 million child laborers in India. Yet at CFCA we get to see the beautiful transformation in children and families.î†

Early Christmas for former child laborers

During visits to subprojects, sponsors handed out Christmas presents for the families in attendance. Of special impact for the sponsors were the 100 or so sponsored girls living at the Divine Word Home. Just a short time ago, they were the throwaway children, the rag pickers in the garbage dumps of Hyderabad but now they attend a prestigious English medium school.

ìWe promise you that we will remember you,î Veronica told our group. ìYou always will be in our prayers, and we will make good use of this precious chance you are giving us so that we will be able to help others as you help us today.î


We attended the huge 2008 Annual Day Gathering on Nov. 9, with an estimated attendance of more than 7,000 mothers. I told the mothers theyóand posthumously Father Francis Thumma, former project coordinatoróare the recipients of the 2008 Pilgrimage of Faith Award from CFCA.
Read more

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Sep 26 2008

How you experience the food crisis depends on where you live

People with the means to cope with rising prices experience the food crisis through the news.

But people living in poverty experience the food crisis directlyóthrough their stomachs.

Take the story of Sandra, a 38-year-old mother of four who lives in El Salvador. She no longer can afford to buy certain food items. If it wasnít for CFCA benefits, her children wouldnít have milk to drink. Sandra makes about $6 a day selling lemons in the public market. When things get bad, the family eats tortillas and margarine for dinner.

In Kenya, 20-year-old Peter said his family canít afford to buy bread. Meat? Only for Christmas, Kenyan Independence Day and weddings. Breakfast? Tea with milk and sugar.

In Antipolo, Philippines, 45-year-old Myrna is a mother of seven. She does laundry for $5 a day when her carpenter husband doesnít have work. On days with lower income, the family eats porridge or skips meals. On paydays, they are able to enjoy rice with fish and vegetables. One of Myrnaís children is sponsored through CFCA.

Two mothers in Hyderabad, IndiaóBhulakshmi and Maniósaid their cost of food has doubled in a year. They must be satisfied with rice and pickles because they no longer can afford fruits and vegetables.

These are the hidden faces behind statistics reported by the U.S. Department of Agricultureís Economic Research Service. The ERS compared expenditures on food in countries around the world (as a percentage of total expenditures using 2006 dataónot including restaurant purchases):

United States††††† †† 5.7%
United Kingdom††††8.8%
Germany††††††††††††† †11.5%
Chile†††††††††††††††††††† 23.5%
Philippines††††††††††† 37.6%
Ecuador†††††††††††††††† 21.8%
Bolivia†††††††††††††††††† 29.0%
Peru†††††††††††††††††††††† 29.3%
India††††††††††††††††† ††† 33.4%††

Wondering if there’s more you can do to help? Read about CFCA’s Food Crisis Assistance Fund.

To view the full U.S. Department of Agriculture report, click here. published a photographic comparison of what families in different nations eat in a weekís time. Click here to see this photo essay.

By Monte Mace, writer and editor in the CFCA-Kansas City office. With reporting and photography from Henry Flores, El Salvador; Sister Joanne Gangloff, Kenya; and Maria Lourdes Navio in the Philippines.

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Aug 18 2008

Raksabandhana: An expression of solidarity

On August 16, many people in India observed a holiday called Raksabandhana. It is a celebration of the bonds of love that exist between a brother and sister. The family gathers for a big meal, and to watch the brother and sister perform a traditional ceremony.

You may know that one of our employees, Dan Pearson, is currently living with his family in Hyderabad, India, for 6 months to support CFCA’s work in Asia.

Dan’s family sponsors a little girl in Hyderabad, and she asked them to visit her home during Raksabandhana. She said she wanted to celebrate the day with her American brothers and sister (Dan’s children).

Dan sent us photos of Bindu, his sponsored child (in orange), performing the ceremony with her brother:

First, the sister puts the red bindi paint on her brother's forehead.

First, the sister puts the red bindi paint on her brother

Then she ties a bracelet on his wrist.

Then she ties a bracelet on his wrist.

Finally, she gives him some kind of cookie or sweet.

Dan wrote to us and said, ìBoys and men keep wearing the bracelets for several days, it appears. I took mine off the next morning, but I have seen a lot of men and boys in public who still have their bracelets on.î

Our weekly prayer e-mails began today, featuring Raksabandhana. We recognize that all of humanity, each one of us, are brothers and sisters to one another, bound by the love of one God. It is in that spirit that we offer prayers for our family around the world. May we all grow in our expression of solidarity, just as Bindu showed Danís family this past weekend.

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Jul 14 2008

CFCA’s newest mothers group

In CFCAís Hyderabad Project in India, the mothers of sponsored children are encouraged to come together in small self-help groups where they share their concerns, help one another and make small loans to the members of the group.

The mothers typically use these loans to start a small business, pay for higher education or pay for a medical emergency. The loans start small and grow along with the size of the loan pool and the individual memberís ability to repay.

Tuesday I visited the newest sponsored mothers group. Each of these 15 women has a child who has recently been sponsored in the Hyderabad project, and the mothers were applying to start a mothers group.

Starting a mothers group means that the mothers commit to following CFCAís accounting standards and financial transparency procedures for all loans. The mothers must also save a small amount in their account each month, and CFCA matches each memberís savings. The mothersí savings and CFCA match create the loan pool for the small loans. Then, when a motherís child graduates or leaves the program, she is entitled to the portion she has contributed and the CFCA match.

A proud new members of a CFCA mothers group

A proud new member of a CFCA mothers group

The meeting began with Rosy and Sukshmana, two CFCA Hyderabad staff members, asking the mothers why they wanted to start a sponsored mothers group. The mothers explained that they had seen the benefits that the other sponsored mothers had gained from being in a small group. They wanted to be able to start or grow their own small businesses and eventually send their children to university.

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