CFCA Philippines project director Trisha Pitts shares stories about how high fuel costs are impacting the fishing industry and CFCA fathers who have small fishing businesses in the Philippines.
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:
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.
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 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.
Xarina (foreground) and other CFCA scholar students learned and performed on traditional Filipino instruments for a concert in the jungle surrounding Zamboanga City, Philippines, in January 2008. The concert will be featured in ZAMBOANGA, a documentary film. Visit www.zamboangathemovie.com for more information.
Scholarship students from the Philippines formed a special bond while studying traditional Filipino instruments such as the kulintangan, the dabakan and the agong. The students rehearsed throughout the year for a CFCA concert on Jan. 30 in Zamboanga on the island of Mindanao.
The experience awakened an interest in composing and writing for scholar Xarina, 16. Xarina is featured in the Spring/Summer issue of The Scholar, a CFCA publication that highlights the accomplishments and challenges of students in the CFCA Scholarship Program.
ìI am used to composing in English and Tagalog,î Xarina said. ìNow I am writing in Chavacano [a Filipino dialect]. I am experimenting.î
Hours of rehearsal put a strain on Xarinaís studies, but the hard work paid off.
ìThey did brilliantly,î said Kansas City-based musician Barclay Martin. Martin arranged the concert music and wrote original songs combining traditional Filipino and modern music.
The day after the concert was bittersweet for the students, Martin said.
ìWe played music for each other as a gesture of thanks and to mark a significant life experience for all involved,î he said. ìAs it neared time to leave, members from all of the groups began to laugh, sing and cry out of gratitude for what we had shared.î
Janet Tinsley, CFCA International programs – Africa project director, reflects on the many ways the India mothers groups have inspired sponsored mothers in Kenya.
The culture of creativity and courage that Fr. Francis (the late Father Francis Thumma), the Hyderabad team and the sponsored mothers set into motion extends far beyond the borders of India.
A spirit of cooperation and ingenuity has always been present on the African continent, but recently the CFCA community in Nairobi, Kenya, became inspired by Hyderabad’s example of the culture of creativity and courage.
Janet and CFCA-Nairobi project coordinator, Peter, in India.
The CFCA-Nairobi project coordinator, Peter Ndungo, and I immersed ourselves in the Hyderabad spirit in an inspirational visit and exchange of ideas at the Hyderabad project last November. Immediately upon Peter’s return to Kenya, the Nairobi project team began taking steps to put the sponsorship resources into the hands of the Nairobi mothers through sponsored mothers groups.
The Nairobi mothers had some setbacks as a result of post-election violence that broke out in Kenya just after the first of this year. The mothers, who primarily live in Nairobi’s sprawling slums, come from a mixture of backgrounds, and when the politically motivated violence took on an ethnic tone, it threatened to tear apart the communities they had only recently begun forming. Tapping into their own limitless creativity, the Nairobi mothers are now courageously putting their political and ethnic differences aside and are examples of peace in their communities through the sponsored mothers groups they are now re-forming.
Because of the inspiration set in motion by Fr. Francis, the Hyderabad sponsored mothers and the project team, the sponsored mothers in Nairobi have started reclaiming their own creativity and courage.
Watch a video highlighting CFCA’s work in India and the beauty of the mothers groups.
The culture of creativity and courage which was established by Fr. Francis is alive in Hyderabad today. The culture can be witnessed in many different ways. It is witnessed through the proud faces of the mothers as they display the products they have produced and will sell at a profit, through the bounce in their step as they walk among 5,000 other sponsored mothers at the annual mothers conference, through the confidence in their faces as they explain that the blue vest they are wearing denotes them as a mothers group leader, and through the excitement in their voices as they introduce their child and explain that she will be graduating this year with a masters degree.
In a society where women are oppressed, these opportunities are made available only by a culture of great creativity and great courage. A culture established by Fr. Francis and embraced by Suresh, Prakash, Rosy and by each and every member of the CFCA Hyderabad team. And, while it’s this culture which allows for such opportunities, Fr. Francis and the staff in Hyderabad would be quick to point out that it is the endless work of the mothers themselves which turns these opportunities into the glorious realities that we celebrate.
This week, Father Francis Thumma, along with the Hyderabad, India mothers groups and staff, were honored with CFCA’s Pilgrimage of Faith Award. The award is given annually to honor those who exemplify CFCA’s core values—answering the Gospel call to serve the poor, serving with integrity and accountability, recognizing the dignity of every person and fostering respectful relationships.
The concept of mothers groups originated in CFCA’s projects in southern India in 2001, pioneered by Father Thumma. Now more than 240 mothers groups operate in and around Hyderabad.
The mothers organize into small self-advocacy and livelihood groups that offer members solidarity and support in life’s challenges, as well as low-cost loans to start family businesses. The women approve loans and oversee repayments. They also help administer program benefits for their families, including education, nutrition and medical assistance. The benefits are made possible by support from people in the U.S. who sponsor children through CFCA.
The mission of the mothers groups goes beyond financial needs, however. Meetings provide a forum for health-care education, for development of children and families, and for spiritual orientation seminars. Separate seminars are held for Catholic and Hindu members out of respect for the faith traditions of sponsored members.
The CFCA mothers groups are transforming lives all throughout India… giving mothers the opportunity to provide for their families and lift themselves out of poverty. And the movement is spreading to other CFCA countries. More on that next week…