Category Archives: Asia

Jan 23 2009

Bob’s notes – Visit to India, part 1

Mission awareness trip
Jan. 6-18, 2009

Sponsors learn the reality of south India; mothers groups become CFCA model
The creativity and dedication of the CFCA community in India has become an ìexpansion-of-vision centerî for staff members from Bolivia, U.S.A, Honduras, Kenya and now Guatemala. Two of our colleagues from Guatemala (Jorge Armas, coordinator, and Alvaro Aguilar, regional director) were invited to participate in the experience of this mission awareness tripófollowed by a more in-depth study of the Hyderabad model of mothers groups. Jorge took ill the night before departure and was not able to travel.

Group orientation
We are happy to be here in Chennai (Madras). All the diocesan priests from the Archdiocese of Chennai together with their archbishop are on retreat at the same convent conference center where we are staying. Father Cyrus Gallagher, a CFCA preacher, was able to concelebrate Holy Mass with them this morning.

12-hour train ride
We made it to the train station in plenty of time for our 12-hour overnight trip to Palay and a good rock-me-to-sleep night on the train in triple-decker sleeping bunks. Athletic types generously scampered upward.

Visit to a familyís home
About 50 kilometers out of Palay, we visited subproject SPT. About 30 mothers and five elderly received us at the humble home of Petchi. For sponsors Gene and Jean, this was a very historical moment, after 11 years of sponsorship of Petchi. Gene said that this day has been one of the ìgreatest in his life.î

The mothers became teachers and the sponsors learners, as we enjoyed a beautiful and meaningful dialog for a couple of hours. One of the special gifts Jean had prepared for Petchi was an anthology of their relationship over these past 11 years. Iím sure it will be treasured.

The profound joy of belonging to CFCA was expressed by children and their mothers, who were clad in sharp-looking blue saris. Following dancing, dialogue and emotional sharing, sponsors were very quiet in the van as we made our way back to Palay in the night under a beautiful Pongal/Harvest Moon.

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Jan 19 2009

Creating King’s beloved community

By Paco Wertin, CFCA chief executive officer

No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.

ñ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

I see and feel a kinship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and CFCA as we celebrate his birthday.

He believed in the beloved community, in which all people can share the wealth of the earth and that obstacles like poverty, racism and war can be overcome if we learn to resolve conflict non-violently, together.

I find an echo of that in the words of CFCA president and co-founder, Bob Hentzen:

“Building community is essentially an effort to reestablish the basic freedom of God’s humble people. In striving to build a community in the style of Jesus, we can expect opposition and persecution. We want to promote a new view of globalization, one in which we put into international motion a true sharing of the resources of God’s creation. We want the resources and goods of this earth to favor unity, not separation.”

This community is based on new relationships forged between those who have and those who do not have what is necessary to live. The first step is overcoming obstacles. Obstacles can be lack of nutrition, lack of access to health care, education and skills development, and lack of community and hope. The next step is having choices. Having choices means freedom. So free from the obstacles, we can be free for creating community.

CFCA communities in India and Africa express their desire to overcome all that is in the way of forging these new relationships by singing “We Shall Overcome” at their gatherings.

We join them in that song and deep in our heart, in kinship with Dr. King, we pray:

With you, O God, we are a liberating force of love in our world today.

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Dec 31 2008

Ringing in the New Year in the CFCA community

By the CFCA Prayer Team

As we give thanks for the old year and look with anticipation to the new one, let us walk in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world throughout the day. We have listed below the time it will be here in the United States when the New Year arrives at each of our projects. We encourage you to say a quick prayer for each of the projects as your day progresses.

Philippines8:00 a.m.9:00 a.m.10:00 a.m.11:00 a.m.
India and Sri Lanka10:30 a.m.11:30 a.m.12:30 p.m.1:30 p.m.
Tanzania, Uganda,
Madagascar, Kenya
1:00 p.m.2:00 p.m.3:00 p.m.4:00 p.m.
Nigeria3:00 p.m.4:00 p.m.5:00 p.m.6:00 p.m.
Liberia4:00 p.m.5:00 p.m.6:00 p.m.7:00 p.m.
Brazil6:00 p.m.7:00 p.m.8:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.
Chile7:00 p.m.8:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.10:00 p.m.
Bolivia, Dominican Republic8:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.10:00 p.m.11:00 p.m.
Venezuela8:30 p.m.9:30 p.m.10:30 p.m.11:30 p.m.
Colombia, Ecuador,
Haiti, Jamaica, Peru
9:00 p.m.10:00 p.m.11:00 p.m.12:00 a.m.
Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras,
Mexico, Nicaragua
10:00 p.m.11:00 p.m.12:00 a.m.
1:00 a.m.

Please pray:

Gracious God, I pray for my sisters and brothers in ______. May the New Year bring them hope, joy and peace.

And from all of us at CFCA, we pray the New Year also brings you hope, joy and peace!

Receive CFCA’s weekly Prayer Partners e-mail.

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Dec 4 2008

Terrorist attacks shake India

By Dan Pearson, CFCA International Project Director

The mood is tense in India after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.†India is no stranger to terrorist attacks.†One of the parks in Hyderabad where my kids like to play was the location of a terrorist bombing last year.†But the nature of the attacks in Mumbai seems to have affected people here more profoundly than any previous act of terrorism.†

I have been living in the city of Hyderabad, but I was in Delhi the night that the attacks in Mumbai began.†I had spent the day in a nearby town, and my train arrived back in Delhi after 10 p.m.†The reports of the attacks were just beginning at that time, but I didnít hear any news when I arrived at the train station.†I turned on the TV when I got back to my hotel to see why the streets of Delhi were so quiet, and thatís when I learned what was happening in Mumbai.†I called my wife to assure her that I was all right.†I watched the news coverage for several hours that first night, shocked at the extent of the attacks and wondering how the country would react.

I was scheduled to fly back to Hyderabad the next morning.†The drive to the airport was much faster than usual because the traffic was so light.†It appeared that many people decided to stay home that first morning until the scope of the attacks became clearer.†Elections were scheduled in Delhi in a couple of days, and there was speculation that Delhi might also be a target.

Life was pretty normal back in Hyderabad.†But conversations seemed to find their way to discussion of the terrorist attacks.†People wondered why it was taking so long for the army to capture the terrorists and liberate the hostages.†They complained that they werenít more prepared.†They speculated on which cities might be targeted next.†We checked the news several times a day.†Each time we thought we would see that it was all over.†But the crisis refused to end.†

The Indians I have talked with clearly feel less safe than they did a couple of weeks ago.†The brazenness of these attacks and the duration of the standoff have taken a heavy toll on the sense of security.†India has made significant economic progress in recent years, and even a visitor like me can sense a growing confidence among Indians about their country and their future.†These attacks seem to have shaken that confidence, at least for the moment.

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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.
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