Tag Archives: Kelly Demo

Dec 4 2009

Health care around the world

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

As the health care debate in this country rages on, I began to wonder about insurance and government-run health programs in the countries in which CFCA works. Do they have insurance at all? What do government-run programs look like? Are they working, and is there anything that we can learn from them?

The British began large insurance companies in India back in the 1800s to cover their nationals living there. In 1870, Bombay Mutual Life was formed as the first native insurance provider. Since that time, the government-run programs have been by far the largest provider of health insurance. However, since 1999, government deregulation has allowed for more private companies to enter the market. Only .2 percent of Indians are covered by insurance.

A CFCA clinic in IndiaAccording to Dan Pearson, CFCA director of program development and operations, ìThe cost of health care tends to be a lot lower in some countries. When we lived in India, we took my son to a private clinic for stitches. They put him under with anesthesia and everything, and the whole bill was under $40. Even those prices are way beyond what most of the CFCA families can afford, so they let injuries and illnesses go untreated, unless they are life threatening. Preventive health care is not even on the radar for most of the families.î However, CFCA mothers groups in India use their shared resources to respond to familiesí medical needs.

In hearing from many of our families in various projects around the world, not only is insurance not an option for them, but the government-run hospitals and clinics where care is more affordable are of very poor quality.

This is certainly true in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. There is a mandated government-run health care system of which most CFCA employees are a part. However, the care provided is often sub-standard.

Surprisingly, one bright spot in the health care struggle is Madagascar. According to USAID, the agency gave a grant to the government of Madagascar who began five community-based insurance programs in five counties. This was started because often those living in rural communities will have an influx of cash during the harvest and have more ability to attend to health issues, but will be cash poor later in the growing season.

Members of the community make an annual contribution to the insurance fund that can be paid in cash or crops. All of their health care expenses are then covered for that year. In 2005, the child mortality rate in these areas dropped to an astonishing 5 percent because of access to preventive health care and immunizations. The program has been so successful the government is expanding the program across the country.

Clearly, without sponsorship money most of the CFCA families around the world would be without health care benefits. Fortunately, because of sponsorship and special funds like Healthy Communities Fund and Project Needs Fund, CFCA field staff are given the flexibility and resources to help families in times of medical emergencies.

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Sep 22 2009

Seeing is believingÖand I am a believer

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

I have preached on behalf of CFCA for more than a year and a half now. I knew how CFCA worked and how it changed lives and transformed entire communities. I got it.

Or, at least, I thought I did until I went on a mission awareness trip to El Salvador. Only then did I truly understand the goodness, the Godliness of what is happening in our projects. I offer two examples.

On the first full day in El Salvador, our little band of travelers was taken to a small area in Santa Ana. CFCA has had a strong presence there for many years now. We were warmly welcomed by the sponsored children and their families and introduced to leaders who have risen up from the community to take on planning and visioning responsibilities. The atmosphere was one of excitement and pride. The mothers group was eager to show the skirts, purses and towels they were learning to sew. We were told about the community sewing co-op that is starting up, and children came forward to present each of us with a bag that had been sewn by the mothers.

I looked at the parents and children and saw a community of hope that was looking to the future and knowing that, while things may not be easy, there were others who were walking the journey with them.

Cut to scene two. CFCA has just entered into a relationship with the people of Chilcuyo, a town about an hour outside Santa Ana. We were the first group of sponsors to visit, and there were no sponsored children (yet!). We were again greeted by the beautiful children of the town, but there was anxiety underlying the excitement. They did not know what to expect. They had never received a group from CFCA, but more than that, there was a palpable anxiety to life in this town. There was fear. Fear of crime, of hunger, of isolation, and of the future.

When I compared these two towns, I saw clearly how CFCA is making an impact on entire communities, by impacting one person at a time. As each person develops, so develops the town, the area, the country and, in time, the world.

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Jul 16 2009

Serious fun: part 4

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Soccer has grown from an obscure game played by a handful of kids to being the most popular, organized sport for children in the U.S. With more than 3 million youth registered each year in formal leagues, soccer has firmly established itself as part of the American childhood.

Without knowing it, kids who play soccer here in the U.S. are aligning themselves with the millions, perhaps billions, of children worldwide who play soccer (more commonly known as ìfootballî). However, these kids in developing countries donít always experience soccer with minivans, uniforms, coaches and juice boxes waiting for them when they are done. These are the kids who find any round object and a group of friends and play wherever they can find an open space. They run barefoot, kicking the ball through a goal they have fashioned out of scrap metal or their imaginations.

Henry Flores, director of the CFCA Communications Center in El Salvador, says that CFCA staff will often organize soccer games with the scholarship students because they find this to be a great way for staff to connect with the youth.

ìWith these games we are telling the students, ëWe want to spend time with you!í î Henry also observes that soccer is only fun when you play with others. It is a community sport. It unifies responsibility, ability and discipline.

Marissa Gargaro plays soccer during a mission awareness trip to El Salvador.“Plus, you donít need lots of equipment, just a 25-cent ball and a small space in your community. You often see children in the different communities who spend hours playing street soccer. When a vehicle is passing trough you hear, ëGAME OFF / GAME ON!í to let the children know.”

Often, when there have been teen mission awareness trip groups, the staff will organize soccer games because it is a simple way to break the ice, create community and strengthen bonds of friendship. “And,” says Henry, “You need no translator for it.”

In your next letter, have your soccer kid ask their sponsored friend about “football” in their country. Do they enjoy playing? Does their country have a national soccer team? Talk with them about the idea that they are in solidarity with their friend simply by playing soccer. What similarities does your child see in the way their friend plays football, and how soccer is experienced here in the States? What are the differences?

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun, part 2
Serious fun: Creative play

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Jul 1 2009

Serious fun, part 2

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Upon my return from a mission awareness trip to El Salvador, my children were greatly interested in the details of the trip. I told them about our day spent on a volcano, showed them a jar of sand from the beach and pictures of all the beautiful people I met. And, I kept wistfully talking about pupusas, calling them ìSalvadoran comfort food.î

We decided to make pupusas, and we had the most fun! They are so simple to make and so wonderful to eat. The best part, however, was how making dinner together easily fell into a lesson about solidarity. For instance: at first, our dough was too dry. As I went to the sink for more water, I started talking about how hard it often is for the women to get water and how easy it is for us. The kids asked questions about where the water comes from for the Salvadorans and began to understand how a simple faucet is a luxury.

As we pulled the cheese from the refrigerator, my daughter asked me how they keep things cold with no electricity. So, we talked about how they have to go to market every day to buy food since people in developing countries generally donít have a refrigerator. (My kids hate going to the grocery store, so the idea of going to market every day really hit home!)

Below is the recipe for pupusas (they are super easy for kids to make), but we encourage you to do a little research to find kid-friendly recipes from the country where your sponsored friend lives. As you cook with your children or grandchildren, talk with them about what it must be like for their friend to cook. How is it the same? How is it different? Tell them what an indescribable luxury meat is in most countries, but how easily we have access to it here. Have them picture walking up to a mile to fetch water for cooking (this is often the job of children in a family).

Pupusas
(Please supervise children closely during the cooking.)

Ingredients:
2 c. Masa harina (this is a corn flour that can be found in most grocery stores)
1 c. Water
Filling can be grated cheese, refried beans, veggies, whatever!

1. In a bowl mix the Masa harina and water. Knead it well. If you need to, add a teaspoon of water at a time to get a consistency similar to play dough. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll a ball of dough a little smaller than the size of a baseball and, with your thumb, press a hole in the middle. Pinch the sides a bit to make the hole bigger. Put some of the filling in the hole and pinch it shut. Now comes the fun part. Slap the dough from hand to hand, pressing it out flat. But make sure none of the filling leaks out. They should end up about º – Ω inch thick.

3. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium heat. Cook each pupusa for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Serve with salsa.

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun: Creative play
Make Filipino oatmeal soup
CFCA food benefits in Kenya

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Jun 23 2009

What is the good news?

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Time and again in scripture, and in my life, I find that people define God through the lens of their own life. Scripture says Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. On my trip to El Salvador, I asked several people what this good news is.

Their answers told me much about where they are in their lives and their relationship with God.

Liberation and salvation
I first asked this of a charismatic priest who celebrates Mass in the town of Tacuba. He is loved by the community, and sees himself as a servant of the people. What is the good news Jesus brings to the poor? ìLiberaciÛn y salvaciÛn.î

He said that without God we are all poor, and that we are all equal in the eyes of God. As a priest, it is his job to pastor everyone in the church, both wealthy and poor. So, the good news for him is equality.

A real presence
For Henry Flores, the good news was when Jesus said, ìI will always be with you.î Henry is the director of the CFCA Communication Center in El Salvador and has been a project director in El Salvador for years. He said that prayers are answered every day in very tangible ways, be it money, food, or just a helping hand. ìSomeone needs help and help always comes.î

It was Henryís job for many years to make sure that the children receive what they need. It is natural that the good news for Henry is that real presence, the help of Jesus in their daily lives.

A better life waits
Tim Clancy sponsors 10 children through CFCA. He is a deeply generous and caring man. The good news for the poor in Timís eyes is that, while things here on Earth are bad, a better life awaits them with God in heaven. Tim talked a lot about his frustration at not being able to do more, despite his multiple sponsorships. But the good news for Tim is knowing that God will make it better for the poor in the next life.

0109HenryFloresCH587523(6)Everyone is important to God
I asked Rosa, a 34-year-old mother of three boys, two of whom are sponsored. She is the poor for whom the good news was given. Her answer took my breath away. ìIt is that God will never throw me away like an old piece of bread.î

The good news that Jesus brings to Rosa is that, no matter what the world sees when they look at her, she knows that, in Godís eyes, she is important.

I am deeply grateful for those I have met on my journey who have shared their stories with me. It is in these stories that I find the good news.

What do you think is the good news Jesus brings to the poor?

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Apr 8 2009

A present-day transformation

Lenten reflection: Week 7
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

ìLord, remember not only the men and women of good will but all those of ill will. Do not only remember all the suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering ñ our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, and generosity, the greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they come to judgment, let all these fruits we have born be their reward and their forgiveness.î
-Words scratched on the wall of a concentration camp in Germany

Transformative power: that is what bursts forth out of the tomb on Easter morning. The power of God to change that which was ugly to something beautiful. Changing darkness into light and destroying death to give us the chance for a real life. That is what we celebrate on Easter morning. Somewhere amidst the candy and Easter eggs we find the message that no matter how hard we try to get rid of God, we cannot and that God will transform our lives and our world if we only let God in.

If a woman in India is a widow or comes into a marriage with little dowry, she is seen as a burden and written off as worthless. This is a rather practical consideration for a family living on the edge because she is seen as not contributing to the family and is, instead, just another mouth to feed.

For the thousands of women who participate in CFCA mothers groups, however, they are given the chance to begin small businesses and bring income to the family. They are literally transformed in the eyes of their family members, as well as in their own eyes. They are given a new-found dignity and respect.

There are elderly in our projects who, after a life of hardship and struggle, were slipping away all alone, bereft of help or companionship. But, they are now part of a life-giving CFCA community where they can watch out for each other and care for each other.

And then there are the children. Hundreds of thousands of children that our sponsors have watched over the years transform into confident young adults. Our sponsors have seen the change from the first pictures of the small children, dressed in borrowed clothes, looking much too small for their age. Sponsors have watched them grow, overcome obstacles in their path and reach maturity with the ability and confidence to use their God-given gifts and talents.

Through womenís empowerment in the mothers groups, a childís maturity into adulthood and the companionship of the elderly, we are given the opportunity to watch, in present day, the transformative power of God that burst forth from the tomb on the first Easter morning. It is an amazing thing to watch God in action.

Happy Easter

From all of us at CFCA around the world, we wish you a most blessed and glorious Easter!

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Mar 18 2009

Concern for the whole person

Lenten reflection: Week 4p1000566
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Lent, as we know, is a time of preparation and self-reflection. It is a time set aside to examine our relationship with God and our need for healing in our own lives. Scripture shows us time and again that God is greatly concerned with our wholeness, in mind, body and spirit. In fact, ìwholenessî and ìholinessî come from the same word that means ìcompleteness.î

In 2 Kings, Chapter 4, we hear a strange and wonderful story of Elisha bringing a family back to wellness and wholeness. Like Sarah before her, God promised a Shunammite woman a son in her old age. God kept that promise but years later the young boy died. However, God would not forget his promise and, through Elisha, brought the boy back to life, restoring the faith of the mother.

CFCAís benefits are structured to follow this guideline of concern for the whole person and the family. We do not simply feed children. Nor do we just educate them or see to their medical concerns. We are concerned for the whole person and we walk with them and bring others along to do the same.

Take, for instance, a widow in Guatemala whose son was sponsored through CFCA. The woman was suffering from depression and because of her†illness she was unable to move forward in her life. She was unable even to address the health concerns of her son. He began to have trouble in school, and it was believed to be because of hearing loss.

CFCA was helping this family financially, but it was not until we brought in another CFCA mother to minister to the little boyís mother that changes started happening. It took more than just the CFCA staff to help this woman back to health in mind, body and spirit. It took God working through someone who was not that different from her, to help heal her.

God, as the ultimate and perfect parent, is deeply concerned for the wholeness of each of his†6-billion-plus children. We need only open ourselves to the Spirit and to our fellow travelers through whom the Spirit works.

Reflection questions:
1. Where do you need healing in your life in mind, body or spirit?
2. Who might God be placing in your path who needs the gifts you have to offer for their healing?

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