Jun 1 2010

Dan’s early report from Guatemala

Dan Pearson, CFCA’s director of international operations, was at the Hermano Pedro project in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, when Tropical Storm Agatha hit. Dan will continue visiting projects in Guatemala and helping staff assess damages from the storm. The following is Dan’s experience this past weekend.

We ended up receiving 150 people last night. Some of them are from around here and have lost their homes or were evacuated, others got stuck in San Lucas when the roads were blocked, and some were from a bus that slid off the road during the rain.

This morning the rain has stopped, and the clouds briefly cleared enough to see the volcanoes behind the CFCA center. We could see at least half a dozen mudslides on the volcano closer to us. Then the clouds came back. The radio says the worst of the rain will start early tomorrow morning and run all morning. They are also reporting that already some of the rivers around here are running higher than they were during Hurricanes Stan and Mitch.

Some people who had been separated from their families left on foot this morning to find their families. Others took advantage of the break in the rain to try to get to the houses of relatives or check on their homes. Everyone is afraid of having their things stolen while they are away. We still have at least 100 here. The city said they would bring food for them this morning, but nothing has arrived yet. We made coffee for everyone, and Brother Jorge (Hermano Pedro project coordinator) is now cooking some porridge for them. Actually, some of the mothers are cooking the porridge because none of us knew how to make such large quantities, and we didn’t want to ruin the batch.

After the devastation of Hurricane Stan in 2005, the Hermano Pedro project implemented the practice of holding two quetzales (about $0.25) per child per month for disasters like this. That fund will be used for immediate response. Because this storm has hit some parts of the country where CFCA has a lot of sponsored children, it is likely many have been affected.

Unless the weather clears up considerably, we probably won’t know until at least mid-week how many sponsored families are affected or what the exact damage is. Some of the Hermano Pedro staff live in different parts of the country than where they work. The storm hit on the weekend, so some of those staff members will have difficulty just getting back to their subprojects with so many roads blocked by mudslides. We heard that the costal route from San Lucas to Guatemala City is closed indefinitely because a bridge was washed away. Other routes in and out are also blocked by mud, rocks and trees. I don’t think it’s possible to get to Guatemala City from San Lucas at this time.

Related links:
Read more about the storm.

Sponsors and others wishing to help may donate to CFCAís Disaster Assistance Fund. One hundred percent of donations to this fund are sent to CFCA projects to help individuals and families affected by disasters. Funds donated are used where they are most needed, and CFCA retains discretion as to the use of the funds. In addition to emergency relief, contributions may be used for long-term assistance.

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Aug 7 2009

°Hola, mis amigos!

By Cassie Wright

Wow … we just got back from our mission awareness trip to Guatemala a couple of days ago. (ìWeî being my parents, a group of teens and adults from the Church of the Risen Christ parish in Denver, Colo., and myself.) Before we left, I thought about what I wanted to get out of the trip. I really had no idea what to expect, except that we were going to be going to a very poor country, and I wanted to keep an open mind so that I could experience everything to its fullest. In the end, I decided that my goal was to see how different cultures interact with each other, as well as to learn about the culture and people of the country. I had no idea what an eye-opening, educational and wonderful experience this trip would be!

After we arrived in Guatemala City, we drove about three hours to San Lucas Tolim·n. During the drive, it was almost a culture shock going from our air-conditioned houses in Denver, to seeing banks guarded by men with guns in Guatemala City, down to the little shacks that people call home in each of the cities we passed.

Cassie, her parents and Maria, the woman her mother sponsors

Cassie, her parents and Maria, the woman her mother sponsors

The staff at CFCA in San Lucas Tolim·n was extremely friendly and accommodating to our group. They made us feel like one of the family at once. On our first day of work, we took a boat to Santiago Atitl·n, the city where we helped build a house. Walking up the streets of Santiago and looking at all of the stores and homes, I realized just how poverty-stricken the country is. At the same time, I realized how incredibly wealthy the people are through their relationships with their families and with one another. Back at home, itís so easy to get attached to your Blackberry, iPod and other gadgets that you neglect your relationships with the people around you and with your family. One thing that really stood out to me was that everyone was so incredibly happy even though they had little money and next to nothing by ways of physical possessions. What they do have is an exceptionally deep understanding of how their communities work, as well as a connection with the people around them.

When I was packing my suitcase at CFCA in San Lucas Tolim·n, I was truly embarrassed by the amount of physical possessions I had in one suitcase. While packing for the trip, I was fretting about which pair of pants I wanted to sacrifice as work pants. After being at the work site for four days, the pants I wore really did not matter. What did matter is that I spent an invaluable amount of time with my parents.

Cassie and her parents standing outside the house they helped build in Guatemala.

Cassie and her parents standing outside the house they helped build in Guatemala.

I also realized that happiness does not depend on the newest electronic device that I just bought. Happiness is strengthening the relationships around me. This trip has really got me thinking about the amount of ìstuffî around my home that I do not need. In the next couple of months, my goal is to purge myself of things that I donít need and donít use. Also, I really want to strengthen my relationships with the people that mean the most to me.

Related links:
Generosity will bring joy
Building a foundation

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Jul 24 2009

Generosity will bring joy

By Richard Swan, CFCA sponsor

This will be the fourth year in a row that youth from our parish, Church of the Risen Christ in Denver, Colo., will be going to Guatemala. This year, we opened the trip up to the entire parish, and we have 18 adults joining 14 teens to build a home in Santiago. Each participant sponsors a child or aging person in Guatemala and will get to meet and spend time with their sponsored friend.

Each year, our parish has been very supportive of CFCA sponsorship and generous with financial donations and other items to take to the children and families in San Lucas Toliman.

At all Masses during one weekend in June, we asked for help to cover the cost of building materials for the house, estimated by CFCA to be about $3,500. In that one weekend, we collected more than enough to build the house. As a result of the generosity of fellow parishioners, one family will get to experience the joy of having a new home. The parish staff also approved giving the childrenís collections from all Masses as a gift to the CFCA Birthday and Christmas Fund. The children of our parish gave $800 to that special fund. What joy hundreds of children will experience because of the generosity of the children of our parish.

New Spanish books for children in GuatemalaBut the generosity doesnít end there! One parishioner purchased over $1,200 of new Spanish books for us to give to the school in San Lucas. We hope the joy of having those books will be felt for years to come. Another parishioner donated 35 pairs of new, protective goggles for the work site. A women’s group at our parish made more than 150 rosaries to take on our trip. We also received 35 soccer balls, youth and high school soccer jerseys, shoes and warm-up suits. Those will bring joy to a lot of children who love playing soccer. And, at Vacation Bible School, parish children made little stuffed turtles with notes in Spanish that tell the children in Guatemala that “God loves you.” Joy, pure and simple!

Soccer suppliesGenerosity begets more generosity. As others heard about our trip, more donations kept coming in, and we will be able to help the San Lucas Mission continue many life-giving projects. Some parishioners accepted our invitation to pay for some of the more expensive parts of the home, such as doors and windows. This week we received a donation of 230 new Colorado T-shirts, with sizes ranging from toddler to adult.

The people of San Lucas and Guatemala will see the generosity of their friends in Denver and Colorado. And we will see the joy on their faces. But the greatest gift of all will be just being with the people, or as CFCA says it, walking with the poor. From Colorado to Guatemala, GENEROSITY will bring JOY.

The group from the Church of the Risen Christ leaves today for Guatemala. We wish them a safe and wonderful trip.

Related links:
Two parishes receive 2009 CFCA Pilgrimage of Faith Award
Read an update about their trip to Guatemala here and here

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Jun 5 2009

Bob’s notes – special report, part 1

Mission awareness trip
Guatemala, May 16-23, 2009
Colombia, May 24-June 1, 2009
Part 1

Guatemala today
While the sponsors were enjoying a beautiful day in San Lucas Toliman with their sponsored children and aging, on May 18, 2009, an American Oblate priest was killed, and an African Oblate wounded during a highway robbery near Playa Grande, Ixcan, Guatemala. Apparently the assailants wanted the van carrying the missionaries to a regional meeting of their order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). Bullets flew, leaving Father Lorenzo Rosebaugh, 74, dead, and Congolese Father Jean Claude wounded. In the confusion, assailants fled without the vehicle. Father Lorenzo had a long history of taking risks to aid the poor and marginalized. All of us here are deeply saddened by this tragedy.

Spontaneity and laughter
In spite of several alarming events, the sponsors on this trip to Guatemala encountered spontaneity and a great sense of humor among the people they met. The sponsors see and appreciate the need for the presence of CFCA in Guatemala, especially when they learn of the crude reality of a divided society.

On the final morning in San Lucas, Father John Goggin kindly celebrated the Eucharist. We remembered Father Lorenzo in a special way. In his homily, Father John stated, “The world can change, when people learn to walk with the poor.”

Visiting Colombia
We had one sponsored girl and one sponsored aging person who traveled overnight (Cali-Medellin) with staff member Diana to see their sponsors in Medellin. The mother of the sponsored girl, Karen, speaks with such gratitude for the program. Karenís father was shot and killed when she was 5. Magnolia, the mother, states that thieves took his life over a motor scooter and a pair of tennis shoes.

City of the flowers
Medellin still impresses me as a very beautiful and cultural city. Coordinator Transito Hernandez informed us that there are 23 universities here. We have also been learning that Medellin now has more than 3 million people and faces serious human challenges. Only 46 percent of school-aged children are enrolled in school. After 18, the number drops to 30 percent. Those not in school are vulnerable to the many dangers of the streets. At CFCA, we are blessed with a fine central coordinating team – Transito, Martha, Monica, Luz Angela, Erika. Continue reading

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Feb 12 2009

Solidarity walk begins the new year

CFCA President Bob Hentzen and 1,000 fellow walkers celebrated his upcoming walk† from Guatemala to Chile with a solidarity walk in the community of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. The solidarity walk, which took place on January 23, was almost three miles long and took about two and a half hours.

Guatemalan staff members and CFCA families organized the solidarity walk as a way to kick off preparations for Bob’s walk to Chile, which is set to begin Dec. 29, 2009. The route Bob will travel will weave through 12 countries (see below for a list) in Central and South America and is scheduled to conclude in April 2011.

During the solidarity walk, the 12 countries were represented by their national flag along the three-mile trek.

We hope you’ll enjoy this video clip of the solidarity walk.

Bob will be walking through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Chile, although not necessarily in that order. The official route is still being finalized.

The purpose of the walk is to facilitate the building of community and strengthening of the bonds of solidarity among our CFCA families, sponsors and co-workers. Bob will use this walk to thank the families for the inspiring example of their daily walk, and tell them that we love them. He hopes to help counterbalance some of the isolation of poverty and offer the poor a sense of identity with the CFCA community.

“On my journeys, I find that CFCA truly walks with the poor and enables many people of good will to do the same,” Bob said.

In 1996, Bob walked more than 4,000 miles from Kansas City, Kan., to Guatemala. His upcoming walk will continue that trek.

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Dec 29 2008

Notes from the Field #5 – Guatemala

Chris Palmer, CFCA mission awareness trip coordinator, talks about walking with the poor. During a recent trip to the CFCA project in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, Palmer spoke with CFCA board member emeritus Msgr. Greg Schaffer who spoke a simple truth, that we are not trying to “fix” the poor; the poor are not broken.

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