Tag: school

Sep 7 2010

New York students meet their Salvadoran counterparts

Kayleigh visits El Salvador.

Kayleigh Macchirole visits with children from El Salvador during her mission awareness trip.

Kayleigh Macchirole, a student from McGann-Mercy High School in New York, recently went with other students on a CFCA mission awareness trip to El Salvador. Here is her reflection on the experience.

I recently went on a missionary trip to El Salvador with a few people from my school. I went into this experience thinking that we were just going to go down there and help a few people, but after the first day I realized that we were doing so much more.

During our time in El Salvador we celebrated Mass with sponsored children and their families, visited homes, built a home for a family in need, met with our sponsored children, visited a school, and played a soccer game with some of the scholarship students.

We had the chance to interact with people from all age groups, and learn about all of their lives and the difficulties they face. On our final day in Santa Ana we got to interact with local teenagers while playing soccer. Afterwards we had the chance to have a group discussion with them.

Soon after the conversation started we realized that these teenagers werenít that different from us. Like American teenagers they are faced with the pressure to do drugs. They have the threat of gang violence, or even joining a gang, and also like us, they have hopes and dreams of being successful.

The big difference between us was money. They were all so thankful to be sponsored because otherwise there is a good chance they would be on the streets working rather than going to school, which will give them so many more opportunities to become successful and give themselves a better life.

Looking back on the whole trip, the thing that stands out to me the most was how grateful everyone was. On the day we got to meet our sponsored children the families were so appreciative. We heard things like ìI thank God for you every morning,î ìI consider you a sister to me,î ìGod bless you for the rest of your life,î and ìI thank God through the heavens and back.î

It shocked me that doing something as simple as sponsoring a child could change their lives so much. The people there have so little and yet they would help you with anything and always had a big smile on their face.

As Americans, we let something so small ruin our entire day. Meanwhile the people in El Salvador have so many more problems and always seem to have a positive attitude.

My trip to El Salvador was life-changing and I cannot wait to go back.

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Jul 29 2010

Going back to school at 74

Interview with Flor de Maria by Henry Flores

Flor de MariaMy name is Flor Maria. I am 74, and I live in Costa Rica.

My father died when I was 10, and my mother took care of me after that. She made sweets, and I sold them. I have 10 children. They live in different parts of the country. Some are married, others are divorced.

Itís difficult to be an aging person in Costa Rica. Our reality is hard. I have seen other elderly women begging in the street, even sleeping there. We aging have much potential. Look at me. I am able. My hands cook rice. I can make beans. I can scrub a floor from one side to the other, but clearly I canít do it all in one day. I have to do a little at a time: one part today, another tomorrow.

I was taking classes in handicrafts when I first met CFCA. I told the social workers about my life, and they said they could support me. They give so much help for those who need it. I suffer from many illnesses, and thanks to CFCA, I receive the medicines I need. As part of CFCA, one feels supported. One feels calmer. They even help me with my school supplies and other expenses.

Flor de Maria doing her homework.Returning to school:
I left school when I was 12, but thanks be to God, I returned to school and finished sixth grade at the age of 50. The situation was difficult. Nevertheless, I always wanted to study. I always wanted a degree as a lawyer to defend others.

When I was little, my school had few seats, teachers and everything else. It was very poor. At times, they taught sewing, and they didnít have the materials. They didnít have notebooks. So, I decided to leave school. When I was in school, I remembered doing homework before and after class.

Now, I have returned to school; only now I am 74, and it isnít easy. I remember on my first day of class, one of my daughters said, ìOh, no, Mother. Donít go to school.î I simply did not pay attention to her. I want to do what I want, and I want to learn, to study; to prepare myself.

Going back to school at my age is beautiful. I feel like any other student with a desire to learn and advance. Everyone knows that I have studied, and that I donít want to leave my studies unfinished. Some tell me to drop out of school, but I just ignore them.

School has helped me a lot. I am more alert because they say my neurons have awakened.

Many women attend my school, because they teach many subjects thereósewing, tailoring, etc. I donít have a favorite class because I believe that, for students, all material should be their favorites. I am taking six classes: Spanish, science, English, civics, mathematics and social studies.

Before my tests, I drink a glass of chamomile tea because they say itís good for the nerves. This calms me. I tell myself, ìDonít get nervous. Donít get nervous. God will take care of everything else.î

Flor writingSundays, when I go to school, I get up at 5 a.m. I prepare breakfast and lunch. Later, I grab my backpack with my notebooks, and I leave early since I start at 8 a.m.

In the afternoon, around 4 p.m., I go home. I drink a cup of coffee and rest. I do homework during the week. For example, today I have some homework in Spanish. I have to answer the following questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? I am not going to answer much. What I will write is: ìI am Flor de Maria. I am 74 years old. I want to be a lawyer. Granted, this isnít up to me. This is up to God.î

Florís words of wisdom
I want to say to the youth to take advantage of their time in school because it will lead them to better work and higher pay. Your studies will keep you on the good path and keep you away from vices. Donít lose your youth. Donít lose this moment because one day, you are going to want it back like I do now.

My message for the elderly is to study to keep your neurons working, so you donít get Alzheimers!

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Aug 11 2009

August isn’t back-to-school month for everyone

As U.S. students prepare for the onset of school, students in other countries have already taken mid-terms.

That’s right. For students in many countries where CFCA works, school does not start in August or September.

The school year in Central America started in January or February. Those lucky children are only two months away from the end of school. Schoolchildren in India and the Philippines are already into their third month of the school year. And students in Kenyaówell, they follow the British system and attend school all year, with long breaks at the end of each quarter.

Find the school calendar for your friend on the graph below.

School calendar

Related links
Time for school

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Jul 27 2009

A letter of thanks

Joanna from Costa RicaHello all, it is so good to be able to greet you and, at the same time, wish the best to you and your family.

My name is Johanna. I am the oldest of four siblings. We live in Alajuela, Costa Rica, very close to the Poas Volcano. When we were not part of CFCA, we had lots of needs. Weíve always liked to go to school to learn, therefore we were always very happy to attend, even though the beginning of the school year was a very anguished moment because we had no uniforms or good shoes. Praise God, we are a very united family. We love and help each other very much. Our parents have always worked hard to bring us up.

During the coffee-picking season, my mother would leave very early in the morning to work at the coffee plantations, and I would stay home, taking care of my younger siblings. With the money she made, she would buy part of the school supplies we needed because, even though my dad worked hard, he could not cover all our needs. My parents were very sad that we had to stay home alone, but I used to tell them not to worry, that I was not afraid of it.

Joanna with a notebook for each school subjectWhen CFCA came to the community, and I became sponsored, this big blessing came into my family and my life. Thank God, I was blessed with a godmother (ed. note: padrina/padrino, meaning “godmother” or “godfather,” is the word used for “sponsor” in Spanish) who loves me very much. She is very good with me and worried about me. Thanks to her sponsorship, I had the opportunity, for the first time in my life, to have one notebook for each school subject and to attend school with new shoes and uniforms. I have never lived anything like it.

Today I am in 10th grade, and this year I received, as every year of my sponsorship, new shoes and uniforms which makes me feel very happy.

Thank you all sponsors, for making my siblings and I smile every day when we go to school.

May God bless you abundantly. I hope that you continue helping the many who don’t have the sponsorship I am receiving.

With much love,


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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).

(Please supervise children closely during the cooking.)

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 25 2009

Serious fun

Schoolís out for summer! Kids are lost in a lazy haze of swimming, camps and vacations. But, as the excitement of having no homework fades, it is often replaced with, ìMom! Iím booooooored!î

What a great time to encourage solidarity with their sponsored friend. Have them do a little research about the country, culture and history of their friend. The library has wonderful books for all ages about different countries. This will make letter writing easier, too, because the research may stir up good questions they can ask of their friend.

Over the next four weeks, we will offer some ideas and activities that you can do with your children or grandchildren that will teach them about other cultures.

Global play
The most global, common element about childhood is play. Children play. Even when faced with inhumane conditions and hardship, it is part of a childís nature to engage in some kind of play. There are many games that are manifested in areas all around the planet in various forms (hide and seek, tag, jump rope games, etc.) but there are many games that seem to be organic, having grown out of the imaginations of a nationís children. The following is a game that children play in Chile.

Mar, Luna, Sol (Ocean, Moon, Sun)
You need a couple of steps where the children can stand side by side. This can be the front porch or the steps of a pool.

The bottom step (or the ground) is Mar (ocean). The next one up is Luna (moon) and the top step is Sol (sun). One person is the caller. The caller says either, ìMar, Luna or Solî and everyone has to jump to that step. The caller keeps choosing different levels and everyone must jump to that step. If a players jumps to the wrong step, they are out. The last one left standing wins and gets to be the caller.

There are many great Web sites where you can find games that are played by children in your friendís country. Research the games together with your own children or grandchildren. Then, let the games (and the learning) begin!

You can also look at our 2008 edition of Sacred Ground for more games around the world (look at page 15 of the pdf).

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

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