Nov 4 2009

Bob’s travel notes to Chile

Mission awareness trip to Chile
Oct. 24 ñ Nov. 1, 2009

Iím told that the word ìChileî means ìland where the earth ends.î Staff reports that Chile is considered ìFirst in Inequityî in Latin America, with 42 percent of resources owned by less than 10 percent of the people. There are so many marginalized families, whose only shelter is a one-room wooden structure. A recurring theme is violence to women and children. Our CFCA families strive to make it on very modest income. According to staff, 70 percent of mothers in the Chile project are single heads of family.

A day with our sponsored elderly
CFCA currently serves 566 aging sponsored friends in subproject D. Most live precariously in houses constructed with nontraditional materials. Some of them rent a room in another familyís home. Only six live in homes for the elderly. The aging sponsored friends receive a $103 monthly subsidy from the Chilean government. However, the money is not enough to cover basic needs such as nutrition and clothing. CFCA provides daily breakfast, lunch and snacks for them at Casa de DÌa, a facility attached to the Valparaiso project office.

Bob serenades the sponsored aging during lunch.

Bob serenades the sponsored aging during lunch.

At the Claretian Sisters facility at El Cerro El Litre, the elderly can attend different kinds of workshops. Every year, the subproject offers a field trip to give them the opportunity to share their talents and stories, and also just to have a fun time.

Testimony of Maria Cena, a 14-year participant in the program: ìMy dream as a girl was to have loving parents, and I achieved it. Iím also grateful for excellent teachers and social workers. At age 80, I now play guitar and sing in our choir.î

Free clinics serve health needs
After sightseeing in Valparaiso, the group visited Consultorio de Salud las CaÒas. Consultorios de Salud are free health clinics created by the Chilean health system to serve the less fortunate. ValparaÌso has 13 consultorios in the hills of the city. About 11,000 people benefit from the services. Not only do these clinics provide medical and dental care to our sponsored children and aging, but they also make CFCA aware of other families that could benefit from the sponsorship program.

Sister Sara at the El Litre CFCA facility devotes herself to the aging and to the most rejected street people of Valparaiso. Their source of warmth at night is the dogs with which they sleep. Relying completely on Godís providence, her team of volunteers provides lunch each day for more than 100 people on the street. She receives donations of food and clothing.

Key programs for women
The training program was created in 1992 to help the mothers of sponsored children learn skills that would allow them to save money and increase the household income. The program holds workshops in tailoring, weaving and hairdressing, and provides supplies, transportation costs and child care for participating mothers. Every year, around 230 mothers benefit from the training program.

The CFCAís Womenís Program was created in 1993 to provide a space for the mothers to be better informed about domestic violence and its impact on their relationship with their children. The program offers workshops on self-esteem, child-mother relationships and formation for all members of the family. Around 200 people per year attend the workshops.

The fishermen and women of La Caleta
La Caleta de Pescadores Portales ValparaÌso is the biggest fishing cove in the region. Approximately 200 families make their living from the fishing activities here. Family fishing is not only a dangerous job, but it also presents big challenges, such as a lack of government assistance, climate changes, high cost of gasoline and overwhelming competition from the commercial fishing industry. Here, fishing is done both with nets and hooks. Some of the sponsored childrenís mothers work in this cove as fishhook baiters.

Don Juan, head of the fishermenís union, explains in Spanish and good English the life and lore of family fishing in Chile.

Don Juan, head of the fishermenís union, explains in Spanish and good English the life and lore of family fishing in Chile.

Indigenous roots
Cabildo, one of the communities served by subproject RUR, earned its name from the indigenous people known as Cabildos. Subproject RUR was created in 2001 to serve the rural communities of the ValparaÌso region. This is the biggest subproject of the ValparaÌso project with 1,258 children and 116 aging. The mid-sized Las Cenizas copper mine in Cabildo is owned by Chilenos who are seriously working on minimizing ecological impact of the mine.

Thank you for joining us in this wonderful experience! Cristina and I are looking forward to a couple of days ìon the farmî in San Lucas before heading for Costa Rica on Nov. 7. We shall be with you in spirit, song and prayer.

Godís blessings,

Bob Hentzen

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Sep 16 2009

Bob’s notes – visit to Bolivia

Mission awareness trip
Aug. 30 ñ Sept. 7, 2009

Itís a pleasure to share with you the experience of this mission awareness trip and the growth and excitement of CFCA Bolivia.

As background, the population of Bolivia is two-thirds indigenousóthe highest proportion in the hemisphere. Evo Morales won presidential elections in December 2005, the first indigenous Bolivian to do so. A year and a half later, a draft constitution giving more rights to the indigenous majority and more autonomy to the nine states led to sometimes violent demonstrations. Among our sponsored families and especially the youth, the CFCA-lived doctrine of non-violent conflict resolution will play a key part in their attitude and behavior.

A motherís testimony
In the Santa Cruz subproject of Los Bosques, 47 percent of the families are headed up by single mothers. A mother of five, Dominga, told us that belonging to CFCA and attending workshops on human dignity, self-confidence and conflict resolution turned her marital life around and actually brought the childrenís father back home.

Home for prisonersí children
We were privileged to spend a late afternoon and evening with the outgoing girls and boys at Hogar de la Esperanza (House of Hope). This home, dedicated to the children of prisoners, is owned by an association and run by Catholic sisters. We have 38 children sponsored in this hogar.

A tremendous refreshment
On Sept. 1 in Yapacani, we visited families who mostly live in homes made of rough-cut planks. Dads work hard in the fields. The sponsored families are deeply grateful.

Sponsored children play the violins for sponsors

Later in the day, we stepped into the cool and moderately lit parish church and found ourselves in the midst of a full orchestra and chorale made up of children and teensówith about half identified by their shirts as being sponsored in CFCA. The music, except for the Star Spangled Banner sung in English, was classical.

Dancing with the sponsored aging

After the formal concert, the show continued outside on the basketball court with snacks and lots of dancing with the sponsored aging. My partner, Dona Isabel, had obviously worked hard all her life. She threw me around the dance court like a feather.

By land to Cochabamba
On Friday morning in subproject Sacaba, my group visited Dona Tomasaóan ailing grandmother who never attended a single day of school. Yet Dona Tomasa and her husband, Roberto, strive each day to raise and educate Brian, 10, Christian, 12, Norma, 15, and a fourth young girl who was in school. Only Brian and Christian are sponsored. Dona Tomasa spoke of what a fine student Norma has become. Norma spoke of her aspirations to study medicine, and sponsor Jane Kinney-Knotek offered to sponsor Norma.

Youth group impresses
At subproject Pucarita Chica in the afternoon, we were all tremendously impressed by the 50 or so sponsored teens assembled for a meeting. They invited the sponsors to their meeting. Martin, a CFCA scholar, communications major and group facilitator, was able to establish a good interchange between the youth and sponsors. I really felt a sense of ìbrimming with potentialî in these teens.

From Cochabamba to La Paz
About an hour out of Cochabamba, we began our ear-popping climb. Eufronia Taquichiri, aide-coordinator of subproject Melga, Cristina and I traveled with Don Pablo in a Toyota van, which negotiated the mountain roads very well.

Children welcome sponsors

Our gathering at subproject Alto Pampahasi took place on a sun-baked, outdoor basketball court, packed with children, families, teens and the sponsored elderly.

I spoke with a young Aymara mother of four small children who was recently abandoned by their father. She earns a little money by washing clothes in the neighborhood and expressed great gratitude for the sponsorship of two of her children. I am told that 80 percent of the mothers in this area are heads of households but also that 80 percent of the parents in a nearby subproject now can read and write thanks to CFCA classes.

Subproject San Martin de Porres
We have been working in this neighborhood in the southern part of El Alto since 2000. We have 167 children sponsored, about equally divided between girls and boys. This figure is significant because a great number of the families had to move from rural Aymara areas, where boys were favored in opportunities to study. Life is challenging here. For the mothers, small incomes are generated by washing clothes and street vendingómainly food items and sale of macramÈ. For the dads, the work consists mostly of construction help and temporary day labor. They are all deeply grateful for the CFCA presence.

Bolivia has begun a Children/Youth Congress. One of our sponsored girls, Laura, 11, has been elected by her peers and teachers to represent the children of El Alto at this congress. She attributes her successes in life to her family, teachers, sponsors and CFCA.

On to Brazil
Cristina and I have been very fortunate to obtain visas for Brazil at the Consulado here in La Paz. They are quite strict about the requirements but, fortunately, we had everything in order. To scout the roads and conditions for my walk, we will drive the 637 miles from Santa Cruz to the Brazilian border at Corumba. There we will be met by the CFCA team from Mineiros, who will accompany us to visit the projects in Mineiros and Cipauba. Thank you for being with our mission awareness trip groups in solidarity and prayer.

God’s blessings,

Bob Hentzen

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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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Aug 6 2009

Bob’s notes – Visit to Colombia

Mission awareness trip to Colombia
July 19-25, 2009

Jamie
From the moment they emerge from the crowded exit doors of the Eldorado Airport in Bogota, sponsors are put at ease by the poise and talent of our young CFCA co-worker, Jamie Mora. Now in the middle of post-graduate studies (languages), Jamie handles several translating jobs, plus teaching, and is the main economic support of her family. Jamie leaves no doubt that the presence of the David Malka family, her loving sponsors for 15 years, and her CFCA Bogota family, has played a major role in her lifeís journey.

About Colombia
In Colombia, many peopleóespecially in the rural areasósuffer from malnutrition, poverty and insufficient education. Colombiaís biggest challenge continues to be the struggle against guerilla warfare, city gangs and illicit drug cartels. Most of the countryís wealth is concentrated in the hands of drug traffickers.

Education costly
Public elementary education is tuition-free, and children are required to attend for five years. However, many children do not attend past age 7. Instead, they help their parents on the family farm. Parents also find it difficult to afford school supplies and various school fees. In remote areas, children may learn through radio broadcasts of school lessons.

Sponsors play a great part in the education of their sponsored children. <i>In this picture: sponsors Nicole Mirti and Elyse Tyson with Wendy</i>

Sponsors play a great part in the education of their sponsored children. In this picture: sponsors Nicole Mirti and Elyse Tyson with Wendy

CFCA has six projects in Colombia with 2,203 children and aging awaiting sponsors.

Colombia’s reality
Judith Bautista, coordinator of the Bogota project gave us an overview of Colombia: 7,000-plus sponsored children; squatters searching for food in local markets; very young population; we have grandmothers who are 25 years old; educational system failing and 8th graders sometimes cannot read; overcrowdedóeven up to 70 in a classroom; in Bogota only 1 percent of students eventually find work in the field they studied; very serious problem of domestic violence; robbery is the most common crime of teenagers; children are set up by unscrupulous adults to commit crimes because of the impunity of their age.

Our solution to some of these challenges is the CFCA communities of compassion in the neighborhoods, the love of the staff for the families and the solidarity, love and power of our mothers groups.

Spirit of Sopo
I was impressed with the great community spirit among the CFCA families of Sopo. The main sources of income are the flower industry and farming, especially dairy. CFCA walks with 430 children and their families in this community.

The Sopo community welcomes Bob and the mission awareness trip travelers

Mothers are meeting twice a week, once for program activities in which they read the sponsorship manual piece by piece, the other for livelihood projects planning and execution. Today, they had organized a solidarity walk through the beautiful and green countryside and the trek took the better part of two hours with a marching band, four teens on stilts as giants and stops to welcome the next group of walkers.

Motivated sponsors
Iím happy to report that members of this group sponsored five additional children during the week. Listen to these thoughts offered by sponsors on this trip:

ìI think of CFCA as my surrogate parents and grandparents, knowing they will instill the religious values in my child, along with the other values.î

ìI feel the Lord is calling me to go through a new door.î

ìTrust in God. I am learning to trust in othersÖespecially for love rather than having to go it alone.î

As Cristina and I head back to Guatemala via the scenic route through Lima and San Salvador, please join us in prayer and solidarity with our families in Honduras. We look forward now to seeing the groups from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kan., and Risen Christ Parish from Denver, Colo., and then our next mission awareness trip to Guatemala on Aug.1.

Godís blessings,
Bob Hentzen

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Jul 30 2009

Notes from the Field #9 – Colombia

During the mission awareness trip to Colombia, Adrian Velazquez, manager of parish outreach, saw how art and dance play an essential role in the development of the children. These creative outlets are helping the children grow in many positive ways, making this a benefit that goes beyond the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.

Watch more Notes from the Field.

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Jul 13 2009

‘He is permanently part of my heart now’

A mission awareness trip to Colombia profoundly impacted sponsor Karen Greiber. The following is from a letter she wrote describing her experience.

Hi Everyone,

The trip was amazing — I can’t begin to find the right words. It made a huge difference to me and really changed my perspective on things.

Mom and I flew to Medellin, Colombia. Everywhere was so green and gorgeous! When we arrived, I was told that Karen (my sponsored child from Cali) was already at the project. She and her family had traveled seven and a half hours just to meet me. They said Karen was so excited to meet me that she didn’t sleep at all the night before.

Karen and her sponsored friend, Karen during a Colombia mission awareness tripI had just started sponsoring Karen in December 2008. I had only received one letter and barely knew her.

When we arrived at the project, a huge crowd was waiting for us. The next thing I knew, I was being pushed toward Karen. I gave her a big hug. We walked through the crowd together with everyone cheering. Karen and I tried to communicate through my minimal Spanish. Thank goodness there were many in our group who spoke Spanish and helped translate.

Karen is 12 and filled with smiles. I grew to love her and her mom. I learned that Karen’s family lives in one room that they rent. Her mom works as a housekeeper when she can find work, usually two days a week at most. Karen has three younger siblings. I was told that her family was so grateful that Karen found a sponsor. Most people want to sponsor younger kids.

Later, I learned that only 40 percent of kids go to school in Colombia and only around 30 percent attend higher education. Karenís sponsorship means that she can stay in school. She can even consider going on to a university.

The Cali project is beginning sewing classes for mothers. They were just training instructors. A year from now, they plan to teach sewing in Karenís subproject. Then, Karenís mom can take sewing classes to learn a new trade so she can earn more for the family.

At the second subproject we visited, we entered an auditorium-like place to thunderous applause. I often fought tears while I was in Medellin. The gratitude was so overwhelming.

After the performance, everyone from the crowdóat least 100 peopleócame up to say ìthank you” and give hugs and kisses. Bob Hentzen, CFCA president and co-founder, said the crowd saw us as a representation of all sponsors, and it was their way of saying thank you to their own sponsors. So many people talked about their sponsors. They showed us their letters and told us how much they meant to them.

Rafael with his water-bottle tower.We flew to Cartagena from Medellin. There I met my other sponsored child, Rafael. Rafael meant a lot to me before the trip, but he is permanently a part of my heart now. I love him more than I can put into words!

Rafael has the most beautiful smile. He is all boy, but very respectful, polite and all-around a good boy. His mom is an excellent mother. In Cartagena we were allowed to spend three days with our sponsored children as we went to the different subprojects.

When we went to Rafael’s village, he really came to life. It was so awesome to see him just being a kid! I met his entire family. How I treasure the time we spent there! Susana, Rafael’s mom, welcomed me into their home and family.

People may say we saw some of the worst parts of Colombia, because we saw some of the poorest areas. I disagree: I think we saw some of the best. We spent time with everyday people who were generous, loving and genuine.

I left Colombia absolutely loving the people and the country. I hope someday to return.

God bless,
Karen

Visit your friend! Check out our mission awareness trip schedule here.

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Jun 10 2009

Bob’s notes – special report, part 2

Mission awareness trip to Colombia
May 24-June 1, 2009
Part 2

This mission awareness trip focuses on CFCA projects near Medellin and Cartagena, Colombia. The next Colombia trip in July will visit the area of Bogota. I find the CFCA teams in these projects very devoted and very organized. Please keep CFCA Colombia in your prayers.

Project Madre Paula
During our gathering at the university, we experienced flowers, mothers and a warm welcome. Mary Luz Palacios is the coordinator and the brand new mother of Emanuel. In the Madre Paula project we have 1,078 children, 150 aging and 11 seminarians.

Introductory words by Mary Luz:

“It is very moving for us today to have this chance of meeting each one of you. We are totally convinced of the importance of these visits. Every child, elder, dad or mom manifests particular needs … our mission is much more than granting material benefits … we make every effort to respond to the multiple needs, worries, sorrows, joys and dreams behind each face.”

Cartagena
Can you believe it? I came to Cartagena over 50 years ago as a young brother and teacher at Colegio La Salle. We just passed the school, still huge as ever up there on the hill.

Gathering at home office
Welcome and prayer acted out by the seven children sponsored by members of this group. Isabel Hernandez, coordinator, said:

“Thanks for the confidence. Thank you for coming. Let us live fully this beautiful experience.”

Adrian Velazquez with Jordan and his mother.

Adrian Velazquez with Jordan and his mother (left).

Visit to Pasacaballos
In a town located about 15 miles from Cartagena the people deal with high levels of malnourishment, drug addiction, domestic violence and high level of school dropouts. On the upside, I find 387 children, aging, scholars bright-eyed, grateful and eager to overcome any obstacle. Teenager Loraine spoke in pretty accurate English with a simple message: “I love you.” Scholars are working with sponsored aging in basic reading and writing.

In the third family my group visited, 18-year-old Jose Vicente, sponsored since second grade, expressed the highest form of admiration for his aging campesino grandfather by stating that he plans to stay in farming. Next year he plans to enter the university to become a professional agronomist and then become a CFCA sponsor. Late in the day, we visited a CFCA livelihood bakery. The eight mothers involved here look sharp in their white outfits and face masks. Their location for sales looks good, and they have a large variety of breads. They also enjoy professional assessment by two business majors from the University of Cartagena. Continue reading

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