Jul 2 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to Colombia

Mission Awareness Trip
June 2008

This is our fourth Mission Awareness Trip to this country. Medellin is hosting for the next few days a meeting of the OASóOrganization of American States. Security forces abound.

In Colombia since 1983
Ten years later (1993), Jerry Tolle and Transito Hernandez traveled from Cartagena to Medellin to inaugurate Project Antioquia. As of May 2008, the CFCA presence in the five projects in Colombia looks like this:
Children sponsored†††† † 16,160
Aging sponsored†††††††††††† 1,668
Vocations sponsored†††††††† 168
Waiting list-Colombia†††† 1,837

Day One in Medellin
Coordinator Transito Hernandez gave us a very fine overview of Project Antioquia. The sponsored children offer the world smiles, beauty and grace in the harshness of the high neighbors of Medellin.

This project has shown us good solid programs for sponsored children, but also impressive are the programs for mothers:
1. Alphabetization, elementary and junior high equivalencyófacilitated mainly by scholars and volunteers.
2. Good training by professional and dedicated teachers in livelihood projects, with over 90 percent of sponsored mothers participating. These mothers currently produce school uniforms for 32 schools.
3. Beauty shops, bakeries for all kinds of breads and cakes–also for schools and special events.
4. Dance program for mothers.†

Day Two
We visited subproject PN in La Pintada, surrounded by mountains 48 miles south of Medellin in the valley of the Cauca River. The Cauca is at flood stage as I write and 41 of our 237 sponsored families have been forced to leave their homes. Sisters serving here speak of the reality of this town of 10,000 including child labor, child abuse, pregnancies in the early teens, lack of employment opportunity, very little environmental planning and intra-family violence.

The hope quotient
The CFCA presence in La Pintada has grown little by little, with the sponsorship of boys and girls who before hung out on the street without much incentive to go to school. We now have 237 children in the program attending school and six scholars in higher education. The elderly also have a good program. Because of the CFCA sponsorship program in La Pintada, 140 elderly and 225 children enjoy a nutritious lunch every school day.

Steady jobs elusive
After a good hot lunch for everyone, we began a full afternoon of home visits. My group visited five families. Difficulty of finding and keeping a steady job was a common denominator.†† Businesses tend to lay off workers after three months, so as to avoid regulated benefit packages.† Even for one-room living spaces, the rent is high. Families also have to factor in the cost of electricity, water, gas for cooking, tuition, shoes, uniforms and, above all, basic food.

Medellin to Cartagena
A 3 a.m. departure from the hotel had everyone up early. The bus broke down on the highway about half way to the airport, creating a bit of uncertainty for a while. But we called for another vehicle, transferred the luggage and made it just fine to the Avianca Airlines counter in good time. They handed us big red umbrellas to walk under rain to the duel propeller flight for Cartagena.

Message from Coordinator
Isabel Hernandez told us, ìWith happy hearts, we meet againÖthanks for trusting and walking with usÖthe joy and smiles of the children will be your best thanksÖthere will be personal ìangelsî in each place to accompany each of you.î

Isabel introduced Lewis, a CFCA scholar who teaches English in a school and translates letters for CFCA. Scholars serve as models for younger children. In spite of difficult transportation, we have 30 scholars from Manzanillo del Mar in higher studies.

Final day in Cartagena
Today our main gathering was in the small, rural town of Pasacaballos. I estimate 400 mothers were present to share with the sponsors, to applaud the musical talents of their children and to offer their support for Pilgrimage of Faith II (my walk from Guatemala through South America).†
This group has sponsored 10 new children during the trip. Our prayers and gratitude accompany them on their way home.†

My wife, Cristina, and I leave this MAT very encouraged and very grateful. The sponsors and the CFCA families in each place we visited have been highly impacted. The blessings continue. Now we get to see everyone in Kansas City and then go on trips to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Paul Pearceís wedding in Kansas City and back to Colombia for the MAT in Bogota on July 20.† I thank you for your solidarity, and I ask you for prayers.†††

Bob Hentzen
Cartagena, Colombia

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