Mission awareness trip to Costa Rica
Mar. 21 ñ 28, 2009
Project Coordinator Rafael (Rafa) Villalobos started off this day with a dynamic reflection on the ìThe Banquet of the Kingdom.î I finished up the reflection singing, ìLove the Children.î
We have been working in this rural area for only one year, yet the spirit is strong. A childrenís band marched us up the last mile or so to the parish church. The celebrant, Father Elias, expressed kindness to the children, and thanks to the sponsors. The four months of coffee harvest offer the only relatively sure source of employment. The fern and plant nurseries in this area were hard hit by the recent earthquake. One father died in the quake, and several houses were damaged.
The 500-hen livelihood project was challenged by lack of water. Parents hauled water by hand until water pipes could be repaired. Our home visits were high impact. Nubia, a petite young mother refugee from Esteli, Nicaragua, after having three sons and after suffering many beatings, had to separate from her husband. She was so full of life and enthusiastic that she convinced CFCA project leaders to begin sponsoring children in this area. Our social worker determined that this family needed a more dignified living situation. They now have an attractive and secure three-bedroom home with tile floors.
La Estrellita, Cartago
Our day started off with the early morning testimony of sponsored teen, Francini, 16. This girl suffered many different abuses over a period of four years. She also suffered because of the death of her first sponsor. Yet, with support and accompaniment of her current sponsors and CFCA staff, Francini is doing much better now. She aspires to study archeology.
In La Estrella, Cartago, where we have 810 children and 52 aging sponsored, the giants and costumed actors danced us into the 75-pupil school, where the principal and teachers had prepared a short program. Rafa explained the significance of the national anthem and the colors of the Costa Rican Flag.
During the family visits, we met parents, Maria Isabel and Juan, and their three daughters and one son. Three of the four children are sponsored. Juan is a recovering alcoholic and runs AA meetings three times a week in a little hall out back, formerly a chicken coop. Juan is now a builder, carpenter, gardener and responsible father. Maria Isabel is active in church, CFCA and spousesí support group for AA. A fine lunch followed for this large CFCA community. Children, aging, parents, staff and sponsors participated in the entertainment, to the great enjoyment of all.
Las Palmas, Los Guido, Las Mandarinas and Los Alpes
Each of these challenged communities lies within the municipality of Desamparados (The Forgotten). The name fits. In the harshness of these neighborhoods, the CFCA center becomes a very real oasis, many times organized and built by the parents of sponsored children.
We have been privileged to hear many testimonies and examples of inspiring faith-filled strugglesótriumphs over debts, depression, sickness, accidents, kidnappings, unemployment, abuse of all kinds. Time after time, families, children, teenagers and the elderly have expressed that their true and long-term friends are among the sponsors, social promoters and staff members of CFCA.
An evening celebration of the Eucharist in honor of Msgr. Oscar Romero brought together people from Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil, U.S., Honduras, Canada, Puerto Rico and Spain, from several religious backgrounds. We heard actual recordings of his final homily on March 23. This homily is considered his ìdeath sentence.î Our group was invited to participate in this profound and meaningful celebration of the life and legacy of Oscar Romero.
A CFCA family reunion
All the sponsored children and aging are here, many with family members. We started off with a morning prayer in which the children, aging and sponsors could express their sentiments about this beautiful reunion. A pleasant park became the venue for our games, interactions, shared meals and much dancing.
CFCA has 18 years working in Bajo Tejares with 300-350 children, young mothers, elderly who enjoy lunch each weekday. We met the volunteer mothers who cook each day and had the joy of meeting Vanessa Maria, the lovely girl sponsored by CFCA CEO Paco Wertin.
Visits to families forced to live in highly combustible shacks were of high impact to the group.† Two weeks ago, a flash fire wiped out about 30 homes, leaving injuries but no deaths. Live flames and smoke still mark the spot. We learned that the Costa Rican government is supporting the construction of a new colony of more dignified housing. However, in order to get on the waiting list, a family has to be composed of Costa Rican citizens. This automatically excludes a multitude of Nicaraguan refugee families in this area.
Hogar de Magdala
The sponsors met our special little sponsored girl, Cristina. She turned 5 this past week.† Quite a miracle, the doctors say. They predicted that she would not survive beyond 7 months. Even though she has a broken arm from a recent fall, she has made great strides and soon will attend regular school. These special children are totally abandoned. The Sisters of Magdala become their real mothers and are addressed as such. Sister Rosario entered the order at the age of 17, and has been working with these children day and night for 22 years.
We enjoyed a showcase of production projects, and a great variety of typical dishes for lunch, including their local brew of chicha de cana, and as is CFCA custom, an open mike for singers, preachers, dancers and jokesters. Parents and scholars played the part of giant bears, duck, clown, abominable snowman, with all the children. I dedicated my song to the elderly. A grassroots movement takes place in the reality of the streets. True advocacy is the future of CFCA.