Mission awareness trip to Colombia
May 24-June 1, 2009
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.”
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.”
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.
Arroyo de Piedra
A total of 368 children and 10 scholars here with a strong African influence in this fishing town. Some challenges for the people here: only one elementary school, older students have to travel to Cartagena, implying transportation costs, questionable drinking water and infrequent visits by a doctor. My group visited three families where we found courageous mothers and grandmothers anxious to show us the positive side of their simple life. Families take care of one another, and children can play freely in the streets.
San Rafael de la Cruz
Over the years, there has been a positive transformation in this town. Alter more than 25 years of sponsorship in this rural village, we are in our second generation of sponsorships with many young parents having been sponsored during the beginning years. Itís hard to believe that I filled out the first family records from San Rafael that many years ago. Among the people here, the love for CFCA runs deep and has helped to literally restore the God-given dignity of 940 families and of the town.
I can feel it in the joy and confidence of the children and teens. Nine-year-old Estefany steals the show with a graceful cumbia dance and the presentation of her mom, dad and siblings, which left her sponsor, Linda Woloshun, speachless and in tears. Twelve-year-old Adriana introduces the 36 children who are working in the bakery. Elder, 15, introduces his acting group of teens who depict their reality in drama. Marijuana, sadness and violence are converted to confidence, joy and opportunity. Julio, 13, introduces his 87 companions who learn mutual trust, confidence, hope and life planning through group outdoor activities like “bridge building” and the trust fall. Eighteen-year-old scholar Leonardo teaches painting to the younger children.
Yolenis, the mother of a sponsored child, told us the women in Cartagena are experts in the struggle: “many times displaced … victims of the violence in the countryside … they grab our lands to create biofuels … few opportunities to study … often we drop out of school because of pregnancy or to help our family … this morning I sold cakes to leave funds for my children so they could eat this day … lack of health centers … we can’t pay health and social security costs … violence in the family … some women stabbed, raped with no mercy even for pregnant women. Fortunately our womenís group gives us hope, and we feel important.”
Among feelings experienced on the trip, sponsor Paul Gefroh said, “I was highly impacted by family love. Happiness is being satisfied with what you have.”
Godís blessings to all.
Did you miss part one of Bob’s notes? Read it here.