Aug 5 2011

Bob’s notes – Mission awareness trip to El Salvador

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“Bob’s notes” are reports from CFCA President Bob Hentzen, who regularly accompanies mission awareness trip participants. You can see Bob’s full update on his Facebook page.

The Pullman bus from Guatemala dropped us off at a gas station out on the highway near Santa Ana, El Salvador.

What an experience to travel over the terrain where we had walked in January 2010. Often we struggled up these respectable hills in the tropical heat.

Cristina and I noticed a welcoming group of about 100 sponsored children, elderly and families with homemade banners and songs. Of particular note were two children of special abilities who didnít miss a beat.

We had a nice lunch with the CFCA staff in the Santa Ana project. I like that the cook, Elizabeth, and her daughter Mili shared this and all meals with us.

A pleasant supper with arriving sponsors followed, with an orientation meeting and overview of El Salvador and CFCAís work here.

Henry Flores, CFCA communications liaison in El Salvador, gave us these statistics:

  • Official government figures puts the combination of unemployment and underemployment at 19.2 percent. Henry puts it quite a bit higher.
  • 75 percent of food in El Salvador is imported.
  • $225 per month is the average family income.
  • Foreign-owned textile factories, government jobs and call centers dominate the marketplace.
  • An estimated 700 Salvadorans leave the country daily. The average pay to coyotes/human traffickers is $8,000 to $9,000.
  • 75 percent of the mothers of sponsored children in El Salvador are single heads of households.

Father Milton led a beautiful Eucharistic celebration. Having had a CFCA sponsor during his seminary years, Father Milton is very enthusiastic about CFCA.

We were treated to a spectacular talent show, celebrating the sponsors’ arrival and completion of Walk2gether. The CFCA staff estimated about 1,500 CFCA family members were in the municipal stadium of Metapan. Quality acts of children and elderly were each worthy of publication.

Sponsored children and elderly dance for sponsors in the municipal stadium of Metapan.

Monday started with an inspiring testimony from Carla, a sponsored young woman of 19.

Carla has overcome many physical challenges (related to a lifelong spinal condition). Yet she is confident, strong, and aspires to become a psychologist.

As with many of our sponsored children and youth, Carla was abandoned by her father. She has been raised by her grandmother, Petrona.

We were met by Sister Guadalupe at the entrance to the highland town of Ataco. We were glad to be here after the sweltering heat of Santa Ana. Reunion at Beneficio de CafÈ. They let us use a hall at the coffee processing plant for our gathering with the families.

I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with our scholars in Santa Ana, El Salvador.

Jaime, 16, hosted the meeting for the visiting sponsors. His engaging spirit and ready smile quickly set the tone for a great afternoon of sharing with sponsored children, sponsors and families.

Jaime loves English and teaches English to the children as part of their CFCA educational reinforcement program. They lovingly call him “El Profe.”

Jaime comes from such a humble family that just a few years ago, he was denied access to school for lack of a pair of shoes.

CFCA took care of that need, and today Jaime is a fine youth leader in his community of Primaverona. He aspires to major in languages and work for CFCA in service to his people.

At CFCA our young women have equal privileges. Jenny, who manages the CFCA program in her neighborhood of Primaverona, will soon graduate with her MBA. She is a respected CFCA employee and leader.

Many mothers of sponsored children also learn reading, writing and basic math, taught lovingly by CFCA scholars. CFCA sponsors traveling in El Salvador were able to witness this dynamic scene this afternoon. Adding the wisdom of their struggle, CFCA mothers unashamedly sit at the same table with their young counterparts and participate with great enthusiasm.

Victor, now 22, has been sponsored since he was 4. Like many sponsored children and youth, Victorís mother raised four children on her own, at first with the serious drinking problem of her husband and following his death.

Victor spoke proudly of his hard-working mother. She had the love and vision to seek out and request a CFCA sponsor in those early years.

Victor has responded nicely to his motherís example, love and formationóand also to his group of friends at his San Jose Obrero parish. Victor now plays guitar in the youth liturgical group.

He has completed his first three years of computer studies, as well as his internship at a business. He needs only two more years to be certified as a graduate systems engineer. We honor Victor and his mother. In our book, both are heroes.

Today about 300 of us laid the cornerstone for the CFCA Center in Santa Ana. We enjoyed a nice composition by Don Juan Enamorado and his folksy entourage.

The CFCA team from El Salvador said farewell to the sponsors with a gift of our group photo, handsomely mounted and accompanied by a quote from Mons. Oscar Romero.

As the sponsors headed for San Salvador and the martyrdom site of Mons. Romero, Cristina and I with Yessenia (CFCA project director in Santa Ana) and Mauricio (another CFCA staff member) visited the 600+ children and elderly sponsored in the area of Tacuba.

I hold great admiration for these families, who respond enthusiastically to every invitation to learn new skills and participate in all CFCA activities.

Cristina and I will return to Guatemala early tomorrow morning … and then to Honduras for a large mission awareness trip group on Aug. 6. We send our love and prayers.

Santa Ana, El Salvador
July 29, 2011

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