Jun 9 2012

Trip to Colombia: ‘An honor to be a sponsor for your children’

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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.

From my recent report from Medellin and Cartagena, please allow me to offer a little general information about CFCA in Colombia:

From the northern border with Venezuela to the southern border with Ecuador, we’ve walked every kilometer of Colombia, this wonderful country.

(Editor’s note: This is a reference to Walk2gether, the nearly 8,000-mile solidarity walk that Bob and CFCA staffers undertook through 12 Latin American countries. The walk lasted from December 2009 to June 2011.)

I remain deeply grateful for all the blessings, prayers and solidarity.

Colombia is a big piece of the Lord’s creation. In size it is number 4 in Latin America after Brazil, Argentina and Peru.

Colombia is special to me and to my family. I first landed here in 1960 as a Christian Brother missionary teacher.

I was assigned to Colegio La Salle, Cartagena. I have many wonderful memories of my students and fellow teachers at La Salle.

Since Cristina and I sponsored the first CFCA child, Florelia Delgado (Bogota project), CFCA-Colombia has grown to include 19,349 children and 2,179 elderly friends.

In addition, we currently have over 1,000 Colombian children on our waiting list for sponsorship. Project Bogota serves some 6,500 families in both urban and rural areas.

Before the sponsors arrived

Cristina and I enjoyed an inspiring day at the CFCA Center in Bogota on the Friday before the sponsors’ arrival.

In-depth conversations with dynamic scholars were followed by a training session for mother leaders on the subject of self-help projects. The identification and loyalty to the ideals of CFCA run deep here.

It’s inspiring to see how mothers and staff find space for one another. Our CFCA family in Colombia includes five major projects (Antioquia, Bogota, Cartagena, Cali, Quibdo).

After the first day of this trip, the sponsors know not only the names of the other sponsors, but also the names of each other’s sponsored children.

We want to build on the wisdom inherent in our sponsored friends and their families. Eighty-five percent are headed by mothers and grandmothers. They’re brimming with potential, but they need to be close to one another.

On the outskirts of Bogota, we were able to spend a day with the CFCA families of Oasis. They welcomed us on the streets with the Colombian national anthem.

What a privilege to share a morning with 13 mothers groups, each color-coded. It was like a rally of sharing and learning.

At present in the CFCA project in Bogota, we have 183 mothers groups serving 4,000 families. Each mothers group is like a mini-foundation.

“I have experienced personal changes in me,” one of the mothers said. “Mujeres, we are guardians of the earth.”

One of the mothers offered this prayer:

“I thank you, Lord of all, for giving me this new day, and for allowing me to share it with our sponsors. We offer this prayer for them and their families. Help me to learn this day from my companions. Help us to value one another and to appreciate one another.”

Several mothers groups were on hand today to accompany the sponsors.

Their message: We no longer feel alone. A tough life doesn’t stop our joy. We are confident that we can leave a better world for our children.

A mother speaks: “I have learned to be tolerant and to speak confidently in public. I have learned to share what I am learning with other mothers.”

At CFCA, we respond: “Let’s give her the microphone!”

Confident mothers transmit that confidence.

We visited three families one day. All three were managed by single mothers. They survive with the mother seeking work each day, cleaning buildings and washing clothes. On a good day, they can earn about $11.

Mothers had prepared a full day of activities with families: introductory prayer, folk dances by the children and youth, interactive games and sharing, a fine lunch of “ajiaco” soup, live music for enjoyment and dancing, etc.

We had a lot of deep and meaningful interaction today between families, sponsors and staff. I listened to a good number of very compelling family histories.

For me it’s very encouraging to see the integral growth of sponsored friends and their families over time. We also celebrated the joy of this day with a sing-along performance by the sponsors and lots of dancing.

Question often heard: When are you coming back?

Spending time with our families was bittersweet as always, a confrontation with the truth. I intend to write more often.

Most of our mothers are single heads of households. To support their families, they work during the day. We hold our mothers group meetings in the evening.

All photo credits in this report go to the staff at CFCA’s project in Bogota and the CFCA communications center in Bogota.

Cristina and I are looking forward to seeing everyone soon. Now in Guatemala, we are blessed with the privilege of participating in the celebration of Fr. Greg’s resurrection and homecoming. God’s blessings.

Bob Hentzen
Bogota, Colombia
May 2012

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