Category: Africa

Dec 23 2008

A Christmas of coming together

The following blog entry was written by Rev. Kelly Demo, an Episcopal priest who preaches for CFCA. From 1990 to 1991, she served as a volunteer for International Christian Youth Exchange in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Just outside my little house there was a large boulder upon which both lizards and I enjoyed lying. One evening very close to Christmas, I was sprawled out on my rock enjoying conversation with a sweet 8-year-old Sierra Leonean named John. We talked many nights about a great many things, and that night he asked me about Christmas in America. I had been missing my family, so I waxed on about my memories of childhood Christmases at my grandparentsí home, of going to midnight Mass, and of Santa Claus.

We lay silently for several minutes looking up at the stars, and finally John said, ìSanta Claus doesnít come to Africa.î
†I looked at him and was overcome with sadness. He fully believed in Santa Claus. He had heard about this guy who travels around the world bringing gifts to good boys and girls. However, neither John nor any of his friends had ever received anything from Santa. He judged himself and his Christmas by Western standards, and he simply could not measure up.

The irony in this is that most Westerners long for the exact kind of Christmas that John and so many others in developing countries have. Christmas in America is generally a time of frenzied activity, of spending money and feeling tired, guilty, lonely, anxious. Then there are the precious moments of joy, of connection and Christís peace that come and go too soon and leave us yearning for more.†

Just yesterday, three friends and I tried to meet for a cup of coffee before Christmas. We all love each other dearly and draw strength and encouragement from one another. But one had to meet her mom to go shopping for her kids, one had to meet with a contractor who is remodeling her home, one rushed off to work, and I had my own errands. Nothing is more important than our relationships, yet the tyranny of the urgent always supersedes that which is important.

Imagine instead, Christmas where many families come together to cook and eat and sing and play and celebrate. There is no pressure or expectation to buy gifts. There is nothing more urgent in the world than to sit down with your elders and listen to stories. There is no errand that is more important than visiting a friend you have not seen in a long time. And yes, Virginia, a place where there is no Santa Claus. That is the kind of Christmas that my little friend John would have along with billions of others around the world.

That is one of the many gifts the poor have to offer us. They stand as a witness to our Christmases past, the past that we look to with nostalgia. A Christmas when Jesus is truly at the center of the celebration as we welcome him, a homeless child, into our hearts and into our world.

We here at CFCA wish you a peace-filled Christmas. Please keep the children, elderly and their families whom we serve in your prayers, just as you remain in ours.

Oct 28 2008

Tell everyone that Kenya is a very safe placeÖ

Ann Clemens works at the CFCA-Kansas office in Child Services. Last month, she participated in the mission awareness trip to Kenya and met her sponsored child, Ezekiel. Here are a few of her reflections from the trip.

Naftaly (older brother), Ezekiel (sponsored child), Ann and Mary (mother) meet in Kenya.

Naftaly (older brother), Ezekiel (sponsored child), Ann and Mary (mother) meet in Kenya.

Going to Kenya was a great opportunity and a wonderful experience. Days were filled with beautiful faces, big smiles, lots of giggles, exotic landscapes, great food and huge celebrations! Getting accustomed to the time difference was a challenge, made greater when I would wake up in the middle of the night and my mind would become deluged with flashes of images and sounds Iíd witnessed that day.

Every project we visited had stories about ìthe crisisî (referring to last December 2007 through February 2008, after the presidential election there and the chaos and destruction that followed). One project referenced the panic and grief which involved hiding family members of one tribe from another tribe, and where neighbors and friends were pitted against each other. Some spoke about how they had coped, the great generosities of helping one another, and the tribes working together to move the healing process forward. The people have much pride in their individual cultural tribes, but noted that they are Kenyans first.

There is no greater example of this ongoing healing process than with the huge celebration of the Nairobi project and its subprojects. Although there were many groups of all ages represented, the newly formed mothers groups exemplified how theyíre all working together. The various tribes from the area wore traditional dress as they performed for everyone with singing and dancing.

They also cooked and served the food together for our lunch, which was a huge feast, serving around 1,500 children and adults. Peter Ndungo, Nairobi Project Director, said it was all to instill and represent the healing process. It was very symbolic because feeding and serving others is an expression of love with the nourishment we need to sustain us, to help our minds and bodies grow and heal.

They are committed to helping each other and to continue on their path toward healing as their intentions are to create even stronger communities. The message from them is to ìtell everyone that Kenya is a very safe place,î to not only visit but to live as well.

Oct 14 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to Kenya

Mission Awareness Trip
Sept. 13 ñ 23, 2008
†ìTo be a peacemaker, one must possess peace interiorly. Peace in the world passes through personal conversion.î
ó Poster at Emmaus Centre, Nairobi.

Nairobi, Nanyuki, Juja, Matiri and Timau are currently the principal project sites in Kenya. The expressed felt needs of families in the Nairobi project are known through home visits. Education and health care are key benefits, but there are others such as food provisions, hot lunches, clothes, school uniforms, recreation, values formation, workshops and training, parent groups and family assistance. Parents are allowed to send their children to the school of their choice.

Nairobi mothers groups

Nairobi mothers group coordinator Milka shared her experience with the formation of mothers groups in Kenya. The violence of early 2008, with 42 tribes fighting each other, challenged the groups. ìWe were close to becoming another Rwanda,î she said.

The groups provide HIV training and counseling, promote peaceful co-existence among communities, develop environmental programs, counsel members in avoiding drug abuse, promote equal education for girls and boys and invite dads to participateówhen there is a dad.

A loving umbrella

Alex Musendi, one of 77 Nairobi scholarship students, spoke. ìI thank God for the loving umbrella of CFCA. Ö Both my parents died when I was very small. I was a poor village boy who came to Nairobi alone. I thought it was the end of my life when my sponsor lost her job Ö but this beautiful organization became a father and a mother to me. I say to everyone, stand tall and preach the good news. One day, life will be brighter. Somebody, somewhere needs help just like me.î

We enjoyed informative sessions about each aspect of the Nairobi project. The staff membersí reports reflected transparency and great professionalism. Peter Ndundo, Nairobi project coordinator, showed off the attractive and welcoming new headquarters for CFCA-Nairobi.

On CFCA African Heritage Day at the Stima Club in Nairobi, we participated and observed many wonderful dances, joined by moms, staff, scholarship students, children and aging. A hot lunch followed for the estimated 1,500 in attendance.††
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Sep 30 2008

Budding journalists record benefits distribution in Tanzania

With no prior video experience, two office assistants at CFCAís project in Tanzania have captured a recent benefits distribution day at the project office in Tegeta.

Emma, 19 and formerly sponsored, operated the video camera, while 21-year-old Freddie played host. Minor edits and subtitles have been added to the short clip.

[vimeo w=500&h=350]

Itís hard to tell from his confident presentation that a few years ago, Freddie was ìpathologically shy,î Project Coordinator Mary Dawn Reavey said. His confidence gradually improved after becoming sponsored several years ago. Besides attending high school, Freddie helps translate letters for the project.

Emma helps with project photos and discovered the cameraís video button by accident. Reavey said he has a gift for training and teaching.

Sponsored members visit the project office monthly to collect nutritional benefits, including maize flour, rice, sugar and supermix ujióa high-protein porridge. Once every quarter, sponsored members receive hygiene benefitsósuch as toothbrushes, toothpaste and bar soapóin addition to the nutritional items. Members also receive help with education, health care and home repairs.

The young men promised to send more video clips of day-to-day life in Tanzania.

Sep 26 2008

How you experience the food crisis depends on where you live

People with the means to cope with rising prices experience the food crisis through the news.

But people living in poverty experience the food crisis directlyóthrough their stomachs.

Take the story of Sandra, a 38-year-old mother of four who lives in El Salvador. She no longer can afford to buy certain food items. If it wasnít for CFCA benefits, her children wouldnít have milk to drink. Sandra makes about $6 a day selling lemons in the public market. When things get bad, the family eats tortillas and margarine for dinner.

In Kenya, 20-year-old Peter said his family canít afford to buy bread. Meat? Only for Christmas, Kenyan Independence Day and weddings. Breakfast? Tea with milk and sugar.

In Antipolo, Philippines, 45-year-old Myrna is a mother of seven. She does laundry for $5 a day when her carpenter husband doesnít have work. On days with lower income, the family eats porridge or skips meals. On paydays, they are able to enjoy rice with fish and vegetables. One of Myrnaís children is sponsored through CFCA.

Two mothers in Hyderabad, IndiaóBhulakshmi and Maniósaid their cost of food has doubled in a year. They must be satisfied with rice and pickles because they no longer can afford fruits and vegetables.

These are the hidden faces behind statistics reported by the U.S. Department of Agricultureís Economic Research Service. The ERS compared expenditures on food in countries around the world (as a percentage of total expenditures using 2006 dataónot including restaurant purchases):

United States††††† †† 5.7%
United Kingdom††††8.8%
Germany††††††††††††† †11.5%
Chile†††††††††††††††††††† 23.5%
Philippines††††††††††† 37.6%
Ecuador†††††††††††††††† 21.8%
Bolivia†††††††††††††††††† 29.0%
Peru†††††††††††††††††††††† 29.3%
India††††††††††††††††† ††† 33.4%††

Wondering if there’s more you can do to help? Read about CFCA’s Food Crisis Assistance Fund.

To view the full U.S. Department of Agriculture report, click here. published a photographic comparison of what families in different nations eat in a weekís time. Click here to see this photo essay.

By Monte Mace, writer and editor in the CFCA-Kansas City office. With reporting and photography from Henry Flores, El Salvador; Sister Joanne Gangloff, Kenya; and Maria Lourdes Navio in the Philippines.

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Sep 24 2008

Notes from the Field #3 – Madagascar

Cephas Miningou, financial auditor for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging’s Africa region, talks about a family who lost their home in a fire and the meaning of the CFCA “Community of Compassion.”

[vimeo w=500&h=350]

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Sep 2 2008

“CFCA came in with HOPE…”

The following letter was written by a sponsored†youth in Liberia.†He writes about the challenges he has overcome after 14 years of civil unrest in his country and about how CFCA has been a constant†source of hope in his life. We hope you’ll read his letter to you.

My name is Nyankoi. I was born on Sept. 9, 1986. I am a Liberian. As most Liberians, I have had my share of trauma, challenges and difficulties in life.

After 14 years of civil unrest, I am happy to be among the living. During the years of civil war, my mother and I went to the hinterland along with my brothers. We went to our village from Monrovia where we lived prior to the war. We returned to Monrovia in 1991 and I started pre-school, which was at first free. I attended for a year and could not continue because of financial reasons. My late father was not working then and hence things were very difficult.

It was there and then that CFCA came in with HOPE. It is often said that a man can live without food for seven days, without water for three days, but no man can live without HOPE for a second. It is in this light that I can never forget the pit of sorrow CFCA took me from.

I became a part of the CFCA program in 1994 when I was 8 years old and in the second grade. I was accepted into the program when my father asked the priest at our parish for assistance in getting me to school. It was then that Father Jackson decided that I should get on the program because of my financial status. Since then there has never been a turning back because I took it as a challenge and never repeated a single class throughout my entire school year.

Today, I am proud to say that because of CFCA, I am who I am. My entire high school and even to some extent my college fees have been paid through the service-scholarship by CFCA. Throughout my high school years, I had many tough times but I believe that tough times donít last but tough people do. This has moved me to persevere in all I do. …
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Aug 25 2008

“CFCA brought a smile to me…”

The following letter was written by a sponsored child in CFCA’s Nairobi, Kenya project. She writes about her life experiences, and about how sponsorship allowed her to go to school and change the direction of her life. We hope you’ll take a minute to read her touching words.

My name is Sylvia. I was born on 8th December 1989 in a family of six, two brothers and two sisters. I am from the Maasai community, a pastoralist community in Kenya. Maasai tribe is a very unique community in Kenya. This tribe has preserved its culture and some of the things we do are outdated. There is high preference of early marriages, female genital mutilation, use of traditional dressing, lives in Manyatta (traditional houses), moranism (where young people are trained in the forest to be courageous), less value of education and traditional drinking of raw cowsí blood.

Despite being born in the Maasai community – a tribe which migrates due to its pastoral practices in search of pasture, my dad took me to school at a tender age of 5, which was very rare. At that time, girls of my age were being taught how to manage their own homes. My dad was not educated but he wanted all his children to be educated. He had a vision and he knew education would empower his children. Schooling was exciting but not all that fun because my school was a bit far from home and at times the weather was not conducive for schooling because our place is semi-arid.

One Saturday morning, my dad woke me up so as not to be late for school. Pupils in higher class level (6-8) were expected to go to school on Saturdays but only for six hours. After classes that day we started heading home. A big crowd had formed near our homestead. What is it? What is happening? Many questions lingered in my mind.
Read more

Jun 19 2008

India mothers groups inspire Kenyans

Janet Tinsley, CFCA International programs – Africa project director, reflects on the many ways the India mothers groups have inspired sponsored mothers in Kenya.

The culture of creativity and courage that Fr. Francis (the late Father Francis Thumma), the Hyderabad team and the sponsored mothers set into motion extends far beyond the borders of India.

A spirit of cooperation and ingenuity has always been present on the African continent, but recently the CFCA community in Nairobi, Kenya, became inspired by Hyderabad’s example of the culture of creativity and courage.

Janet and CFCA-Nairobi project coordinator, Peter, in India.

The CFCA-Nairobi project coordinator, Peter Ndungo, and I immersed ourselves in the Hyderabad spirit in an inspirational visit and exchange of ideas at the Hyderabad project last November. Immediately upon Peter’s return to Kenya, the Nairobi project team began taking steps to put the sponsorship resources into the hands of the Nairobi mothers through sponsored mothers groups.

The Nairobi mothers had some setbacks as a result of post-election violence that broke out in Kenya just after the first of this year. The mothers, who primarily live in Nairobi’s sprawling slums, come from a mixture of backgrounds, and when the politically motivated violence took on an ethnic tone, it threatened to tear apart the communities they had only recently begun forming. Tapping into their own limitless creativity, the Nairobi mothers are now courageously putting their political and ethnic differences aside and are examples of peace in their communities through the sponsored mothers groups they are now re-forming.

Because of the inspiration set in motion by Fr. Francis, the Hyderabad sponsored mothers and the project team, the sponsored mothers in Nairobi have started reclaiming their own creativity and courage.

May 21 2008

Visit to Tanzania – entry 3

This is the final entry in a series of three. In March, Rachel Scherzer, who works in Child Services at the CFCA Kansas City office, traveled to Tanzania to visit her sponsored child, Bariki. She spent more than a week living and volunteering at the CFCA Dar es Salaam project.

When I got off the plane in Tanzania, I had no idea what to expect. I had been traveling for more than 24 hours, I was exhausted and in serious need of a shower.

I knew my sponsored child, Bariki, would be beautiful. I had loved him since I got his first picture, a huge smile with several baby teeth missing. I didn’t know that this shy little boy would change the way I thought about things. I had prepared for an adventure and, in the week I spent with him, that’s definitely what I got.

Bariki lost both his parents and two siblings to AIDS, all within a few months. He was shipped from place to place, unwelcome because of the virus he carried or turned away because there was no room for him. He finally landed at the project in Tegeta with Mary Dawn, a stranger who took him in and is now a mother to him.

In sub-Saharan Africa, stories like Bariki’s are tragically common. But the difference is that this particular story belongs to someone that I love. Bariki has become a part of my life. His story is now part of my story.

For me, Bariki has put a face on “world problems” that often seem a comfortable distance from my life here at home. The AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, something I have been studying closely for years, was not real to me until I met Bariki and his friends in Intensive Day Therapy and saw for myself the staggering drug regime they have to follow. Poverty was not real to me until I saw people doing without basic necessities in Bariki’s neighborhood. I had not realized the general sense of security I felt—knowing that I was protected from such things by the random circumstances of my birth—until I felt its absence in the developing world.

When I don’t know what to pray for, I pray for Bariki. When I need to remember what is important, I think of him. I made the seemingly small decision to let Bariki into my life, and now my life is different.