Category: Africa

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 This tribe has preserved its culture and some of the things we do are outdated.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.
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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.

May 20 2008

Visit to Tanzania – entry 2

This is the second 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.

I did home visits yesterday, visiting two families who are new to the sponsorship program. These kids live really, really far out. I’m a bad judge of distance, but I know it took us at least 45 minutes to get to the first kid’s house, most of it walking under the scorching African sun. I have some pretty wicked burn/tan lines. It got to the point that I was thanking God for every breeze and patch of shade.

The second girl’s house wasn’t as far but it was all downhill getting there, which means it was all uphill getting back. And, of course, during all of this I’m wearing flip-flops, which was a disaster! My feet were so filthy by the time we got to the first house that the mama insisted I wash my feet. Not only did she insist, she “helped” me, using water that I know she probably couldn’t spare. And then she thanked me profusely for visiting her home!

The kid’s house was so remote that I was probably the only white person the villagers had seen. All the kids rushed out of their houses to stare at the “mzungu” (white person). We also rode the daladala, which is basically their bus, but really it’s just a big van. It was like a clown car in there. Every cubic inch was filled with bodies. I had some woman practically sitting on me at one point. But after all that walking I was grateful to be in a car.

Today I went into town with one of the seminarians. I basically followed him around while he did errands, so I got to see a lot of the city. And we went to the national museum, which shows all the traditional homes that people still live in. They were literally mud huts. The coast is pretty westernized but the further inland you get, the more primitive the conditions. I bought some beautiful postcards and paintings, too, but you may never see them because I will have trouble parting with them.

More to come tomorrow…

May 19 2008

A visit to Tanzania – Entry 1

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. This week we will post a series of reflections from her trip that she e-mailed home. Rachel hopes to return to Tanzania soon!

Today was my first day at the project and I got to see it in full force. I don’t know if I will ever really be able to describe it but it was incredible. They have an intensive day program for about 12 kids who are HIV positive (including my sponsored child, Bariki). They spend the whole day at the project and get all their medicine and meals here. I watched the staff put out all their medications for them, and it was staggering what these kids have to take every single day, twice a day.

A new little girl was admitted to Intensive Day Therapy today, so we had our first day together. Her name is Neema. Her AIDS is full blown, which basically means she has no immune system. She had sores from shingles all down her right arm. But the odd (and very cool) thing is that all the kids are really energetic and happy.

I am also getting stared at like you would not believe. I am one of two white people in the entire city. There are about 2,000 kids at the school here, and I think I was gawked at by every single one. In the nursery school the kids followed me around. Just stopped what they were doing to come over and look at/touch/hug the white girl.

More to come tomorrow…

Apr 25 2008

World Malaria Day

Today is World Malaria Day. Malaria isn’t something we think about much in the U.S., but its devastating effects are still felt around the world.

Malaria afflicts 350 to 500 million people a year; 40 percent of the world’s population.

Malaria is preventable and curable. If not treated, though, it can be deadly. It kills more than a million people a year; mostly young children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit area, but malaria also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe.

CFCA projects in malaria-affected areas are working to help families deal with this threat. The easiest way to prevent malaria is by sleeping under treated bed nets, because the mosquitoes that carry malaria most often bite at night. Unfortunately, although bed nets are not expensive by U.S. standards, most families in malaria-affected areas can’t afford them.

Project Coordinator Mary Dawn Reavey, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, wrote to us this week about malaria prevention in her community:

Medicated bed nets have been a sponsorship benefit at the CFCA Dar es Salaam project that families can choose from the personalized portion of their sponsorship plan since January 2005. Starting in 2008, every sponsored child receives a medicated bed net as part of his/her health benefit. Also part of the health benefit is malaria testing and treatment. Beginning in February of this year (which is the start of the long rainy season in Dar es Salaam), the project began providing education to sponsored families on the treatment of malaria to coincide with the distribution of mosquito nets to all currently sponsored children. We also have some children with chronic illnesses (e.g. sickle cell anemia, AIDS and severe cerebral palsy) on antimalarial prophylaxis.

Drug-resistant malaria is a huge problem because to most Tanzanian families every illness is “malaria” (any cold, flu, virus, ear infection, abdominal pain, headache, etc. is thought to be “malaria”). The cost of testing is much higher than the medication (40 to 80 cents to test versus 4 cents per tablet—dosage is based on weight so most kids only need 9 to 10 tablets). Family members are able to go into any pharmacy and buy malaria treatment medication without a prescription, so they typically don’t test and instead treat for malaria with any symptom.

CFCA’s BON subproject is located in western Kenya, near Lake Victoria, one of Kenya’s malaria corridors. They wrote to tell us about how they’re fighting this threat, too:

Malaria is prevalent during the rainy season because the mosquitoes tend to multiply during these cold periods. It is transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito, and can be prevented by spraying insecticides, sleeping under treated mosquito nets and draining away stagnant water. It can also be prevented by keeping our home environments clean by clearing all the bushes around our houses and destroying or burning waste containers around our homes since these are breeding places for mosquitoes.

In the fight against malaria, Nairobi-BON subproject always does the following for our beneficiaries:
1. Provide treated mosquito nets at least once a year and ensure that sponsored children and aging sleep under their nets.
2. Create awareness of the dangers of malaria and employ preventive measures like the ones mentioned above.
3. Emphasize the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation.

It is good that these efforts have helped prevent malaria in our beneficiaries since we do not experience many cases of malaria.

On behalf of the CFCA beneficiaries, BON subproject is grateful to CFCA for joining in the fight against this killer disease.

Sponsorship in malaria-affected areas not only allows children to receive bed nets for prevention and quality medical care for treatment if they contract malaria, it also allows families to eat a more nutritious diet. This strengthens their immune system and improves their reaction to medicines. Sponsored children are also able to go to school and learn about the causes and effects of malaria.

This is a great example of how holistic child development, through sponsorship, improves a child’s life in so many ways. Every aspect of their life and sponsorship—food, shelter, education, medical treatment—works together to give them hope and an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

Apr 16 2008

Letter from Kenya

We received this letter recently written by a sponsored child who lives near Nairobi, Kenya, to her sponsor in the U.S. We were touched by her first-hand descriptions of how the recent violence in Kenya has affected her. We’re withholding her name to protect her security in the still-volatile nation. If you’d like to read more about the unrest in Kenya and how it affected sponsored members, we’ve written several news stories here.

17 March, 2008

Dear Joe,

How have you been? Well, I hope it has been well with you. How was your Christmas and more how is your new year going? For me I am happy now that the violence has ceased and that am in my last year in high school.

I spent my Christmas very well since the election hadn’t taken place but ever since 28th (of December) it was very bad. You know we live in a place like 80 kilometers from the capital city Nairobi … where when people learned that President Kibaki had won they celebrated because the majority are the tribe of Kikuyus, so all my Luo friends were evacuated back to their ancestral home.

We had lived with them all my life only to be separated like long-time enemies. As the violence continued we were even told not to wear specific clothes like trousers. Although I am Kikuyu, I used to go to the police station where almost like 5,000 people had camped since they neither had a home nor money to take them back to their rural homes.

I remember I didn’t celebrate the new year as I am used to but I had to stay indoors. If you were to be seen straying after 7 p.m. (that was the curfew time), you could have been killed by either the police or a vigilante group called Mungikis.

Properties were looted and burned in various places and at night a person could hear gunshots next to your house. Things got out of hand and the Mungikis claimed that my mother was a supporter of the opposition that is the party of Raila Odinga so she was brought home by policemen.

Thank you very much for the lunch you sponsored for us last year. It was very nice. Our photos were taken and we were given clothes. It was really thrilling because we didn’t expect it.

All in all, even after the post-election violence, we came back to school, though a little bit late, but it doesn’t matter so long as we finish school. I really am in a dilemma between doing telecommunications engineering and doing designing (graphic or Web).

I hope your daughter is progressing on well. I really wish that the people of U.S.A. will choose a president fairly and hence no violence will take place.

Since I am one of the biggest supporters of Manchester United, I really felt bad when they were defeated by Arsenal in the FA cup. (It’s rather odd for a girl to like football in Kenya but nothing is ever odd to me).

I pray and hope that your job is progressing well.

In school this year there was a celebration due to the good performance of last year’s candidates, and so our hopes are hoisted high that we as the current candidates will pass come the examinations.

Right now Kenya is going back to her usual doings but for me life will never be the same. The wound will take long to heal. Thank you for your support and everything you have done for me. I wish you a happy Easter holiday.

Your sponsored child,

(Name withheld)