Category: Central America

Dec 16 2008

Make your own Christmas tamales

In Latin America, the traditional Christmas fare is tamales. Tamales originated in Mexico but today, every Latin American culture has its own version. While tamales vary from country to country, all are made with a corn or rice dough steamed inside a leaf. Most tamales are filled with meat and sauce, but some are sweetened and filled with raisins. Making tamales is a labor-intensive process that can take several days. Watch how the residents of Santa Teresita make their tamales.

Mexican tamales

Allow two days for preparation.

4 lb. package of maseca for tamales (available at Hispanic grocery stores)
10 lb. chicken pieces
3 c. oil
4 T. salt
4 T. baking powder
1 package each of chiles anchos, chiles California and chiles de arbol
1 lb. corn husks

Prepare the chiles
1. Pour hot water over all the chiles and let soften for one hour.
2. Puree the mixture in a blender.
3. Strain through a colander to remove seeds and skin

You may want to wear vinyl gloves because the chile oil can burn your hands.

Prepare the chicken
1. Remove the skin and boil the chicken with salt until the meat is cooked.
2. Remove the bones and tear the chicken into small pieces.
3. Saute chicken pieces with the strained chiles in 2 T. oil and 1 tsp. salt. Set aside.

Prepare the masa (dough)
1. Mix maseca, baking power, salt and oil with enough lukewarm water to give it the texture of playdough.
2. Knead the dough for one hour.

Prepare the corn husks
1. Soak the husks in hot water overnight.
2. Remove from the water and rinse.

Prepare the tamales
1. Spread one husk out flat.
2. Spread with a thin layer of masa, about Ω inch thick.
3. Add 1-2 T. of the chile/chicken mixture in the middle of the dough.
4. Fold all sides to the center, adding a bit of dough inside the ends to keep the chicken mixture from oozing out.
5. Steam in 2î of water in a large pot or tamale cooker covered tightly with aluminum foil for several hours on medium high.
6. Let sit for 1 hour

Enjoy with sour cream and hot sauce. Eat them anytime, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tamales can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator or for 3 months in the freezer.

In Mexico, tamales are eaten traditionally during the Christmas season with champorrado, a hot, spicy drink made with maseca.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Cromer

Dec 11 2008

Bobís report: Visit to El Salvador and Honduras

Preachers mission awareness trip
Dec. 2-9, 2008

CFCA preachers make history with first preacher awareness trip

This is a very special group and a very special opportunity for all participants, for the projects, for our beloved sponsored and for CFCA.†Nine CFCA†preachers attended†our first preacher†awareness trip to gain a deeper sense of the CFCA world. The El Salvador hosts were the sponsored families, Henry Flores, Yessenia Alfaro and the entire CFCA team. In Honduras, the hosts were the sponsored families, CFCA staff leaders Miriam Cartagena, Luis Jaco and the entire CFCA Team.


On Dec. 3, CFCA scholar Martita spoke in our opening prayer. Abandoned by her father when she was just 2, her mother struggled to send her children to school. Martita will graduate in one year with a bachelorís in computer science and administration. After learning that Martitaís CFCA scholarship covered only half of her university expenses, Father Jim OíToole stepped forward and offered to become her sponsor.

Personal stories stand out

Tradition among the sponsored families in Tacuba is to silently hide in the church and surprise the mission awareness trip participants who arrive thinking that the town is still asleep. Father Bob Hasenkamp celebrated Holy Mass with Salvadoran Father Edwin Roberto Nunez.

When speaking of language limitations, Father Bob Hasenkamp mentioned that ìwe speak with our eyes and our hearts.î

Family visits along with natural and stimulating interchanges followed. The preachers commented that they were hearing really fine anecdotes for their personal edification and for their preaching.
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Dec 9 2008

Meeting Miriam

A sponsor realizes what sponsorship truly means after meeting her friend during a mission awareness trip†in El Salvador, October 2008. This video was created by Annie Winter, a CFCA volunteer in Latin America.

[vimeo w=500&h=350]

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 19 2008

“I’ve been waiting a very long time for you”

Sponsors Jack and Deanne Anderson visited their sponsored child, Jose, in Guatemala this year. Here Deanne describes the experience of meeting Jose.

When you listen to the words of Bob Hentzen’s song ìLove the Childrenî not much else needs to be said. Our trip to Guatemala proved to be one of the most beautiful and meaningful events we have experienced in a long time.

Jack and I have been blessed with three children and seven grandchildren. We are a close family and we have many dear friends. We have traveled all over the world, but nothing prepared us for what we experienced going to Guatemala to meet our sponsored child, Jose.

Immediately upon our arrival Bob and his staff made us feel like we were special. We had no idea what was in store for us. That night we met the people we would be spending the week with and got to know a little more about CFCA. Next morning we loaded into the vans and off we went on a three-hour journey to the CFCA project. The welcome we received was that of royalty or movie stars. The children were all cheering and their band was playing. It was unbelievable. That evening after dinner the sponsored children gave a performance. The first of a nightly event we all looked forward to.

Sponsor Deanne meets her sponsored child, Jose, in Guatemala.

Sponsor Deanne meets her sponsored child, Jose, in Guatemala.

Monday was the day Jack and I had been waiting for; we were going to meet Jose, our sponsored child. The emotions we felt the moment we saw him cannot be put into words, or if I did try it would take many pages of typing. His mom, dad, and little niece came with him so there was lots of hugging and tears. Then came the joy and excitement of getting to know each other through a great interpreter. Again, I wish I could share each moment of the time we spent together. All the sponsored children gave a little performance and Jose’s was a beautiful poem he wrote for Jack and me. Well more tears and hugs followed. We took lots and lots of pictures and loved each minute we had with him.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye. Again, more hugs and tears of joy when we knew we would be back again to visit this very special child the Lord brought into our lives. One thing I must share are the words of Jose when he looked at Jack and I with tears in his eyes and said, “I’ve been waiting a very long time for you.”
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Sep 17 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to Honduras

Mission Awareness Trip
Aug. 23 ñ 30, 2008

What kind of a country can we offer them?

Alongside a tremendous wealth gap, endemic corruption, organized crime and neighborhood gangs, you see the beauty of family relationships, the inspiring example of a struggling mother, the youthful spirit with close to half the population under age 19, a fertile land and a strong work ethic.

We can add a tremendous resilience after tragedies like Hurricane Mitch (1998) which killed some 5,000 and destroyed 70 percent of the crops. Unfortunately, thousands of promising Hondurans, most of them young, leave the country every year, most of them for the U.S. Basically, they are seduced by human traffickers who rake in $5,000-$6,000 per head per trip north. Farm families abandon their land and go into life-threatening debt for this one chance. When the sojourners are caught and deported, the families remain in debt for many years.†

Family testimony at morning prayer

Our group arrived for Sunday morning Mass at Las Mercedes Parish in El Progresso after the church was full, so we rounded out the doorway, greeting Father Raymond Pease, a veteran of 40 years in El Progreso.

Lourdes, her son, Cristian, 11, and daughter, Katia, 13, gave a beautiful testimony as part of our morning prayer on the second day of the trip. Lourdes and Wilfredo (working today) have seven children. They have hopes for better housing for their family, but for now, they are living in one room on property owned by Lourdesí mother. Lourdes is very grateful for the sponsorship of Cristian and Katia, so grateful that she serves as a liaison with the 169 sponsored families in Barrio Sandoval in San Pedro Sula.

We had a pleasant drive from San Pedro Sula, and then enjoyed several nice receptions by children and families, complete with hand-made banners and lots of hymns. One of the dads, Don Lorenzo, shared a song which he had composed about CFCA. Moms and dads talked of their participation (by the hundreds) in the various aspects of the project.†
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Sep 17 2008

Bob’s report: August visit to Guatemala

Mission Awareness Trip
Aug. 9-16, 2008

Since the early days of CFCA, the children, elderly and families of Guatemala have been close to our hearts. Currently we are blessed to have over 90,000 sponsored, including children, aging, scholars and vocations. In turn, these families have been blessed with a loving and devoted CFCA staff. Cristina and I are most grateful to call this CFCA community home.

Featuring Manuel Santizo

Manuel (Meme) Santizo is one of those strong and faithful servants who seem to enjoy working hard, but usually very much in the background. Meme is our site manager and handles everything related to maintenance and improvement of the CFCA facilities. Our place in San Lucas Toliman hums with activity, either staff workshops or mission awareness trips or welcoming our neighborhood children in their Ecological Club. In every instance, youíll find Meme quietly getting things done, and always with a smile. Meme is married to Claudia, a Mayan woman of the Kakchiquel ethnic group and a career elementary teacher in the nearby village of El Naranjo.

Welcome to my worldÖpotential

All over the CFCA world, we endeavor to present the most positive side of Godís humble people. CFCA Presenter Fr. Jim OíToole radiates excitement when he says, ìWe see potential.î Focusing on dignity and potential, we try to avoid shock treatment on our sponsors. The daily reality of our sponsored families is shocking enough.†
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Aug 8 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to El Salvador

Mission awareness trip
July 12 ñ 19, 2008

From Guatemala to El Salvador

A team of four of us from Guatemala (Jorge Armas, Israel Itzol, Cristina and myself) had the privilege of spending a couple of days with the mission awareness trip group and the staff in El Salvador. We arrived precisely when all the sponsored children were gathered with the sponsors at Cerro Verde, high above Lake Coatepeque.

On Thursday, we were divided into four groups to visit communities, interact with the sponsored families, organize and document the distribution of benefits. This experience offered the sponsors a close-up view of the personal outreach which characterizes CFCA. I enjoyed being with the mothers and children in the subproject of Bolanos.

CFCA mothers of the Bolanos subproject

CFCA mothers of the Bolanos subproject

In the course of the morning, we took a quick survey. Around 70 percent of these mothers in Bolanos are heads of households, raising their beautiful children on their own. They need and deeply appreciate the CFCA program.

Contagious Enthusiasm

The enthusiasm of this El Salvador trip group is expansive. So far on this mission awareness trip, they have sponsored 20 new children. They have been able to meet each one.

On to Colombia

My wife, Cristina, and I are on our way now to begin the mission awareness trip in Bogot·, Colombia. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to spend this time with the sponsors, together walking with the sponsored families.

Godís blessings.

Bob Hentzen
From El Salvador

Aug 8 2008

Bob’s report: July visit to Guatemala


p style=”text-align:left;”>Mission awareness trip
July 12 – 19, 2008

Alcida and Kevin

Sunday morning in Guatemala City finds us hosting not only the arriving sponsors but a special sponsored family as well. Alcida came to thank the sponsors and especially sponsor Sylvia for all they are doing for her youngest son, Kevin. Alcida has a good husband who works as a stockman in a warehouse.

Alcida and Kevin

Alcida and Kevin

This loving family has also been confronted with challenges. Kevin, enthusiastic and likable at 14, was diagnosed at age 10 with a serious kidney problemóserious enough that the doctors are currently considering a transplant, with the mother as donor. During his nine years of sponsorship, Kevin has continued to excel in his studies. His hope and dream is to go on to higher studies. Kevinís mother expresses that he is an inspiration to her and to the family.††

At home in Iximche

At the Mayan Ruins of Iximche, we were blessed with a cool and breezy morning. The children, mothers and staff from the CFCA project in Patzun had prepared folkloric numbers. They seemed to fit naturally in our open-air theater. The outfits, dance numbers and songs demonstrate great love and creativity.

Sponsors were able to visit the ruins and then enjoyed a hot lunch under the high pine trees. We take our leave and make our way through the highlands and on to San Lucas Toliman in time for the 5:00 p.m. Mass. We are fortunate to have Father Greg Shaffer here in San Lucas.

Sponsor Andrea with Martha (far right) and family. Martha sang for us in her native Tzutuhil language.

Sponsor Andrea with Martha (far right) and family. Martha sang for us in her native Tzutuhil language.

My estimate is that over 400 sponsored children, youth, aging, staff and sponsors spent this July day with us. The day was as they sayÖìAlegreî (happy). Every sponsored person was present and accounted for, traveling from many corners of this country. The sponsored shared about their home areas, their families, their hobbies and their studies. Several sponsored children stood before this audience and recited poems they had composed for their sponsors.†
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