Category: Central America

Jul 28 2008

Her parents bought her shoes…

Bart and Annie Winter are volunteering with CFCA for a year†in Ocotepeque, Honduras. They arrived in Honduras just a few weeks ago, and will be sharing their experiences with us throughout the year.

There are many significant moments in every life. In the life of a sponsored elderly woman named DoÒa Delia, those moments include her marriage, the births and deaths of her children, and, also of importance, the fact that as a child, her parents bought her shoes.

The following is a glimpse into the life of one member of the CFCA family here in Ocotepeque.

DoÒa Delia poses for a picture near the project offices.

DoÒa Delia poses for a picture near the project offices.

On Monday, Miriam (the project coordinator) invited us to visit one of the sponsored elderly who has been ill. Her name is MarÌa Delia, but she goes by DoÒa Delia. She is 74 years old and lives in a tiny (6◊6 ft) house, which consists of a dirt floor, four mud walls and a patchwork tin roof. She has no electricity, running water or latrine.

On the way to her house, Miriam tells us that DoÒa Delia has quite a personality. Sheís known for wearing pants under her dresses and her favorite hat is similar to one that a drum major might wear to lead a parade. Later, upon reviewing DoÒa Deliaís file, we also learn that she likes to wear makeup so that she looks nice for the people she meets. It is clear that she is a strong, spunky individual despite her age and the circumstances of her life.

DoÒa Delia was born†in 1934, to her parents, Francisca and Arturo. As a little girl, she helped provide for her family by making cigars and quesadillas to sell on the streets. She was never able to attend school, so she never learned to read or write. She remembers that her parents bought her a pair of shoes – a significant point of pride because, at that time, most children went barefoot. At the age of 14, DoÒa Delia married her boyfriend, Merejildo. She went on to give birth to 14 children, 8 of whom died either at birth or as babies. When she was 40, her husband died, and after a time, she began to go with Rafael Antonio. Since then, they have lived in a poor neighborhood within the city limits of Ocotepeque.

Tucked into the corner of an overgrown lot in this forgotten neighborhood sits DoÒa Deliaís house. Smoke from her small adobe oven pours out from the 6 inch gap between her walls and her roof. Upon entering her humble home, the first thing that strikes you is the heat. The second thing that strikes you is DoÒa Delia, lying upon her bed in a red sweatshirt and sweatpants, with a matching handkerchief tied around her hair. Despite the heat, she is covered in a wool blanket. Her face is soft, like worn leather, but her eyes are alert and she is quick to smile at the sight of Miriam, or la profesora, as everyone here calls her.
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Jul 16 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to Honduras

Mission Awareness Trip
June 21-28, 2008

On the first day of the trip, a huge number of families waited for us with fireworks, flags and live mariachi music. Max participation of children, scholars, staff, parents, sponsorsóamong them talented singers, dancers and poets.†

CFCA scholars in Ocotepeque, under the direction of staff member Juan Ramon Santos, have formed a very talented dance troupe.

Sewing business thrives
An inspiring testimony was offered on the Monday morning of the mission awareness trip. Dona Albertina and her three children, Lester, Manuel and Tanya, spoke of the challenges of living with a husband and father afflicted with a drinking problem. Albertina learned to be a seamstress through courses offered at CFCA. She now has a growing sewing business operating out of their home. She and the children attribute their more dignified living to the encouragement and help they receive from their sponsors and the CFCA community. Lester graduates this year with a degree in business. Tanya and Manuel are doing very well in 7th and 9th grade.

Sponsors had meaningful experiences with the families they visited, and they listened to powerful personal testimonies. Just in Ocotepeque, 12 new children and one aging person were sponsored on this trip. In addition, this enthusiastic group has requested 74 folders of children and aging people who are waiting to be sponsored. May God bless their efforts.

We were privileged to hear the testimony of the Osorio family. Both mom and dad work hard and produce a modest income for the family of seven. After thethe birth of their first girl, Gabriela, now 16, they were blessed with four more children, Jose, Cristian, Oscar and Eduardo. Luis, the father, is a gentle man made of iron. He makes a modest income hauling firewood from the forest using only a leather forehead strap (mecapal) and ropes. Martha markets door-to-door the fine aluminum bread pans she makes at home.

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Jun 11 2008

Latin American coordinators reflect on the future of the poor

CFCA has always been guided by its humble spirituality and vision. We have always said, “Lord, give us a spirit of always beginning.” Always thinking, always creating, and always finding ways to reach out to those in need of help and to those who need to help.

I was blessed to recently participate in a CFCA Latin American Encuentro (gathering) in Guatemala, with the Coordinators of CFCA projects in Latin America: Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Brazil and Chile.

Our hope was to unite creativity, spirit, faith and hard work, to look towards the future of our sponsored families and to offer our sponsors a transparent opportunity to help one child not to have more, but to be more. During three days, we learned about many different programs functioning in CFCA Projects all across Latin America. What an amazing experience to see the extraordinary amount of talent in our CFCA staffers, offering real options of hope for the sponsored and their families.

The current economic situation of the world is making life harder—further limiting the poor as they try to reach a better future. Many of our families are suffering deep and brutal situations due to the lack of jobs, health and opportunities; they find it more difficult to survive every day. The reality is so difficult that many poor people are trying to find ways for their children to work to contribute to the family income.

The grassroots movement of CFCA is based on offering our sponsored families options for them to reach their very own dreams, starting from what they know and building from there.

CFCA creates livelihood programs… Projects in Honduras have sponsored families growing pigs, selling them and making extra income from it. Our Guatemalan families are being blessed by producing and selling products such as pants, backpacks, nutri-cereals, etc. Many others are growing chickens, goats and planting corn. In Costa Rica, families are producing cloth dolls, some mothers have beauty shops and others are marketing local homemade jelly.

These families are not only growing economically, as they market their products, but they are also becoming experts in these fields, acquiring a higher self-confidence as they are capable to provide for their families.

Just as Jesus sent the disciples to spread the good news of His kingdom, all of us, CFCA servers, were sent to promote the dignity of the poor and to offer hope by building, with the support of our sponsors and our sponsored families, options for needy people. To create an environment where they can be builders of their own future, asking them what they want to accomplish, learning from their human potential and developing programs from there.

In the hurting world we live in, we are called to open our hearts and vision and tell all those who are suffering that it is worth it to continue, it is worth it to keep fighting, it is worth it to keep on believing — just like a song in Spanish says, “I have faith that everything will change, that the love will always triumph, I have faith that the light of hope will never die.”

May 28 2008

Bob’s report: May visit to Guatemala

Mission Awareness Trip
May 10-17, 2008

Just within the last month, we celebrated the April 2008 Mission Awareness Trip to Guatemala, the Latin American Staff Encounter, the Organizational Audit of Project Hermano Pedro and a week’s trip to Chile. I am filled with gratitude and pleased to bring you this news of our May 2008 MAT trip to Guatemala. In spite of the recent loss of his daughter, Renee, sponsor Jerry Menard is here with us. We are inspired by his spirit. On May 15, the Feast of San Isidro Labrador, Father Greg Schaffer offered Holy Mass for Renee, Jerry and their family, with all the sponsors and the elementary school children in attendance.

Search and rescueóCFCA style
When sponsor Laina visited Guatemala in May 2005, her sponsored boy Cesar had dropped out of school—this in spite of a good academic record. As the oldest boy, he had gone off to the capital city in search of work in order to help his family. We struggled to locate Cesar during the MAT and the effort really paid off. Laina and I talked with Cesar and his mother. Laina offered to help his family during these years of schooling. Happily Cesar returned home and went back to school. Cesar will graduate as a young professional accountant later this year. Laina wants to make an Individual Sponsor Visit to attend his graduation.

Touching Mother’s Day story
During our first Sunday morning in Guatemala City, we were deeply touched by the testimonies of a single mother, Mari, her sponsored son Kevin, 11, and little daughter Kimberly, 6.

A few years ago, the family moved to Guatemala City from the countryside. In her poverty, she was able to attend only two grades of elementary school. Mari married young. She found herself facing life alone when the father of the children left and remarried. In the last six months, Kevin had two surgeries to correct herniasóthis with the loving help of his sponsor. He is a confident boy. He offered an emotional dramatization of a poem about his grandmother. Lively Kimberly spoke, too, thanking the sponsors for helping her brother and sadly lamenting the split up of her parents.

When I mentioned to the sponsors that Kimberly was not yet sponsored, it took Jerry Menard about three seconds to step forward and sponsor her. Tomorrow, we will bring Kimberly out to San Lucas to spend the day with Jerry.

Thanks for your solidarity and prayers. Cristina and I now head to Venezuela for another mission awareness trip, then to the Nicaragua Staff Encuentro meeting, followed by a Colombia MAT and then up to Kansas City for our exciting annual gathering. We look forward to seeing each of you. God’s blessings.

Bob Hentzen

May 6 2008

Building relationships through CFCA and Fair Trade

By Charlotte Willenborg, CFCA sponsor

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail about the World’s Largest Coffee Break to be held May 10 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Hoping to break the record of 3,000 people taking a break at the same time, the Fair Trade Organization wants to educate people about fair prices, fair labor conditions and direct trade agreements. This brought back memories of a CFCA Mission Awareness Trip to Guatemala that I took this past December with my daughter, Dawn, who works for CFCA in the Kansas City office.

During the trip, we met our sponsored children and their families. It was a wonderful experience and it truly gave me an appreciation of the simple beauty and the richness of the Guatemalan culture.

In Guatemala: Charlotte, CFCA-Guatemala staff member Claudia, and Charlotte’s daughter Dawn

While visiting the San Lucas Mission on the third day of our trip, we listened to Father Greg Schaffer talk about the Juan Ana Coffee Project. He told us how Juan Ana coffee, though not part of the famed “Fair Trade” program, is very similar in the respect that it provides a fair price for the farmers of San Lucas Toliman area. The producers in San Lucas actually determine the price they will need for producing and selling the very best coffee they produce. He explained that every aspect of their coffee production: from picking the coffee fruit, drying, sorting, roasting and finally packaging the coffee is done by small independent farmers. These families take great pride in what they produce and are directly involved in deciding how the extra funds they receive will be used to benefit their community.

That day we saw how CFCA partners with the San Lucas Mission to empower people to use their God-given talents to provide a decent standard of living for their families. We left the mission that day with 10 bags of coffee, envisioning how we would invite our parish back home to build a real and lasting relationship with these coffee producers of Guatemala.

Now, on the second Sunday of each month, we sell Juan Ana coffee and “Fair Trade” decaffeinated coffee, tea and chocolate to our parishioners. Our parish takes pride in the fact that we are making choices that respect human dignity and promote economic justice while building a true sense of global solidarity.

I see a great connection between CFCA and Fair Trade. Both organizations are about living out the Gospel call to serve the poor. Both focus on building relationships and recognizing the God-given dignity of each person and their gifts. Both CFCA and Fair Trade provide hope for those who are trapped in poverty.

So on the weekend of May 10, you may want to consider being a part of the World’s Largest Coffee Break by drinking Fair Trade coffee. You can purchase Juan Ana coffee, the best coffee available from Guatemala, through the San Lucas Mission office in New Ulm, Minn. Or you may want to celebrate Mother’s Day by giving a gift of tea, chocolate or flowers (available through “A Greater Gift” Fair Trade).

Thank you, CFCA and Fair Trade, for helping me learn to build relationships.

May 1 2008

Bobís Report: Visit to Guatemala

Mission Awareness Trip
April 12-19, 2008

The children, mothers and chompipe (turkey) say, ‘Welcome to Guatemala.”

It’s a real joy to share this mission awareness trip with you. We are a nice big group, with many children, youth and aging to be visited and plenty to learn. This is the season of Pascua (Easter); of life-giving rains; of planting and gratitude and hope.

Mothers and children join walk
More than 400 mothers and children met us up on the Panamerican Highway and walked with us to Zaragoza with an abundance of hymns and firecrackers. Great memories. A good number of these folks walked with us in 1996 and they remember it. Today these campesino (farm worker) families shared the fruits of their labor in the fields. Our pickup is now heavily laden with fresh tomatoes, peaches, apples and beautiful flowers.

On our way to Guatemala City to meet the sponsors, we spent an entire day visiting sponsored families in the area of Zaragoza. We have 1,687 sponsored children in Zaragoza and 60 CFCA scholars. Today we were able to turn over the ownership and keys to five new homes. The team here did a good job in selecting these families; healthy attitudes; real need; a view to the future; a commitment to keep their children in school. Myra is only 29, but she has seen a lot of life: education to the 4th grade, an abusive relationship, abandonment, two daughters ages 10 and 8.

“This nice home of our own will help us to focus on the future,” she said. “I thank God, and the sponsors of my daughter and CFCA.”

In the last two years, just in Project Hermano Pedro we have been able to turn over new homes to more than 480 sponsored families. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for a mission awareness trip than visiting these families.

Facing west during the Mayan prayer service, sponsors and staff reflect on the sunset as a symbol of life after death.

A liver transplant
With two children of her own, Luisa Morales, community worker in Guatemala City, is in her sixth year with CFCA. To share this morning with the sponsors, Luisa brought Ana Beatriz, 14.
Ana Beatriz has been sponsored by Janet for the past nine years.

When she turned 10, Ana Beatriz was diagnosed with severe liver failure. She needed a transplant. Her older sibling, Roland, came forward and offered to become a donor. A foundation in Spain invited them to Madrid for the surgery.

Ana’s mother, Imelda, with a total of seven children, finds herself as the sole support after their father took off. One of her daughters is married. Imelda informed us that both Ana Beatriz and Roland are doing very well now.

Steep paths to families
On our visit to Aldea Pujujil, where 218 children are sponsored, our sponsors braved some steep paths on foot to visit a humble widow and two sponsored children who wanted to express their gratitude for sponsorship and for their new CFCA home. This family visit was followed by a gathering in the lean-to shelter for this CFCA community. I find them beautifully shy, but admirable in their hope. I calculate about 300 children and parents.

Nine new children sponsored
En route to Antigua through the highlands, we visit Chimaltenango with 8,721 sponsored children and teens in this region along with 461 aging and 287 scholars. Nine new children were sponsored during this trip, and the sponsors got to meet their new children and parents.

Thank you for being with us during this mission awareness trip, so rich in experiences and blessings. Godís blessings.

Bob Hentzen

Apr 29 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to Costa Rica

Mission Awareness Trip
March 29-April 5, 2008

Words of welcome by Coordinator Minor Esquivel
“We have been looking forward to this moment. The children, the aging and the CFCA staff have been praying for you. We thank God for bringing you safely to our country to visit your CFCA family.”

The Risen Christ
First on the agenda was Holy Mass at El Poro section of San Ramon in the Chapel of San Antonio de Padua. Father Chepe, a native of Panama, has shoulder-length hair and could easily pass as a San Blas or Guatuso Indian. He took the readings from the Acts and St. Peter and handily brought us all into the Costa Rican reality of March 30, 2008. CFCA community promoters in the San Ramon subproject report that 350-400 children, youth and aging, and expectant mothers are able to have a good lunch each school day.

Sacred encounter
For me, a very sacred encounter took place between sponsor Julie Pringle, one of her seven children, Quincy, their sponsored boy, Yarito, and Yarito’s mother, Elba. Elba was born dirt poor in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and struggled with an abusive husband. One morning, she sent her four children in the back of a neighbor’s pickup to haul drinking water. The irresponsible driver rolled the truck on a dirt road at high speed. Elba’s 13-year-old daughter, Miriam, died on impact. The other four were hurt, including Yarito. The family somehow made it past the ever-present border guards, and headed for the Central Valley of Costa Rica and San Ramon. Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, the mothers Julie and Elba hit if off. Quincy and Yarito hit it off. One could read it in their eyes. Somehow in God’s mercy, the circle was complete; and the Mass was just beginning.

Survival in the most challenging of environments
CFCA is involved in very challenging section of Heredia called Guarari. This is considered a high-risk community because of the high levels of robbery, drug dealing, assaults, sexual abuse, domestic violence, family disintegration, school dropouts and unemployment.

In our visits to sponsored families, I note that the area is intolerably polluted by the black waters of a huge shopping mall located three or four blocks upstream. It would be an understatement to say that the families are struggling. Most of them are immigrants from Nicaragua, forced to try to survive under extremely difficult conditions.

Ribbon cutting
After a bone-chilling bus ride north, we dedicated a nice new classroom in El Pavon. This fine structure was made possible through the dedication of 9-year-old sponsor Emily and her parents, Dawn and Ed. Emily cut the ribbon to the new building with one of their sponsored children, Daniela. How beautiful to see the bonding between these two young girls. Trip participants were impacted by the difference between this nice new facility and the former make-do classroom. According to CFCA staff, the Los Chiles area near the Nicaraguan border has been seriously neglected. Our visits to homes here speak of extreme poverty. Work harvesting oranges, pineapple or sugarcane lasts scarcely four months.

Back in San Jose
We spent the day at a nice park with the sponsored children, parents, staff and U.S. student volunteer translators, mixing games, music, dancing, good food and a beautiful blue sky.

What a joy to see our own sponsored little girl, 4-year-old Cristina (Cri Cri), and to see her walking. Three years ago, doctors said she would probably not survive six months. Cristina and I sponsored her anyway. With God’s grace and the loving care of the Sisters, this little fighter is defying all the odds.

Dancing in the streets
Hundreds of people received us in the street of this challenging neighborhood. Vicenta, at age 32, has seen a lot of life—two boys, one little girl and a husband long gone. They’re literally dirt poor in a drainage area where things stay humid. Very early each morning, Vicenta climbs the embankment with her baskets and treks to market to buy vegetables for resale in the neighborhood. During coffee harvest, she and the children travel to one of the farms after school to pick coffee.

Following the family visits, we gathered at the CFCA center in Alajuelita to see handicrafts and foods produced by the mothers and elderly, and in the presence of the sponsored elderly Queen and King of the fiesta, we accompanied the elderly, the children and youth in dancing. My one step fits all.

We live in gratitude
Thank you for being with us on this journey. We live in gratitude for your solidarity and prayers.

Bob Hentzen
CFCA Costa Rica

Mar 26 2008

Bob’s report: Visit to Guatemala

Mission Awareness Trip
March 8-15, 2008

Best wishes from our March 2008 mission awareness trip group. It’s nice to be home. Our sponsors have made the effort to place themselves in the midst of this ancient culture in which all of God’s creation is seen as sacred. We thank our loving God for the privilege of just being here.

A humble family speaks

From the very first morning in Guatemala City, this has been a very blessed time. I am inspired by the courage and zeal of Natividad. She is now a CFCA social worker in some of the toughest areas of Guatemala City. Natividad grew up as a sponsored child. This first morning of the trip, Natividad brought a sponsored family from the edges of the grand metropolis to meet the sponsors, to have a good breakfast with us and to share their struggle and their dreams.

The father, Braulio, rents a small piece of land in San Jose Nacahuil on which he plants corn and beans. I find that he lights up when he talks about farming. He deeply respects the land and explains how he kneels and prays before disturbing the pachamama (Mother Earth) with his 18-inch hoe. Once the land is prepared and the seeds are in the ground, he prays for life-giving rains. Many days, Braulio wakes up unemployed. On these occasions, he leaves home at first light with ax, machete and rawhide mecapal (headband), and treks each time further in search of firewood. Even for essentials like fallen wood, land owners are sometimes trigger happy when a campesino ventures across their fence line. When he can, Braulio hires out as a day laborer. The going rate for day workers in his area is about $6 per day. He plays guitar for liturgies at the parish.

Mother Sylvana works very hard at home caring for her own father, who is bedridden with a stroke. Their oldest son, Pantaleon, works on construction sites during the week and studies on weekends. Marta Alicia, 13, is in her first year of junior high. Their second son, Rolando, 15, was born with a good mind, but with quite a list of physical challenges. Rolando is sponsored. He thanks his sponsors for their love and medical help, and he demonstrates his gratitude by studying hard to become an accountant.

Hearts full of dreams


Friday in Patzun was special. Seven newly sponsored children were personally met, welcomed into the CFCA family and sent on their way with hearts full of dreams.

Our dynamic and devoted community workers from Project Patzun offer a traditional musical greeting to the sponsors. Each of them visits 325 sponsored families in the villages of the highlands.

Cristina and I wish you a restful and hopeful Holy Week and Easter.

Bob Hentzen
CFCA Guatemala
March 16, 2008