Category: South America

Oct 22 2009

Notes from the Field – Bolivia

Jose Rodriguez, CFCA’s project director for South America, talks about his recent visit to Bolivia where he witnessed the work being done by two CFCA scholarship students, Juan and Jhaneth. The students are helping to give back to their own communities by working with families to build greenhouses and teaching local mothers to read.

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Sep 16 2009

Bob’s notes – visit to Bolivia

Mission awareness trip
Aug. 30 ñ Sept. 7, 2009

Itís a pleasure to share with you the experience of this mission awareness trip and the growth and excitement of CFCA Bolivia.

As background, the population of Bolivia is two-thirds indigenousóthe highest proportion in the hemisphere. Evo Morales won presidential elections in December 2005, the first indigenous Bolivian to do so. A year and a half later, a draft constitution giving more rights to the indigenous majority and more autonomy to the nine states led to sometimes violent demonstrations. Among our sponsored families and especially the youth, the CFCA-lived doctrine of non-violent conflict resolution will play a key part in their attitude and behavior.

A motherís testimony
In the Santa Cruz subproject of Los Bosques, 47 percent of the families are headed up by single mothers. A mother of five, Dominga, told us that belonging to CFCA and attending workshops on human dignity, self-confidence and conflict resolution turned her marital life around and actually brought the childrenís father back home.

Home for prisonersí children
We were privileged to spend a late afternoon and evening with the outgoing girls and boys at Hogar de la Esperanza (House of Hope). This home, dedicated to the children of prisoners, is owned by an association and run by Catholic sisters. We have 38 children sponsored in this hogar.

A tremendous refreshment
On Sept. 1 in Yapacani, we visited families who mostly live in homes made of rough-cut planks. Dads work hard in the fields. The sponsored families are deeply grateful.

Sponsored children play the violins for sponsors

Later in the day, we stepped into the cool and moderately lit parish church and found ourselves in the midst of a full orchestra and chorale made up of children and teensówith about half identified by their shirts as being sponsored in CFCA. The music, except for the Star Spangled Banner sung in English, was classical.

Dancing with the sponsored aging

After the formal concert, the show continued outside on the basketball court with snacks and lots of dancing with the sponsored aging. My partner, Dona Isabel, had obviously worked hard all her life. She threw me around the dance court like a feather.

By land to Cochabamba
On Friday morning in subproject Sacaba, my group visited Dona Tomasaóan ailing grandmother who never attended a single day of school. Yet Dona Tomasa and her husband, Roberto, strive each day to raise and educate Brian, 10, Christian, 12, Norma, 15, and a fourth young girl who was in school. Only Brian and Christian are sponsored. Dona Tomasa spoke of what a fine student Norma has become. Norma spoke of her aspirations to study medicine, and sponsor Jane Kinney-Knotek offered to sponsor Norma.

Youth group impresses
At subproject Pucarita Chica in the afternoon, we were all tremendously impressed by the 50 or so sponsored teens assembled for a meeting. They invited the sponsors to their meeting. Martin, a CFCA scholar, communications major and group facilitator, was able to establish a good interchange between the youth and sponsors. I really felt a sense of ìbrimming with potentialî in these teens.

From Cochabamba to La Paz
About an hour out of Cochabamba, we began our ear-popping climb. Eufronia Taquichiri, aide-coordinator of subproject Melga, Cristina and I traveled with Don Pablo in a Toyota van, which negotiated the mountain roads very well.

Children welcome sponsors

Our gathering at subproject Alto Pampahasi took place on a sun-baked, outdoor basketball court, packed with children, families, teens and the sponsored elderly.

I spoke with a young Aymara mother of four small children who was recently abandoned by their father. She earns a little money by washing clothes in the neighborhood and expressed great gratitude for the sponsorship of two of her children. I am told that 80 percent of the mothers in this area are heads of households but also that 80 percent of the parents in a nearby subproject now can read and write thanks to CFCA classes.

Subproject San Martin de Porres
We have been working in this neighborhood in the southern part of El Alto since 2000. We have 167 children sponsored, about equally divided between girls and boys. This figure is significant because a great number of the families had to move from rural Aymara areas, where boys were favored in opportunities to study. Life is challenging here. For the mothers, small incomes are generated by washing clothes and street vendingómainly food items and sale of macramÈ. For the dads, the work consists mostly of construction help and temporary day labor. They are all deeply grateful for the CFCA presence.

Bolivia has begun a Children/Youth Congress. One of our sponsored girls, Laura, 11, has been elected by her peers and teachers to represent the children of El Alto at this congress. She attributes her successes in life to her family, teachers, sponsors and CFCA.

On to Brazil
Cristina and I have been very fortunate to obtain visas for Brazil at the Consulado here in La Paz. They are quite strict about the requirements but, fortunately, we had everything in order. To scout the roads and conditions for my walk, we will drive the 637 miles from Santa Cruz to the Brazilian border at Corumba. There we will be met by the CFCA team from Mineiros, who will accompany us to visit the projects in Mineiros and Cipauba. Thank you for being with our mission awareness trip groups in solidarity and prayer.

God’s blessings,

Bob Hentzen

Aug 20 2009

Our pilgrimage

By Nicole Mirti, CFCA sponsor

My family and I started our involvement with CFCA about 10 years ago when a priest spoke at our parish. We were really moved and touched by the work CFCA does for those less fortunate, so we decided we would become sponsors. Upon learning of the countries where CFCA has projects, we chose Colombia. Colombia was an easy choice for us because that is where I was born. I was adopted from Bogota, Colombia, almost 24 years ago, and the country still holds a special place in our hearts.

Nicole Mirti, her mother and Wendy, their sponsored childMy family and I sponsor a 7-year-old girl named Wendy, who is part of the Bogota project. We have been her sponsors for about two years. When we first learned of the mission awareness trips, we thought they sounded interesting but had to wait for a summer trip as I am a teacher and my mom also works for a school. I remember when we first got word about the 2009 Bogota mission awareness trip, I was so excited. My parents knew how much I wanted see Colombia and thought this would be a perfect opportunity for us to go and meet Wendy. Unfortunately, my dad had to stay behind and work.

In the weeks prior to our trip, I had a mixture of feelings going through my mind. I was happy, nervous, excited and scared all at once. It would be an amazing experience to see and meet Wendy, but it would also be one of wonderment. I have looked at many pictures and read articles about Colombia, but being there first-hand would be completely different.

Nicole Mirti, her mother and Wendy in ColombiaA big surprise came when we exited the doors of the El Dorado Airportówe were greeted by Wendy, her mom and baby sister. She was there along with Bob, Cristina, CFCA Bogota project coordinator Judith, and translators Jamie and Lindsey. My mom and I felt so welcomed after meeting everyone and felt an immediate connection with Wendy.

The trip was an amazing experience. One that is extremely difficult to put into words. I consider the trip to be two-fold for me: we got to meet Wendy, and I got to see my birth country. The trip was one only those who had the privilege of going can understandótogether we went on a spiritual journey filled with many laughs, tears, love and appreciation. The feelings I walked away with from that week led me to sponsor a child on my own. I cannot wait to go back to Colombia and see Wendy again and meet my new sponsored child Kevin.

Bob was with us on the trip, and I remember a quote he said on our last day together, ìLife is a pilgrimage.î The people who were on the 2009 Bogota mission awareness trip will always hold a special place in my heart because they were with me on that incredible pilgrimage.

Aug 11 2009

August isn’t back-to-school month for everyone

As U.S. students prepare for the onset of school, students in other countries have already taken mid-terms.

That’s right. For students in many countries where CFCA works, school does not start in August or September.

The school year in Central America started in January or February. Those lucky children are only two months away from the end of school. Schoolchildren in India and the Philippines are already into their third month of the school year. And students in Kenyaówell, they follow the British system and attend school all year, with long breaks at the end of each quarter.

Find the school calendar for your friend on the graph below.

School calendar

Related links
Time for school

Aug 6 2009

Bob’s notes – Visit to Colombia

Mission awareness trip to Colombia
July 19-25, 2009

From the moment they emerge from the crowded exit doors of the Eldorado Airport in Bogota, sponsors are put at ease by the poise and talent of our young CFCA co-worker, Jamie Mora. Now in the middle of post-graduate studies (languages), Jamie handles several translating jobs, plus teaching, and is the main economic support of her family. Jamie leaves no doubt that the presence of the David Malka family, her loving sponsors for 15 years, and her CFCA Bogota family, has played a major role in her lifeís journey.

About Colombia
In Colombia, many peopleóespecially in the rural areasósuffer from malnutrition, poverty and insufficient education. Colombiaís biggest challenge continues to be the struggle against guerilla warfare, city gangs and illicit drug cartels. Most of the countryís wealth is concentrated in the hands of drug traffickers.

Education costly
Public elementary education is tuition-free, and children are required to attend for five years. However, many children do not attend past age 7. Instead, they help their parents on the family farm. Parents also find it difficult to afford school supplies and various school fees. In remote areas, children may learn through radio broadcasts of school lessons.

Sponsors play a great part in the education of their sponsored children. <i>In this picture: sponsors Nicole Mirti and Elyse Tyson with Wendy</i>

Sponsors play a great part in the education of their sponsored children. In this picture: sponsors Nicole Mirti and Elyse Tyson with Wendy

CFCA has six projects in Colombia with 2,203 children and aging awaiting sponsors.

Colombia’s reality
Judith Bautista, coordinator of the Bogota project gave us an overview of Colombia: 7,000-plus sponsored children; squatters searching for food in local markets; very young population; we have grandmothers who are 25 years old; educational system failing and 8th graders sometimes cannot read; overcrowdedóeven up to 70 in a classroom; in Bogota only 1 percent of students eventually find work in the field they studied; very serious problem of domestic violence; robbery is the most common crime of teenagers; children are set up by unscrupulous adults to commit crimes because of the impunity of their age.

Our solution to some of these challenges is the CFCA communities of compassion in the neighborhoods, the love of the staff for the families and the solidarity, love and power of our mothers groups.

Spirit of Sopo
I was impressed with the great community spirit among the CFCA families of Sopo. The main sources of income are the flower industry and farming, especially dairy. CFCA walks with 430 children and their families in this community.

The Sopo community welcomes Bob and the mission awareness trip travelers

Mothers are meeting twice a week, once for program activities in which they read the sponsorship manual piece by piece, the other for livelihood projects planning and execution. Today, they had organized a solidarity walk through the beautiful and green countryside and the trek took the better part of two hours with a marching band, four teens on stilts as giants and stops to welcome the next group of walkers.

Motivated sponsors
Iím happy to report that members of this group sponsored five additional children during the week. Listen to these thoughts offered by sponsors on this trip:

ìI think of CFCA as my surrogate parents and grandparents, knowing they will instill the religious values in my child, along with the other values.î

ìI feel the Lord is calling me to go through a new door.î

ìTrust in God. I am learning to trust in othersÖespecially for love rather than having to go it alone.î

As Cristina and I head back to Guatemala via the scenic route through Lima and San Salvador, please join us in prayer and solidarity with our families in Honduras. We look forward now to seeing the groups from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kan., and Risen Christ Parish from Denver, Colo., and then our next mission awareness trip to Guatemala on Aug.1.

Godís blessings,
Bob Hentzen

Jul 30 2009

Notes from the Field #9 – Colombia

During the mission awareness trip to Colombia, Adrian Velazquez, manager of parish outreach, saw how art and dance play an essential role in the development of the children. These creative outlets are helping the children grow in many positive ways, making this a benefit that goes beyond the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.

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Jul 13 2009

‘He is permanently part of my heart now’

A mission awareness trip to Colombia profoundly impacted sponsor Karen Greiber. The following is from a letter she wrote describing her experience.

Hi Everyone,

The trip was amazing — I can’t begin to find the right words. It made a huge difference to me and really changed my perspective on things.

Mom and I flew to Medellin, Colombia. Everywhere was so green and gorgeous! When we arrived, I was told that Karen (my sponsored child from Cali) was already at the project. She and her family had traveled seven and a half hours just to meet me. They said Karen was so excited to meet me that she didn’t sleep at all the night before.

Karen and her sponsored friend, Karen during a Colombia mission awareness tripI had just started sponsoring Karen in December 2008. I had only received one letter and barely knew her.

When we arrived at the project, a huge crowd was waiting for us. The next thing I knew, I was being pushed toward Karen. I gave her a big hug. We walked through the crowd together with everyone cheering. Karen and I tried to communicate through my minimal Spanish. Thank goodness there were many in our group who spoke Spanish and helped translate.

Karen is 12 and filled with smiles. I grew to love her and her mom. I learned that Karen’s family lives in one room that they rent. Her mom works as a housekeeper when she can find work, usually two days a week at most. Karen has three younger siblings. I was told that her family was so grateful that Karen found a sponsor. Most people want to sponsor younger kids.

Later, I learned that only 40 percent of kids go to school in Colombia and only around 30 percent attend higher education. Karenís sponsorship means that she can stay in school. She can even consider going on to a university.

The Cali project is beginning sewing classes for mothers. They were just training instructors. A year from now, they plan to teach sewing in Karenís subproject. Then, Karenís mom can take sewing classes to learn a new trade so she can earn more for the family.

At the second subproject we visited, we entered an auditorium-like place to thunderous applause. I often fought tears while I was in Medellin. The gratitude was so overwhelming.

After the performance, everyone from the crowdóat least 100 peopleócame up to say ìthank you” and give hugs and kisses. Bob Hentzen, CFCA president and co-founder, said the crowd saw us as a representation of all sponsors, and it was their way of saying thank you to their own sponsors. So many people talked about their sponsors. They showed us their letters and told us how much they meant to them.

Rafael with his water-bottle tower.We flew to Cartagena from Medellin. There I met my other sponsored child, Rafael. Rafael meant a lot to me before the trip, but he is permanently a part of my heart now. I love him more than I can put into words!

Rafael has the most beautiful smile. He is all boy, but very respectful, polite and all-around a good boy. His mom is an excellent mother. In Cartagena we were allowed to spend three days with our sponsored children as we went to the different subprojects.

When we went to Rafael’s village, he really came to life. It was so awesome to see him just being a kid! I met his entire family. How I treasure the time we spent there! Susana, Rafael’s mom, welcomed me into their home and family.

People may say we saw some of the worst parts of Colombia, because we saw some of the poorest areas. I disagree: I think we saw some of the best. We spent time with everyday people who were generous, loving and genuine.

I left Colombia absolutely loving the people and the country. I hope someday to return.

God bless,

Visit your friend! Check out our mission awareness trip schedule here.

Jul 2 2009

Celebrating freedom

On the Fourth of July, Americans will gather to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, parades and picnics. Although the United States and the countries CFCA partners with do not celebrate independence on the same date, we share many customs and events.

In Central America, most countries celebrate their independence on Sept. 15 with parades and music. The running of the Central American Freedom Torch from Guatemala to Costa Rica, taking a total of 14 days, reenacts the news of their independence spreading through Central America.

South Americans celebrate with large celebrations, flying flags, parades, fireworks and feasting. In India, all cities have Flag Hoisting Ceremonies run by politicians and other officials. Indian schoolchildren gather to sing songs and watch the hoisting of the flag.

Under colonization, Haitians were forbidden to eat soup, a meal reserved for the upper classes. Now on Independence Day, it is traditional to eat soup to demonstrate the equality of all citizens.

People of the Philippines celebrate their independence with ceremonies, historic exhibitions and memorial events. Festivities begin with a flag-raising ceremony and parade in the historic city of Cavite, where Filipinos first proclaimed their independence.

We would like to encourage you to research how the country your friend lives in celebrates its independence. And from all of us at CFCA, we wish you a safe and wonderful Independence Day.

The Independence Days of the countries CFCA partners with are listed below.

Jan. 1
Feb. 27
Dominican Republic
May 24
June 12
June 26
July 5
July 20
July 26
July 28
Aug. 6
Aug. 15
Sept. 7
Sept. 15
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua
Sept. 16
Sept. 18
Oct. 9
Dec. 9
Dec. 12


Updated July 1, 2011

Jun 17 2009

The courage and love of a father

By Henry Flores, director of the communications center in El Salvador

In June, we celebrate Fatherís Day in many countries in Latin America, and it’s in these countries where millions of children don’t have access to proper education, nutrition, health and unfortunately, many of them donít even have a father.

More often than not, the typical Latin American family has only one parent at home ñ the mother. This stark reality is based on many factors, including the oppressive poverty and cultural standards.

The precarious financial situation of many families forces fathers to migrate from the rural areas into the cities or other countries. Others work away from home and return only a couple days per month, and still others simply become part of the statistics of those who donít care for their children.

In spite of this reality, there are fathers who stay to face the challenges and burdens of their life and families. They stay home with their wife and children to be together, to be a family, instilling in them values, creating awareness and helping to build a strong society by offering united families.

At CFCA, we are blessed to witness the courage of many of these men who strive every single day to be good examples of a hard-working spirit, a family leader and loving paternal figure, not only for their own children, but for other children in their communities.

HectorI recently met Hector and his wife, Maria Esperanza. They are raising five children. Hector works in agriculture, and with the help of small loans, he works 2.5 acres of land, planting corn and beans, producing enough to sell part of it to pay his debts and keeping a little of his production for the family consumption. Hector travels by horse for almost two hours to the land he rents to grow his crops. He usually works long days, under very high temperatures and extreme humidity, starting early in the morning and returning home late at night.

Hector has a fierce love for his wife and children. He protects them and ensures that they have what they need. And, education is his first priority. ìSometimes my children help me in my plantation, but school is first, so I work alone most of the time.î
Hector's family
The financial situation of the family is difficult, but the dreams of this father for his children are the motivation he needs to work hard. ìThings can be difficult, I work hard. It is my hope that my children will be educated and have a better life, and I just need to work harder,î Hector said.

We praise our Lord for the gift of fatherhood, for the opportunity to be loved by a father and I thank You, my Lord, for the blessings of being a father.

The third Sunday of June marks Fatherís Day in many countries worldwide, including the United States. Today, June 17, those in El Salvador and Guatemala celebrate their fathers. We, at CFCA, would like to honor all fathers, including Henry Flores and Hector, for the courage and strength they provide to their families.

Read about Danielís father, who strives to see his children graduate.

Jun 10 2009

Bob’s notes – special report, part 2

Mission awareness trip to Colombia
May 24-June 1, 2009
Part 2

This mission awareness trip focuses on CFCA projects near Medellin and Cartagena, Colombia. The next Colombia trip in July will visit the area of Bogota. I find the CFCA teams in these projects very devoted and very organized. Please keep CFCA Colombia in your prayers.

Project Madre Paula
During our gathering at the university, we experienced flowers, mothers and a warm welcome. Mary Luz Palacios is the coordinator and the brand new mother of Emanuel. In the Madre Paula project we have 1,078 children, 150 aging and 11 seminarians.

Introductory words by Mary Luz:

“It is very moving for us today to have this chance of meeting each one of you. We are totally convinced of the importance of these visits. Every child, elder, dad or mom manifests particular needs … our mission is much more than granting material benefits … we make every effort to respond to the multiple needs, worries, sorrows, joys and dreams behind each face.”

Can you believe it? I came to Cartagena over 50 years ago as a young brother and teacher at Colegio La Salle. We just passed the school, still huge as ever up there on the hill.

Gathering at home office
Welcome and prayer acted out by the seven children sponsored by members of this group. Isabel Hernandez, coordinator, said:

“Thanks for the confidence. Thank you for coming. Let us live fully this beautiful experience.”

Adrian Velazquez with Jordan and his mother.

Adrian Velazquez with Jordan and his mother (left).

Visit to Pasacaballos
In a town located about 15 miles from Cartagena the people deal with high levels of malnourishment, drug addiction, domestic violence and high level of school dropouts. On the upside, I find 387 children, aging, scholars bright-eyed, grateful and eager to overcome any obstacle. Teenager Loraine spoke in pretty accurate English with a simple message: “I love you.” Scholars are working with sponsored aging in basic reading and writing.

In the third family my group visited, 18-year-old Jose Vicente, sponsored since second grade, expressed the highest form of admiration for his aging campesino grandfather by stating that he plans to stay in farming. Next year he plans to enter the university to become a professional agronomist and then become a CFCA sponsor. Late in the day, we visited a CFCA livelihood bakery. The eight mothers involved here look sharp in their white outfits and face masks. Their location for sales looks good, and they have a large variety of breads. They also enjoy professional assessment by two business majors from the University of Cartagena.
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