Tag: Mexico

May 25 2011

CFCA scholar overcomes shyness with public speaking

Marcela is a CFCA scholar earning a business administration degree at the Instituto TecnolÛgico Superior in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mexico. Monthly meetings with other CFCA scholars and a group of mothers empowered her to grow comfortable with public speaking.

Marcela, CFCA scholar in Mexico

Marcela, CFCA scholar in Mexico.

In your letter, you said you were afraid of speaking in front of a group of mothers. Explain how you gradually lost your fear.

When I first entered the CFCA community, they presented me to a group of mothers. I was very nervous. I did not know them or how to deal with them.

Afterward we had another monthly meeting. I remember that the mothers formed into groups and then I went from group to group and talked to them.

Then we arranged sporting activities with the sponsored children in which all the scholarship recipients gathered on the soccer fields to play a game with the sponsored children.

After we finished playing we went to buy refreshments at the store. We talked and were very happy.

At first I was very shy and almost didnít talk to my fellow scholarship recipients, but slowly I got to know them. From then on, every month I had to prepare my monthly meeting with a partner.

The CFCA coordinator constantly asked us to have our meetings and to visit the house of each one of the sponsored children to get to know them better.

After these visits, I began to change. Now I can express my ideas freely without having to worry about what anyone might say.

Read more

Jan 11 2011

CFCA in Mexico: ‘You want me to be your sponsor?’

Omar Zuniga of the MÈrida, Mexico, project staff sent us this heartwarming report of a friendship that began on a recent mission awareness trip in MÈrida.

The hour-long crossing that the bus was about to begin from Chun-Y· to Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, made Lillian NegrÛn, sponsor of 10 children through CFCA, decide to get off to stretch her legs.

It was an impulse that, she commented afterward, was of divine origin.

Alfredo and Lillian

Alfredo, left, and Lillian meet during a mission awareness trip in MÈrida.

On getting off the bus she met Alfredo, a scholarship student from the CFCA project in MÈrida.

Alfredo has been a scholarship student for a little more than six years and has helped each sponsored child to write their letters and Christmas greetings with the dedication displayed only by teachers who work wholeheartedly at their jobs.

His dedication and excellent work for the MÈrida project has earned him a double scholarship, and he is able to support his family members in a better way.

He has been able to supply his younger brothers with shoes, school uniforms, as well as all their basic needs in the home.

Lillian asked him about his dreams and aspirations, while she was waiting for her bus to leave for its destination.

Alfredo told her that he wanted to finish preparatory school to study for a degree so that he would be able to help his parents and his brothers to have a better future.

To do this, Alfredo would have to stay in Carrillo Puerto and rent a room for students.

If he were to commute daily from his community to the city where the nearest university is, it would cost him about 110 pesos (approximately $8.93 U.S.) a day and would take him an hour and a half each way, plus all the extra expense on days when he would have to stay late at night doing homework and research.

Lillian listened to every point. Finally she surprised the young scholarship student by asking him, without further ado but with her good will, with only the least introduction of greetings and with no more contact than a glance, ìAnd do you want me to be your sponsor?î

Alfredo is an excellent scholarship student who, in the MÈrida project, had excelled and had earned the love and respect of each and every one of the staff members.

He has learned to take advantage of his talents and to focus on a future that has no limits.

Today, Alfredo is a sponsored member of the MÈrida project, and, thanks to Lillian NegrÛn, he will be able to pursue his dreams.

Dec 12 2010

‘Mother of all Mexican Catholics': Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

Mexicans celebrate the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, beginning one day before in the shrines of our Lady of Guadalupe or the chapels that bear her name. There are Masses, confessions, dances and readings of the story of her appearances on Mexican soil.

Here is a Q-and-A with the CFCA project in MÈrida about the feast day.

In MÈrida it is a tradition that at the shrine of Saint Christopher, pilgrims are received a month before from all corners of the state of Yucat·n, neighbor states, guilds, schools, companies and diverse institutions. There is also an open air dance all night long on Dec. 11.

I have been told that some people participate in a pilgrimage to MÈxico City to celebrate at the Basilica of Guadalupe. Can you tell me about this?

The pilgrimages are carried out by groups with torches, families and even entire towns, who arrive at the basilica, to ask or give thanks for favors from the Virgin, or as a promise from a family tradition (sickness, births, etc.).

Do any members of the CFCA community participate in these pilgrimages?

People from the CFCA community participate in these pilgrimages, walks or Masses. It is a celebration in all of MÈxico for Catholic families on this day.

Virgin of Guadalupe

CFCA scholar Jes˙s Federico displays a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The pilgrimages vary, depending on the distance from the start to the final place. It can be 1 day and up to 15 days for the long ones. All are supposed to arrive on Dec. 12 to hear Mass and receive the benediction and then return.

Those pilgrimages are done on foot, on bicycles or running on one’s knees, depending on the promise offered. The Virgin of Guadalupe reminds us the promise of the mother of God to be with us in difficult moments.

She presented herself as a mestiza, with indigenous and Spanish characteristics, to include everyone under her protection.

Any other information or commentary that you would like to add?

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the mother of all Mexican Catholics by tradition. There is a faith and fervor that exists within us for her that is inexplicable. To us, she is miraculous and if you ask her for something and you have faith, we are sure that she will honor you.

Jes˙s Federico is a 15-year-old CFCA scholar. He is in the first semester of computer science and also serves in the Church as an altar boy and catechist.

Why do you participate in this pilgrimage?

It is a way of showing my faith and gratitude to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and it motivates me in my personal life to move ahead, and it is a family and community tradition.

Since when have you been participating in this pilgrimage? What is your route and distance covered?

This is the second year that I am going to participate. We go from the community where I live with a group of 30 people: family and friends.

It is about 180 kilometers (112 miles) away and we are going in a group, in which every person runs for about 20 minutes and then is replaced, and that is how we cover all the distance.

On the way we meet a lot of people who offer food to the whole group as part of their offerings to the Virgin. They give us water in the communities we pass along the way and they treat us really well.

We are always careful because we could be prone to highway accidents.

It is an unforgettable experience and all because of our dear Virgin of Guadalupe.

During the trips we sing chants to the Virgin and everyone takes offerings and promises to be fulfilled in the future. Also, a few days before the trips we have meetings in the Church where they explain to us the significance of the pilgrimage and about the love that we should have for our Virgin of Guadalupe.

Sep 27 2010

2010: The year of the bicentennial

Many Latin American countries where we work celebrated their bicentennials this year: Colombia, July 20; El Salvador, Sept. 15; Mexico, Sept. 15-16; and Chile, Sept. 18. Here is a compilation of field reports about what the bicentennial means for CFCA communities in Mexico. This year, the rising violence from drug trafficking has unfortunately affected some of the celebrations.

Mateo and his grandchildren

ìItís good to remember the heroes who gave us freedom, but it isnít good they spend so much money on the celebrations and parties when there is so much need and poverty. Instead of spending money on parties, they should perform services for those in need.î
ó Sr. Mateo, grandfather of the sponsored children pictured: Carlos, Gabriel and Luis Antonio

Note: The ìGrito of Independenceî is a traditional ritual performed every independence day. The Mexican president appears in the ZÛcalo, or central square of the capital, and shouts, ìViva, Mexico!î The crowd responds, ìViva!î

Q: Can you tell us about Mexicoís Independence Day?

A: [Cuernavaca] The bicentennial of Mexico celebrates the beginning of the rebellion against the Spanish colonial system. 2010 is a big year in Latin America. In 1810, local rebellions were taking place against the Spanish in diverse locations throughout Latin America.

A: [Guadalupe] The period known as Independence began, strictly speaking, on Sept. 16, 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo gave the ìGrito de los Dolores,î or ìCry of the Sorrowfulî and ends Sept. 27, 1821, with the arrival of the ìEjercito Trigarante,î or ìArmy of the Three Guaranteesî to the city of Mexico. The idea behind this revolutionary movement was to free the people from Spanish rule and throw off the viceroyalty. This phase ended the colonial period of Mexico.

Q: How is the country celebrating?

A: [Santa Catarina] The country celebrated with large parties: at the national level in ZÛcalo Plaza, in the Avenida Paseo de la Reforma and in the Monumento del Angel de la Independencia. Then locally, each city and town had the Grito of Independence and public festivals. In the ZÛcalo, President Calderon performed the Grito of Independence, after which followed fireworks for more than a half hour in one festival.

A: [Cuernavaca] We are celebrating with many activities, many of them cultural and civic. There will be parades, theatrical representations of the historical events, school festivals, concerts, dancers, fairs, etc.

A: [Guadalupe] There is a bicentennial torch that will travel through the 32 states of Mexico. The entire country will celebrate the military parade they have every Sept. 16. Finally, the government has created a web page devoted to the bicentennial.

Q: Are you planning special activities for the sponsored members and their families? If yes, please describe them.

Yesira, a sponsored child in Mexico

Yesira, a sponsored child, joined her grandparents for dinner on Sept. 15 and watched the bicentennial celebrations on television. They continued celebrating until early Sept. 16.

A: [Cuernavaca] The communities where the sponsored members live are planning Mexican nights ó parties with different Mexican music, dance and food organized by some families or neighbors, but most of the activities are organized by schools, municipalities or local authorities.

A: [Guadalupe] On Sept. 17, 2010, the CFCA community in Hogar Quinta Manuelita will gather for a public street party, with people bringing traditional Mexican snacks.

Q: How have the celebrations been affected by the news reports about drug-related violence in certain areas of Mexico?

A: [Cuernavaca] There are two sides: one in favor of celebrating Mexican liberation from the Spanish conquistadors and honoring the martyrs and heroes; and another side against the celebration in the midst of violence that has occurred.

A: [Merida] Although itís very calm in Merida, the heaviness is from what people hear in the news. There is fear that at any moment in the near future, this instability, this violence, can reach Merida.

May 24 2010

Lupita’s letters

By Patricia DePra, CFCA sponsor. Patricia visited Lupita on a mission awareness trip to Mexico Oct. 2008, and she sent us this reflection of her sponsorship after meeting Lupita.

Lupita and PatriciaI’ve been sponsoring Maria Guadalupe (Lupita) since she was four ñ now she’s thirteen. Eight years!! I hadn’t realized that it had been that long.

In those eight years, I fell in love, received tenure, married, became pregnant, left my job, had and lost my daughter (Dec 24-26, 2001), survived a very turbulent marriage, divorced, changed jobs twice more, and moved, let’s see ñ from Massachusetts to Buffalo, to the Finger Lakes (NY), back to Buffalo, to Mississippi, to Pittsburgh.

I always had a comfortable place to sleep, and whatever I wanted to eat, but emotionally, I was a mess, and I coped by burying myself in work. Throughout all these years, Lupita’s letters came, always filled with love, always with a drawing to be posted on my fridge or near my desk. I’ve saved every one of those letters and drawings. She wrote simply, beautifully, and from the heart.

There was always a little something extra in her writing ñ a touch of sweetness and genuine love, love for her family and for God that shone through the words to touch my heart and put a tear in my eye. Even so, it didn’t really sink in what this sponsorship, and I, really meant to Lupita. I’d come to think of myself as unimportant, in a way, and on the darkest days, perhaps even unworthy of having a daughter. It brought me a great deal of comfort knowing that my donation was helping such a sweet girl to be in school, to have better nutrition and health care, and more.

Patricia and Lupita eating lunch together.I am ashamed to admit that my letters to her were very few and far between. I didn’t realize that, while I was wrapped up in my own feelings, piling up the work to keep from thinking too much, numbed with fatigue, and subsequently postponing letters to her for months, that I was denying Lupita the warmth that she so openly shared with me. She always ended her letters with a “God bless you,” and “I love you,” but until I met her in person, I hadn’t realized just how much I mean to her, how important my letters were to her, and how full of love and gratitude our sponsored children, elderly and their families truly are.

It’s more than a donation, it’s a relationship, it’s dignity, it’s larger than words. I felt (and still feel) very humbled, and I am convinced that this is what living in God’s love is all about.

Nov 2 2009

Dia de los Muertos

By Enrique Espinosa, Sponsor Services Department

In Mexico, it is customary to honor our beloved family members who have gone before us by celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Every Nov. 1, Mexicans celebrate the passing of children (12 years and younger). This is more of a private ceremony.

Nov. 2 is the traditional Dia de los Muertos, which people celebrate by setting up an altar in the Church or the family’s home, depending on the community tradition. On the altar, they place the deceased’s photo, their favorite foods (including fruits, vegetables, hot chocolate, pan dulce, tamales, pulque, atoli, etc.) and flowers. Then the family prays the rosary and a novena. Afterward, they play the deceased’s favorite music.

This is a joyous occasion because they are celebrating the lives of their loved ones, and the fact that they have moved on to a better, eternal life, sharing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Day of the Dead fills a void
By Sheila Myers, Communications Department

The loss of a loved one leaves a hole in your heart. With time, you get used to living with this void, but occasionally, somethingñan aroma, a song, a situationñreminds you of the person and for a second, the hole closes and you feel oddly comforted.

Years ago, my husband and I discovered the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday when you lovingly remember departed relatives and friends.

The holiday has its roots in the Aztec culture. The ancient Aztecs embraced death and viewed it as a continuation of life. They believed that life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake. Day of the Dead for the Aztecs was a month-long celebration when the dead came back to visit. After the Spanish conquest, the ritual evolved and spread to other cultures. It is now celebrated to coincide with All Souls Day in the Catholic faith.

For the Day of the Dead, Mexicans build elaborate altars for their deceased. They fill it with pictures and mementos of the deceased and decorate with colorful flowers, candles, brightly painted skull masks and whimsical skeleton figurines called ìcalacas.î

When I learned about Day of the Dead, I welcomed the opportunity to put our departed loved ones front and center in our home, to talk about them with our children and to reflect on the essence of their lives.

So in early October, we gather photos of our deceased relatives and set them out in the living room. Our display is plain and simple, unlike the beautifully adorned altars I have seen. It lacks the favorite food and drink of our departed family. We donít play their favorite music or burn incense. But it serves the same purpose.

When I pass by the display, their faces call to me. I stop and reflect, remembering them and how their presence shaped my life. And for a brief moment, the hole is closed.

CFCA celebrated Dia de los Muertos at our headquarters in Kansas. Employees were invited to bring in photos and mementos of their departed loved ones. Below you can see a couple of photos of our altar. We would like to invite you to share some memories of your deceased loved ones with us in the comments section.

CFCA's Dia de los Muertos altarCFCA's Dia de los Muertos altar
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

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
Haiti
Feb. 27
Dominican Republic
May 24
Ecuador
June 12
Philippines
June 26
Madagascar
July 5
Venezuela
July 20
Colombia
July 26
Liberia
July 28
Peru
Aug. 6
Bolivia
Aug. 15
India
Sept. 7
Brazil
Sept. 15
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua
Sept. 16
Mexico
Sept. 18
Chile
Oct. 9
Uganda
Dec. 9
Tanzania
Dec. 12
Kenya

 

Updated July 1, 2011

Apr 15 2009

A good experience at Good Earth

Danielle Litt is a college student from the U.S. who volunteered with the Centro Educativo La Buena Tierra, (The Good Earth Education Center). CFCA partners with La Buena Tierra to provide services to sponsored children. Children sponsored through the CBT subproject are either attending or have attended the pre-school program Danielle describes below, and older children are served by the centerís staff in after-school programs, in addition to other benefits.

Dear CFCA sponsors,

My name is Danielle Litt. I am from New York City and am a junior at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Go, Tar Heels!). I am majoring in Latin American Studies and minoring in Hebrew. This semester, I am studying abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at La Buena Tierra, the education center that serves the children you sponsor.

I performed a variety of tasks including translation of the childrenís letters into English. I enjoyed reading these letters, as it gave me an opportunity to learn more about the lives of the children. I enjoyed reading about what they do for fun, hearing their stories and learning about the struggles they face and overcome. I also enjoyed reading about how important you, as sponsors, are to them, and seeing all the thank-you letters. The children are so appreciative of the letters and photos you send them!

The children play games.Let me tell you a bit about a typical day at the Buena Tierra. The children enter the school one by one, tell each teacher good morning and greet them with a kiss on the cheek. Then the children proceed to breakfast, but first say grace, which includes thanking God for you, their sponsor. The staff also teaches the children good table manners. During the day, the children learn about a variety of subjects, including the alphabet, counting, nutrition, families and animals. At the center, there is a lot of singing, playing, drawing, laughing and learning. At the end of the day, all the children gather together, sitting on blankets. They have story time and sing songs.

There are so many amazing people who make it possible for the children to attend the center. The teachers work patiently with every student to ensure they are learning and being challenged. The students come to class with smiling faces and an eagerness and excitement to learn. They are what makes all of the work worthwhile. The childrenís families contribute any way they can and support their childrenís attendance at the center. And while you are not physically at the center, your presence is felt by your sponsored child and the whole organization that feels gratitude for your contribution. Each sponsored child is provided with the opportunity to have a preschool education and begin elementary school with the skills needed to succeed. Older sponsored children are alumni of the school and receive after-school tutoring to make sure that they are keeping up in their classes.

Although I am excited to return back to my community in the United States, I will be sad to leave the Buena Tierra behind. Although you donít know me, I have great appreciation for the gesture you have made by sponsoring a child through CFCA, as you reach across borders of class, nationality, ethnicity and age to show solidarity and provide opportunities for the children who are served through the Buena Tierra. You are doing something that truly matters!

Thank you,
Danielle L. Litt

Mar 25 2009

Relationships are essential for a full life

Lenten reflection: Week 5
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

ìAnd I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.î ñJohn 12:32

Our God, who is relational by nature, chose to become a member of the human family as an expression of intimate love. We, Godís children, are also relational and the yearning of our hearts for closeness to God and to one another is a reflection of our nature and Godís deepest desire.

Because of this, relationships are the very essence of life. Godís two greatest commandments are not about what work we do, or what we eat, or even how we are to worship God. Our two greatest commandments are to love God and each other.

We believe this is the greatest gift that CFCA has to offer to the world. The reason the founders chose the sponsorship model was because it is relational. One does not simply write a check and forget about it. Sponsors are called into personal relationships with someone they didnít even know existed before sponsorship. They are given the opportunity to love God by loving another of Godís children. Sponsor and sponsored friend carry one another in their hearts and allow the other to change them for the better.

CFCAís structure in our projects follows this model as well and feeds the need for relationships among those we serve. For example, mothers in Merida, Mexico, tell us that the CFCA mothers groups are the most important part of the program to them. Most of their families moved from villages to the city, and that move isolated them from the social fabric that had sustained their ancestors for generations. The mothers groups are recreating that sense of community that is so essential to a full life.

Lent gives us a chance to stop and examine our relationships. It is often easier to give up chocolate for Lent than to rebuild and heal relationships.

Author Stephen Levine writes, ìIf you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?î

Reflection questions:
1. How would you define your relationship with God? Is God your teacher? Friend? Distant relative you only see on holidays? Guide? Do you like that relationship or do you want it to change? What needs to happen to bring about that change?
2. Is there a friendship that you have lost and mourn that loss? What might God be calling you to do about that?