Tag: solidarity

Oct 21 2010

From beneficiaries to partners: How CFCA views sponsored friends

Dan Pearson, operations/program development director for CFCA, explains how CFCA programs are moving toward greater autonomy and partnership with those being sponsored. Rather than seeing them as “beneficiaries,” we see them as “partners.”

Nonprofit organizations often divide their stakeholders neatly into two categories: donors and beneficiaries. But CFCA has always viewed things a little differently.

Dan Pearson

Dan Pearson

CFCA has always seen sponsors as more than simply donors. Sponsors are first and foremost human beings with a desire to connect with other human beings.

Part of CFCA’s mission is to give sponsors a way to grow in love through a personal connection to a child or elderly person in another part of the world. In that sense, sponsors are also beneficiaries of sponsorship because we can receive emotional and spiritual benefits as we provide encouragement and material support to a friend in another country.

Similarly, CFCA has never seen sponsored children and their families as simply beneficiaries. The word “beneficiary” implies someone who passively receives assistance from another person. But sponsored members and their families are not passive. In fact, they are some of the most active people I have met.

Sponsored children often get up early and walk long distances just to receive an education. Their parents work long days (often in jobs that are physically demanding) to provide for their childrenís basic needs. Yes, these families benefit from the program. But they are much more than beneficiaries.

Sai and his family

Sponsored child Sai, second from right, and his family in Hyderabad, India.

Part of the message in CFCA’s Hope for a Family program is that the families of sponsored children are our partners.

The mother of a child partners with a sponsor to achieve a childís goals for the future. She is a trustworthy partner because:

a) she has demonstrated her absolute commitment to her child’s future,

b) she understands her child’s unique gifts and the particular challenges her child faces, and

c) she is extremely skilled at overcoming challenges.

The proof of a motherís trustworthiness as a partner in the development of her child is in her tireless dedication. She spends nearly every waking hour dedicated to the cause of her children. Then she goes to bed, wakes up early, and starts over again.

The label “beneficiary” doesnít do justice to that kind of active dedication to a cause.

When one sponsor and one family join forces to change one child’s life, all other labels dissolve. They are simply human beings working together to make one small piece of the world a better place.

We welcome your feedback! In the comments below, please tell us how you view the “beneficiaries” vs. “partners” distinction. If you’re a sponsor, have you always viewed sponsorship as a way to partner with others? Why or why not?

Sep 22 2010

Brother writes letter after sponsored youth dies

This translated letter is from the brother of a sponsored youth, the late Santos SalomÛn, in Guatemala, from CFCAís Hermano Pedro project. The brother is writing to Santosí sponsor after Santosí recent death. Please remember Santos and his family in prayer.

“Hi, my name is Luis Felipe. I am the brother of Santos SalomÛn. I am writing you on his behalf since he can no longer write. Receive my most cordial greetings and wishes for success and blessings in your daily endeavors.

Santos SalomÛn

Santos SalomÛn

“The reason I am writing is to thank you with all my heart for the help you sent my brother and our family for so long. It was a blessing because all that he received, thanks to your financial support, was for the benefit of our home and especially for him because your support enabled him to study medicine in the university.

“His strongest desire was to become a doctor. Even though he wasnít yet a doctor, he visited the sick. He said that God was with the sick. He asked me to accompany him several times but I was bored. But he said there is no better medicine than God and a smile. When we were together, he always infected others with his joy. His happiness was the best doctor for me, but no more.

“We should remember that our lives are not our own, but loaned to us from God, so we must live according to his will and not according to our own. Luis knew this until the very end. One day on his way to studying, a bus on which he was riding collided with another bus. God decided that it was time for him to go. I think that God wanted someone to make him laugh.

“I experienced so many things with Santos, from talking to a girl on the way to church, playing soccer together, visiting the sick, bringing joy to the elderly, singing on our way home, and selling ice cream together.

“I was filled with pride when he did his charity work, especially with those most in need. They were small gifts, but they meant a lot. He gave ice cream to children, gave his seat on the bus to an elderly woman. I was always at his side, aware that he was preparing me for my new task.

“I understood one day in church when the priest explained that there are moments when we no longer live in Jesus. He lives in us. This teaches us to live. This is what I learned from my brotherís example. I told myself that Santos lives no more, but rather it is Jesus Christ who lives in Santos. The days he didnít go to church were because he had something urgent to do because he preferred to go to church to do his job in life. He said that God gives us wisdom to do it and without it, we canít begin our job.

“Our whole family grieves his death, but we know that he is an angel of Jesus and he takes care of us from heaven. He no longer belongs to the CFCA family, but I invite you to sponsor another child. We know that you are a great person. You will do it. May God bless you. We bid you farewell with respect, gratitude and love.


Luis Felipe, brother of Santos SalomÛn”

Sep 13 2010

Walk2gether finds company in Kenya

Meru celebrates Walk2gether.

People walk in Meru, Kenya, in solidarity with CFCA President Bob Hentzen as he continues on Walk2gether.

From Michigan to Meru, Kenya, people associated with CFCA are creating their own versions of ìWalk2gether,î CFCA President Bob Hentzenís ongoing journey from Guatemala to Chile (Bob is now in Peru). Here is a report by Regina Mburu, communications liaison in Kenya, of a 16-mile solidarity walk.

ìBy walking with them, we are saying you are not alone, we are listening to you and we are learning from you.î ñ CFCA President Bob Hentzen, who has been walking since Dec. 29, 2009.

In a show of solidarity with this noble course, the CFCA-Meru community organized a walk on Aug. 20, 2010.

A Kenyan woman weaves a basket.

A woman weaves as she walks in Meru, Kenya.

The 25.5-kilometer (16-mile) walk in the rural setting of Meru attracted many members of the CFCA community. Led by a group that held high the CFCA Walk2gether banner, the participants braved the hot sun and dusty roads. This day held great significance to them.

Some women decided to make their walk more interesting by weaving as they walked, their hands busy at work but their feet swift as they enthusiastically joined Bob in his pilgrimage.

ìAs I joined the Meru CFCA community in this walk, I could sense the deep sense of commitment and pride the community has towards the foundation, walking the significant distance is a demonstration of oneness with Bob,î said Marios Wanjiku, Meru project coordinator.

At the end of the walk, there were cultural presentations made to crown the day.

ìWe are glad to take part in Bobís journey; we pray that walking together will help us understand each otherís needs better,î Wanjiku said. ìWe hope that Bob will feel encouraged as he carries on with his mission.î

Editorís note: Read about another recent solidarity walk in Michigan.

Aug 18 2010

Kenyan project coordinator joins Walk2gether in Ecuador

Peter Ndungo during Walk2getherPeter Ndungo is the general coordinator for CFCA projects in Kenya. He spent a week walking through northern Ecuador and reflects on his Walk2gether experience.

I have always aspired to work with the less privileged in society. I get a lot of inspiration from working with the beneficiaries and staff members.

I was very much excited to be coming on the walk. I always look forward to learning something new. In each and every project there are good practices, and I was able to learn so many new things to take back to Nairobi to make our project stronger.

It is so beautiful in Ecuador, and walking with these people and seeing how they live was a great experience for me. I grew up in a small village in Kenya and helped my father with our coffee plants from a very young age. We would wake up early to harvest coffee. I know the challenges that families living in the farming communities in Ecuador face.

There is so much potential in these families. It was a big lesson for me to see their energy and see how important they are in this movement. The sponsored members and their families helped us get through the miles by walking with us. It showed me how interdependent our mission is and that our community is growing even stronger each day with this walk.

On the walk, I started out well, but along the way things got very tough. I was only able to make it 20 kilometers out of the 35 kilometers my first day. It is a lesson, though, to see the families that came out to walk with us cover these distances, and we should not take their strength for granted.

It is an inspiration that these families are able to overcome so much. We just need to help them along their path. It is not easy work helping these families, and the walk is a symbol of this effort.

The walk is very challenging. We have to cover long distances. The pain in our legs and muscles can be translated to the pain these families experience. But like them, we just have to keep going and keep walking with them.

One of my favorite parts of the walk was interacting with the families. Singing and dancing is very integrated into society in Africa. Many of the youth walking with us were shy at first, but they were very eager to learn from me when I started a song or dance. And when you are having fun, the kilometers go by much faster.

Getting to spend time with Bob Hentzen (CFCA president and co-founder) on the walk was also a great experience. Bob is superhuman. Every time you are around Bob you get inspiration. When you see somebody that age (74) walking all that distance, and here I am a young energetic person who couldnít walk the whole way for just one week. He is a great example of how we can focus our energy.

CFCAís invitation for us to join the walk to help our brothers and sisters in South America is a good message. It was amazing to learn from one another and spend time with the people who have been on this journey.

People around the world need to know there are many people struggling and in need of help. I am proud to have been a part of this walk and to help spread the message that there is hope for these families.

Jul 16 2009

Serious fun: part 4

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Soccer has grown from an obscure game played by a handful of kids to being the most popular, organized sport for children in the U.S. With more than 3 million youth registered each year in formal leagues, soccer has firmly established itself as part of the American childhood.

Without knowing it, kids who play soccer here in the U.S. are aligning themselves with the millions, perhaps billions, of children worldwide who play soccer (more commonly known as ìfootballî). However, these kids in developing countries donít always experience soccer with minivans, uniforms, coaches and juice boxes waiting for them when they are done. These are the kids who find any round object and a group of friends and play wherever they can find an open space. They run barefoot, kicking the ball through a goal they have fashioned out of scrap metal or their imaginations.

Henry Flores, director of the CFCA Communications Center in El Salvador, says that CFCA staff will often organize soccer games with the scholarship students because they find this to be a great way for staff to connect with the youth.

ìWith these games we are telling the students, ëWe want to spend time with you!í î Henry also observes that soccer is only fun when you play with others. It is a community sport. It unifies responsibility, ability and discipline.

Marissa Gargaro plays soccer during a mission awareness trip to El Salvador.“Plus, you donít need lots of equipment, just a 25-cent ball and a small space in your community. You often see children in the different communities who spend hours playing street soccer. When a vehicle is passing trough you hear, ëGAME OFF / GAME ON!í to let the children know.”

Often, when there have been teen mission awareness trip groups, the staff will organize soccer games because it is a simple way to break the ice, create community and strengthen bonds of friendship. “And,” says Henry, “You need no translator for it.”

In your next letter, have your soccer kid ask their sponsored friend about “football” in their country. Do they enjoy playing? Does their country have a national soccer team? Talk with them about the idea that they are in solidarity with their friend simply by playing soccer. What similarities does your child see in the way their friend plays football, and how soccer is experienced here in the States? What are the differences?

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun, part 2
Serious fun: Creative play

Jul 8 2009

Serious Fun: Creative play

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

As I write this, I am watching my own children play in a well-manicured, well-equipped park in our neighborhood. I cannot help but think of the children around the world whom I have seen playing in sewers, empty lots, fields with crops and barren yards with scraggly dogs nipping at their heels. But somehow, they seemed just as happy as my children do today.

The joke at Christmastime is always that you spend a fortune on toys for children but what they enjoy most is playing with the boxes, ribbons and packing peanuts that the toys came in. This is universal for children. I have watched children in Sierra Leone, Haiti, Venezuela and, yes, even my own children pull items out of the trash to equip their imaginary world. I remember a beautiful bicycle that a boy in Africa made for me. He found scraps of wire and fashioned this incredible toy. An old sheet can hold powerful fairy magic. A large empty box houses a universe of possibilities.

This call to creative play is yet another gift that children living in poverty give to our children. I think we often do our children a disservice by creating imaginary worlds for them in the form of video games and TV shows. What grown-ups create will never be as good as what kids can think of. Unfortunately, (and this is a personal confession) when life gets harried, it sometimes feels easier to let the kids turn on the TV than to encourage creative play.

Summertime is a perfect time to send the kids outside and get them to dig in the dirt, climb a tree or watch clouds.

As a challenge to your children or grandchildren, let them go through your recycling bin or dig in your attic, garage or closet to see what treasures can be unearthed. To what worlds can they be transported? What magical creatures lurk in your laundry room? What important business must be dealt with in the secrecy of a clubhouse? They will probably not know it, but they will be in solidarity with the billions of children around the world who do not have toys, TVs and video games. All children need is the time and space to be a child.

As a challenge to you, allow yourself to enter that world as well. Allow yourself the freedom to be child-like and think of your own sponsored child. But beware Ö as you magically turn into a knight in shining tin foil or first mate on a raft floating down the Mississippi, you might find that you get lost while other, more “important” matters disappear in a fog of your own childhood memories.

Related links:
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun, part 2

Jul 1 2009

Serious fun, part 2

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Upon my return from a mission awareness trip to El Salvador, my children were greatly interested in the details of the trip. I told them about our day spent on a volcano, showed them a jar of sand from the beach and pictures of all the beautiful people I met. And, I kept wistfully talking about pupusas, calling them ìSalvadoran comfort food.î

We decided to make pupusas, and we had the most fun! They are so simple to make and so wonderful to eat. The best part, however, was how making dinner together easily fell into a lesson about solidarity. For instance: at first, our dough was too dry. As I went to the sink for more water, I started talking about how hard it often is for the women to get water and how easy it is for us. The kids asked questions about where the water comes from for the Salvadorans and began to understand how a simple faucet is a luxury.

As we pulled the cheese from the refrigerator, my daughter asked me how they keep things cold with no electricity. So, we talked about how they have to go to market every day to buy food since people in developing countries generally donít have a refrigerator. (My kids hate going to the grocery store, so the idea of going to market every day really hit home!)

Below is the recipe for pupusas (they are super easy for kids to make), but we encourage you to do a little research to find kid-friendly recipes from the country where your sponsored friend lives. As you cook with your children or grandchildren, talk with them about what it must be like for their friend to cook. How is it the same? How is it different? Tell them what an indescribable luxury meat is in most countries, but how easily we have access to it here. Have them picture walking up to a mile to fetch water for cooking (this is often the job of children in a family).

(Please supervise children closely during the cooking.)

2 c. Masa harina (this is a corn flour that can be found in most grocery stores)
1 c. Water
Filling can be grated cheese, refried beans, veggies, whatever!

1. In a bowl mix the Masa harina and water. Knead it well. If you need to, add a teaspoon of water at a time to get a consistency similar to play dough. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll a ball of dough a little smaller than the size of a baseball and, with your thumb, press a hole in the middle. Pinch the sides a bit to make the hole bigger. Put some of the filling in the hole and pinch it shut. Now comes the fun part. Slap the dough from hand to hand, pressing it out flat. But make sure none of the filling leaks out. They should end up about º – Ω inch thick.

3. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium heat. Cook each pupusa for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Serve with salsa.

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun: Creative play
Make Filipino oatmeal soup
CFCA food benefits in Kenya

Jun 25 2009

Serious fun

Schoolís out for summer! Kids are lost in a lazy haze of swimming, camps and vacations. But, as the excitement of having no homework fades, it is often replaced with, ìMom! Iím booooooored!î

What a great time to encourage solidarity with their sponsored friend. Have them do a little research about the country, culture and history of their friend. The library has wonderful books for all ages about different countries. This will make letter writing easier, too, because the research may stir up good questions they can ask of their friend.

Over the next four weeks, we will offer some ideas and activities that you can do with your children or grandchildren that will teach them about other cultures.

Global play
The most global, common element about childhood is play. Children play. Even when faced with inhumane conditions and hardship, it is part of a childís nature to engage in some kind of play. There are many games that are manifested in areas all around the planet in various forms (hide and seek, tag, jump rope games, etc.) but there are many games that seem to be organic, having grown out of the imaginations of a nationís children. The following is a game that children play in Chile.

Mar, Luna, Sol (Ocean, Moon, Sun)
You need a couple of steps where the children can stand side by side. This can be the front porch or the steps of a pool.

The bottom step (or the ground) is Mar (ocean). The next one up is Luna (moon) and the top step is Sol (sun). One person is the caller. The caller says either, ìMar, Luna or Solî and everyone has to jump to that step. The caller keeps choosing different levels and everyone must jump to that step. If a players jumps to the wrong step, they are out. The last one left standing wins and gets to be the caller.

There are many great Web sites where you can find games that are played by children in your friendís country. Research the games together with your own children or grandchildren. Then, let the games (and the learning) begin!

You can also look at our 2008 edition of Sacred Ground for more games around the world (look at page 15 of the pdf).

Related links
Serious fun, part 2
Serious fun: Creative play

Jun 12 2009

The power of one. The community of all.

CFCAís 2009 Pilgrimage of Faith Award was presented to two parishes ñ one in Denver, the other in St. Louis ñ at a ceremony Tuesday evening. The individuals who introduced CFCA to those parishes accepted the award on behalf of their parish communities.

The slideshow below celebrates the spirit of the award: outstanding commitment to CFCAís mission of solidarity with the poor and marginalized of the world; dedication to creating a worldwide community of compassion through personal outreach; and offering an inspiring example of personal and professional integrity.

Mar 4 2009

Freedom from thinking about yourself

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

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” -William Temple

If this is true then what on earth am I supposed to think about? In my little world how can I not think about my next meal, fret about my finances, or worry about my work, my future, my car, my marriage, my, my, my? Even some concerns about my children are really fears about my own parenting.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mk.8:34)

This is a call to deny the self. That is, to recognize our powerlessness. When we take our “self” out of the picture, what is left? God and others. In fact, the practice of giving up something for Lent (chocolate, meat, etc.) or taking on something for Lent (attending Mass everyday, visiting the sick, reading scripture daily) is simply an exercise that helps us in the greater practice of giving up ourselves to God. When we engage in whatever discipline we have taken on for Lent, for that moment our desires are placed to the side and God is at the heart of our decisions and our lives.

When we put God and others first in every decision we make, starting the moment we wake up, our day will begin to look a little different. I can sleep late or get up and pray. I can have a fast-food breakfast or I can eat healthy, locally grown food. I can drive myself to work or I can carpool, walk or take a bus. I can complain about my co-workers or I can compliment them. I can watch TV or play a game with my family, or sit down and write a letter to my sponsored friend.

This is what CFCA is talking about when we use the phrase “walking in daily solidarity with the poor.” When we put God and others – ALL others ñ first, we have taken up the cross that Christ bears for the world and have begun to walk with Him, for Him and toward Him.

Reflection questions:
1. In what ways do you put yourself before God or others? What can you do to become more other-centered?
2. Where in your life do you find that you do deny yourself and live for God and others? How is that part of your life different?