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Dec 30 2009

10-year-old gives up birthday gifts for sponsorship

CFCA CEO Paco Wertin gives Matthew Garr five for a job well done.For his 10th birthday on Nov. 28, Matthew Garr of Shawnee, Kan., asked his friends to bring unusual presents to his birthday party: money for a 10-year-old girl his family sponsors in Guatemala.

Matthew delivered the money he raisedó$500 in cashóin person to Paco Wertin, CEO of CFCA. Matthew was accompanied by his mother, Debbie, and younger sister, Erin.

The Garr family has sponsored Magdalena for about four years. This is the second year Matthew has raised money for her at his birthday party. Last year he collected $303 and Magdalenaís family used the money to purchase a bed, a kitchen countertop and sink, and household supplies such as soap.

Matthew said helping Magdalena made him feel “great and awesome.”

Watch last year’s video of Matthew’s birthday gift.

Dec 3 2009

Bob’s travel notes to Costa Rica

Mission awareness trip to Costa Rica
Nov. 7-14, 2009

CFCA has been working to build hope for families in Costa Rica since 1991 and as of November 2009, we have 6,099 children sponsored together with 436 aging. Currently, 716 children and aging are on the waiting list for sponsorship in Costa Rica.

Reality check
According to staff, there is a very high index of domestic violence in Costa Rica, including abuse of women and children. The country has excellent medical care but itís heavily concentrated in the capital. Many rural areas have big challenges with dysentery and typhoid fever. In addition, residents here face a high cost of living and marginalization of immigrants.

Sunday, Nov. 8óAlajuelaóSubproject Sabanilla
On Sunday, we visited Sabanilla. A strong earthquake in January 2009 destroyed crops and forced businesses to close. One year ago, CFCA began to support this community.

The trip through the coffee plantation was very pleasant. However, we ran into a terrific storm that made the path down the mountain very muddy and slippery. It became a great exercise in community, getting everyone down the mountain safely. We all survived, albeit wet and muddy.

Sponsors in the Guatemala rain

Down the road in the community of Los Angeles, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch and show with all the families in this region. The mothers worked all day yesterday and from 3 a.m. to prepare all the food and the hall for this special occasion.

Read more

Nov 18 2009

What do I say? How to write your sponsored friend

“I feel very good when I get a letter. I feel I am being loved very much. It makes me want to write lots of letters to my sponsor.” – Sesilia, 9, Tanzania

Sesilia expresses what all sponsored friends feel about receiving letters from their sponsors. A letter from you is a symbol of love and represents the human connection in the relationship. Exchanging letters is a way for you build that relationship.

(Update: You now have the option to send an eLetter once you’re logged in to your online sponsorship account!)

If you haven’t written your friend because you don’t know what to say, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Our goal is to help you compose a letter step-by-step using as an example a letter written by a sponsor to her friend in Venezuela.

Step 1: The opening
How do you start? This is usually the toughest part of the letter. Start by greeting your friend and asking about the family. Then, follow up with something your friend mentioned in a previous letter as Sheila has done here. Did he take a test? Is a family member ill? Did she have a birthday? The opening is the place to touch base about important events your friend has talked about.

Step 2: The body
Now that you’ve opened the letter, share what’s going on in your household. Sheila mentions Halloween and the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sponsored friends love hearing about holiday customs. Or, share something about yourself. Describe a pet. Talk about your favorite sport. Tell your friend about your children, their ages and grades in school. The words will flow once you start writing about something important to you.

Step 3: The closing
In your closing paragraph, give your friend encouragement. Sheila simply closed her letter by wishing Edinson and his family a happy New Year. Tell your friend you think about him and pray for him and his family. Then, sign off.

Congratulations! The hard part is done. You can include a photo of yourself and your family with your letter. Sponsored friends love getting pictures.

Mailing your letter
Follow the instructions provided with the pre-printed mailing labels you received from Unbound. Send your letter via international airmail, unless it is sent to a U.S. mailing address. Check postage rates at the U.S. Postal Service Web site, www.usps.com.

We have more suggestions about letter writing here.

Was this helpful? Do you have any questions for us regarding letter writing? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

Nov 5 2009

Happy birthday, Sarge

Angie aka SargeEvery year CFCA processes an estimated 1.5 million letters from sponsored children and elderly. Each of these letters, with mailing labels, must be put into envelopes before they can be mailed to the sponsors.

You might think we need a small army to get this done. But, we have something better: a group of 35 highly dedicated volunteers.

And today, one of those volunteers, Angie Simms, is celebrating her 95th birthday!

Angie has been helping CFCA for 25 years, making her our longest-serving volunteer. She averages around 570 volunteer hours per year.

The staff and other volunteers know Angie simply and affectionately as “Sarge,” both for her military background (she served in the Womenís Army Corps in World War II) and her no-nonsense manner.

“She’s very spit-fire, and brings humor to the work place,” said Colleen McKeone, CFCA coordinator of child letters who works closely with the volunteers. “She has no qualms about speaking her mind. I enjoy her presence very much.”

AngieFor those who take the time to listen, Angie has a wealth of stories and life lessons. She’ll also trade some one-liners with anyone who’s quick enough to keep up with her.

After thousands of volunteer hours and probably millions of letters, we wonder what makes her so steadfast. Her brisk answer is pretty simple:

“God must have left me here in this world to do something.”

We’re glad He has, Sarge.

Happy birthday!

Nov 4 2009

Bob’s travel notes to Chile

Mission awareness trip to Chile
Oct. 24 ñ Nov. 1, 2009

Iím told that the word ìChileî means ìland where the earth ends.î Staff reports that Chile is considered ìFirst in Inequityî in Latin America, with 42 percent of resources owned by less than 10 percent of the people. There are so many marginalized families, whose only shelter is a one-room wooden structure. A recurring theme is violence to women and children. Our CFCA families strive to make it on very modest income. According to staff, 70 percent of mothers in the Chile project are single heads of family.

A day with our sponsored elderly
CFCA currently serves 566 aging sponsored friends in subproject D. Most live precariously in houses constructed with nontraditional materials. Some of them rent a room in another familyís home. Only six live in homes for the elderly. The aging sponsored friends receive a $103 monthly subsidy from the Chilean government. However, the money is not enough to cover basic needs such as nutrition and clothing. CFCA provides daily breakfast, lunch and snacks for them at Casa de DÌa, a facility attached to the Valparaiso project office.

Bob serenades the sponsored aging during lunch.

Bob serenades the sponsored aging during lunch.

At the Claretian Sisters facility at El Cerro El Litre, the elderly can attend different kinds of workshops. Every year, the subproject offers a field trip to give them the opportunity to share their talents and stories, and also just to have a fun time.

Testimony of Maria Cena, a 14-year participant in the program: ìMy dream as a girl was to have loving parents, and I achieved it. Iím also grateful for excellent teachers and social workers. At age 80, I now play guitar and sing in our choir.î

Free clinics serve health needs
After sightseeing in Valparaiso, the group visited Consultorio de Salud las CaÒas. Consultorios de Salud are free health clinics created by the Chilean health system to serve the less fortunate. ValparaÌso has 13 consultorios in the hills of the city. About 11,000 people benefit from the services. Not only do these clinics provide medical and dental care to our sponsored children and aging, but they also make CFCA aware of other families that could benefit from the sponsorship program.

Sister Sara at the El Litre CFCA facility devotes herself to the aging and to the most rejected street people of Valparaiso. Their source of warmth at night is the dogs with which they sleep. Relying completely on Godís providence, her team of volunteers provides lunch each day for more than 100 people on the street. She receives donations of food and clothing.

Key programs for women
The training program was created in 1992 to help the mothers of sponsored children learn skills that would allow them to save money and increase the household income. The program holds workshops in tailoring, weaving and hairdressing, and provides supplies, transportation costs and child care for participating mothers. Every year, around 230 mothers benefit from the training program.

The CFCAís Womenís Program was created in 1993 to provide a space for the mothers to be better informed about domestic violence and its impact on their relationship with their children. The program offers workshops on self-esteem, child-mother relationships and formation for all members of the family. Around 200 people per year attend the workshops.

The fishermen and women of La Caleta
La Caleta de Pescadores Portales ValparaÌso is the biggest fishing cove in the region. Approximately 200 families make their living from the fishing activities here. Family fishing is not only a dangerous job, but it also presents big challenges, such as a lack of government assistance, climate changes, high cost of gasoline and overwhelming competition from the commercial fishing industry. Here, fishing is done both with nets and hooks. Some of the sponsored childrenís mothers work in this cove as fishhook baiters.

Don Juan, head of the fishermenís union, explains in Spanish and good English the life and lore of family fishing in Chile.

Don Juan, head of the fishermenís union, explains in Spanish and good English the life and lore of family fishing in Chile.

Indigenous roots
Cabildo, one of the communities served by subproject RUR, earned its name from the indigenous people known as Cabildos. Subproject RUR was created in 2001 to serve the rural communities of the ValparaÌso region. This is the biggest subproject of the ValparaÌso project with 1,258 children and 116 aging. The mid-sized Las Cenizas copper mine in Cabildo is owned by Chilenos who are seriously working on minimizing ecological impact of the mine.

Thank you for joining us in this wonderful experience! Cristina and I are looking forward to a couple of days ìon the farmî in San Lucas before heading for Costa Rica on Nov. 7. We shall be with you in spirit, song and prayer.

Godís blessings,

Bob Hentzen

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

Sep 15 2009

Maria sells newspapers in El Salvador

What kind of job would you do if your life depended on it? Would you dive to the bottom of a river to collect sand? Pound rocks into gravel? Chop sugar cane in the hot sun?

Maria, the mother of two sponsored children, sells newspapers on a busy street corner in Santa Ana, El Salvador, to support her family. She earns $4.50 a day, not enough to cover expenses.

CFCA sponsorship helps fill the gap between what she earns and what she needs not just to survive, but to get ahead. She receives health care and food provisions for her family. Sponsorship support also enables Maria to provide an education for her children in the hope that they can break the cycle of poverty.

That’s why Maria continues to brave rush-hour traffic, blazing heat and pounding rain to sell newspapers.

Related links
Breaking rocks for a living

Sep 9 2009

‘God’s work done in God’s way’

Dear Blog readers,

Greetings from Bhagalpur!

My name is Joachim Hansdak. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to acquaint you of the journey I have been taking to visit families for the last two years. There is wonderful mixture of hardship and thrill in this work, and the work itself is very much fulfilling. It is my pleasure to give you the real stories, photos and other related information.

I have not deliberately avoided writing about hardships in this entry, lest the readers are moved with sympathy, but honestly I can say the eastern half of the project is relatively safe and smooth when traveling. The western half of the project is bit of concern, though to date nothing untoward has happen. But when I read newspapers, I do find some mishaps in these very places and roads I had just crossed. I just believe ìGodís work done in Godís way will never fail,î and perhaps this is the reason I have yet to come across any hardships.

Challenges in reaching out to families
Traveling to the subproject office does not pose much of a problem, but when I visit individual sponsored childrenís family home, it is. Further it also depends on what part of the year one is traveling. May and June are scorching months with temperatures soaring as high as 38 degrees Celcius or 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

small_road bad_road
Some of the roads Joachim must travel can be very narrow and bumpy, which can make traveling difficult and time-consuming.

Most of the villages are situated in rural, hilly and forest area. The path leading to these villages gets narrower and narrower. Majority of sponsored families are living scattered in this forest and hilly areas. So reaching the sponsored familiesí homes is very difficult, difficult in the sense that it is time consuming.

Monsoon commence from mid-June to mid-September. Since the roads are not concrete the motorcycle can get stuck in the loose soil. The families are engaged in cultivation so I avoid visiting for this period of time. Still if urgency is there I visit the family come what may, sometimes I leave my motorcycle in one village and walk to reach the concerned family.

Hospitality is warm as ever, and I forget the tiring journey I have just taken. I get to see elderly people working in the field, double or triple my age. Nothing can be more embarrassing than to say I am tired from the journey. There are some times I donít find them at home because information of my visit failed to reach them. Also, some people do some unskilled jobs, which may happen to be available on the very day I visit, and people cannot resist a handsome wage of Rs 80.00 (US$1.77).

Mode of transport
Most of the visits I have made to the subprojects have been by motorcycle, with occasional walking. But when we travel in group we take our office jeep. Of course there is a big cost difference between journeying by motor cycle and Jeep.

Traveling time
The furthest subproject Chirkee (CKI) is around 264 Kilometers and time taken to reach it is six hours. By the time one reaches there, one will have visited or passed by no less than a dozen subprojects. Motorcycles give one a liberty to choose multiple routes, and that can reduce the cost, but time spent traveling is more or less the same.

Frequency of visit
Apart from urgent visit, on average I visit all the subprojects twice in a year. Apart from my personal visits, I join the team visits also. The subproject staff usually do most of the family visits as and when required.

Safety concern
Without being immodest, on my personal visits, safety has never been a problem. I have grown up with bad roads, rain, thunderstorms, scorching heat, chilling temperatures, traffic jams, noise and pollution. My own family members and others in my village work under these trying condition. As a young boy just few years ago, I had also worked in the field under these very conditions. Yes, I would say I am ill at ease for safety reasons when I have traveled with Ilene (a CFCA-Kansas staff member) or for that matter traveling with mission awareness trip participants. Now that cell phones are operational everywhere, my concerns have eased somewhat. As I noted earlier, the western half of the project continues to be challenging. I make sure that journey is completed before dusk.

In the end, I would like to ask what is a Pilgrimage? Who do I see the in the form of poverty-ridden and needy person? Who do I visit in hospitals? For whom do I devout my time and energy? What is “living oneís faith”? Come and see a piece of heaven created here.

Each new trip taken unfolds a new experience, a new facet like a well-cut diamond: whichever way one views it, there are new colors to behold.


Joachim Hansdak
Bhagalpur field staff

Sep 8 2009

Walk with our staff

By Natasha Sims, blog administrator

Of all the roles I fill at CFCA in the communications department, the one I love the most is overseeing the CFCA blog, which means I plan the stories you read, edit everything and occasionally cajole my co-workers into writing something for the blog.

My goal for every post is to enhance your sponsorship experience (for those of you who are sponsors). For those of you who are not, I hope that each entry is a small window into the CFCA community of compassion. I value each and every one of our readers. These posts are my thanks for reading.

I began working for CFCA when I graduated from college two years ago, and I am continually impressed by this organization. I love the stories of the sponsored individuals who heroically fight poverty each and every day. I cheer for the sponsors when they open their hearts to someone they have never met. And I applaud all our staff members who work diligently every day to serve your friends.

After two years, it still never ceases to amaze me how hard our field staff work. They don’t have “office hours;” they have “every hours.” And I think they deserve our gratitude and admiration for their diligence.

This Labor Day, I want to honor how dedicated these men and women are to serving those living in poverty. This week through the blog, I invite you to walk with them and experience their determination firsthand.

I hope you enjoy the journey.

Learn about their work
God’s work done in God’s way
A day in the life of a CFCA social worker
Notes from the Field – Costa Rica

Sep 1 2009

From Facebook to an ‘about-face’

By Lori Richards, CFCA sponsor

I am a mother raising the last of my five children, Annie, age 14. I was becoming increasingly concerned about Annie’s materialistic viewpoint of life. You parents of teens know the deal: the iPods, the laptops, the cell phones … I wanted Annie to have the opportunity to experience the lifestyle of people less fortunate than she and perhaps open her heart and mind to the idea of service to others. I suggested a mission awareness trip to Guatemala to meet my sponsored child, David.

Annie was very sure she would not care to go. She would miss her hair straightener and Facebook contacts too much, not to mention the horror of having to consent to wearing a few clothes that carried the dreadful label of “appropriate dress.” But I put my parental power to use, booked the trip for the two of us and listened to her moan for the next six weeks.

As it turned out, the trip was more meaningful for her than I had dared to hope. I felt blessed each step of the wayófrom the first moment she met and “clicked” with another teenage girl taking the trip, to the culminating moment when she came to me and said, “Mom, I want to sponsor a child.” Bob Hentzen’s gentle spiritual guidance taught her more about the world than nine years of schooling had. Although she and her new mission awareness trip friends could have chosen to play basketball or use Facebook after a long day, they almost exclusively chose to sit in on Bob’s nightly talks and listen to his songs.

Annie is now in the process of putting together a picture collage of her new sponsored child, 2-year-old Shirley. She is eagerly thinking of ways to earn money to help meet the support payments.

Many things about this trip impressed me, but my daughter’s “about-face” attitude toward helping the less fortunate was an unexpected gift from God, channeled through his devout servants, Bob and his marvelous staff. Thank you, CFCA, for helping to shape the lives of young peopleónot only the lives of your sponsored children, but the lives of the teens who are inspired to serve others after participating in one of your trips.

Experience your own “about-face” by going on a CFCA trip.