Mission Awareness Trip
March 29-April 5, 2008
Words of welcome by Coordinator Minor Esquivel
“We have been looking forward to this moment. The children, the aging and the CFCA staff have been praying for you. We thank God for bringing you safely to our country to visit your CFCA family.”
The Risen Christ
First on the agenda was Holy Mass at El Poro section of San Ramon in the Chapel of San Antonio de Padua. Father Chepe, a native of Panama, has shoulder-length hair and could easily pass as a San Blas or Guatuso Indian. He took the readings from the Acts and St. Peter and handily brought us all into the Costa Rican reality of March 30, 2008. CFCA community promoters in the San Ramon subproject report that 350-400 children, youth and aging, and expectant mothers are able to have a good lunch each school day.
For me, a very sacred encounter took place between sponsor Julie Pringle, one of her seven children, Quincy, their sponsored boy, Yarito, and Yarito’s mother, Elba. Elba was born dirt poor in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and struggled with an abusive husband. One morning, she sent her four children in the back of a neighbor’s pickup to haul drinking water. The irresponsible driver rolled the truck on a dirt road at high speed. Elba’s 13-year-old daughter, Miriam, died on impact. The other four were hurt, including Yarito. The family somehow made it past the ever-present border guards, and headed for the Central Valley of Costa Rica and San Ramon. Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, the mothers Julie and Elba hit if off. Quincy and Yarito hit it off. One could read it in their eyes. Somehow in God’s mercy, the circle was complete; and the Mass was just beginning.
Survival in the most challenging of environments
CFCA is involved in very challenging section of Heredia called Guarari. This is considered a high-risk community because of the high levels of robbery, drug dealing, assaults, sexual abuse, domestic violence, family disintegration, school dropouts and unemployment.
In our visits to sponsored families, I note that the area is intolerably polluted by the black waters of a huge shopping mall located three or four blocks upstream. It would be an understatement to say that the families are struggling. Most of them are immigrants from Nicaragua, forced to try to survive under extremely difficult conditions.
After a bone-chilling bus ride north, we dedicated a nice new classroom in El Pavon. This fine structure was made possible through the dedication of 9-year-old sponsor Emily and her parents, Dawn and Ed. Emily cut the ribbon to the new building with one of their sponsored children, Daniela. How beautiful to see the bonding between these two young girls. Trip participants were impacted by the difference between this nice new facility and the former make-do classroom. According to CFCA staff, the Los Chiles area near the Nicaraguan border has been seriously neglected. Our visits to homes here speak of extreme poverty. Work harvesting oranges, pineapple or sugarcane lasts scarcely four months.
Back in San Jose
We spent the day at a nice park with the sponsored children, parents, staff and U.S. student volunteer translators, mixing games, music, dancing, good food and a beautiful blue sky.
What a joy to see our own sponsored little girl, 4-year-old Cristina (Cri Cri), and to see her walking. Three years ago, doctors said she would probably not survive six months. Cristina and I sponsored her anyway. With God’s grace and the loving care of the Sisters, this little fighter is defying all the odds.
Dancing in the streets
Hundreds of people received us in the street of this challenging neighborhood. Vicenta, at age 32, has seen a lot of life—two boys, one little girl and a husband long gone. They’re literally dirt poor in a drainage area where things stay humid. Very early each morning, Vicenta climbs the embankment with her baskets and treks to market to buy vegetables for resale in the neighborhood. During coffee harvest, she and the children travel to one of the farms after school to pick coffee.
Following the family visits, we gathered at the CFCA center in Alajuelita to see handicrafts and foods produced by the mothers and elderly, and in the presence of the sponsored elderly Queen and King of the fiesta, we accompanied the elderly, the children and youth in dancing. My one step fits all.
We live in gratitude
Thank you for being with us on this journey. We live in gratitude for your solidarity and prayers.
CFCA Costa Rica