May 21 2009

Bob’s notes ó Visit to Venezuela

Mission awareness trip to Venezuela
May 9-16, 2009

Welcome
We can be very proud of the CFCA families and of the staff. When I see how much the families are anxious to see us, to give us a hug, to ask for a blessing for their children, to so generously share with us the fruits of their hard work, I am reminded of the community of the early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles.

Motherís Day in Venezuela
Sunday morning found us at breakfast at the corner panaderia (bakery) in the town of Catia La Mar. CFCA-Venezuela Project Coordinator Sunilde Perez and staff member Yanin Castillo shepherded us well, and made sure we had a chance to get to know the members of our group.

Isabel Alvarez gave her customary fine introduction to Venezuela. Isa speaks with the passion of a well-educated yet ìstill poor Venezuelanîóher auto-description. She speaks of the pros and cons of the current government. One of the challenges she highlights is the strong political and social division within the country.

About the same time Isabel was speaking to our group, President Hugo Chavez made two statements on his weekly TV broadcast. The first is a warning to opposing TV stations and media who ìincite people to war.î They are in danger of being closed down and their broadcast license revoked. The second warning is to certain large land holders in the sugar cane area. He believes that they acquired titles to their land illegally. Therefore, these properties may be subject to nationalization. I cannot help but think of the effects of a similar nationalization program a few years ago in Zimbabwe.

All children, aging accounted for and visited
Iím happy to say that all the sponsors on this trip have been able to visit the families of their sponsored children and aging. They have come to know the staff, and they have learned the context in which their families live. Sponsors have expressed that they sense and admire the basic joy of the families, as well as the loving dedication of the staff.

Symbolic walk
An hour and a half from Barquisimeto, we have 111 children sponsored and two CFCA scholars. The families in this subproject are very united and very dynamic.

Our final day in Barquisimeto began with a symbolic walk, prepared, animated and led by staff member Laura Palma. We sang as we walked. At intermittent stops, sponsors were invited to share their thoughts about the whole mission awareness trip experience. Over and over, I heard the words ìlife changingî.

El Rodeo
Later in the morning, we headed out to the rural area of El Rodeo. Itís always a treat to see the unity of these families.

Maria MejiasThe local coordinator, Maria Mejias, is a loving and capable dynamo, as she travels about the countryside on her vintage bicycle. She and the CFCA staff have motivated and helped 18 mothers to begin raising meat chickens as a livelihood project. Right now they have over 3000 on hand and growing. Among other outlets, these enterprising mothers sell their product to another subproject which offers a nutritious lunch every day to more than 300 sponsored students at Fe y Alegria School (Faith and Happiness). In her excitement of having the sponsors in El Rodeo, Maria got her finger smashed in the door of a pickup. I think sheíll soon forget the pain in the excitement of organizing dances and games and serving a delicious meal of chivo (goat) for this close, CFCA community.

CFCA work groups
The Barquisimeto project has implemented nine commissions with representatives from all subprojects to oversee the delivery of benefits and services to sponsored members. These groups are born from the needs of our sponsored familiesóexpressed in reunions with parents of sponsored children and staff. They cover the following themes: education, nutrition, health, correspondence, finance, fundraising, recreation, sports and culture. I am so very pleased and impressed that mothers of sponsored children are confidently giving the presentations to sponsors on mission awareness trips.

A real CFCA fiesta
The age span was from 99 years to newborn. Mothers, dads, youth, children and staff were involved in the many activities: Holy Mass with special commemoration of the fiftieth wedding anniversary of sponsors Lois and Walt Silvernale, cooking and organizing a nice hot lunch for hundreds, a theatrical production on the history of CFCA, folk dances and songs and visits to families.

May our loving God continue to bless us all in the great adventure of CFCA. Thank you for traveling with us in solidarity and prayer.

Bob Hentzen

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0 thoughts on “Bob’s notes ó Visit to Venezuela”

  1. We have been a sponsor for a child in Venezuela for over nine years now and I have always wanted to visit her. My husband thinks it unsafe in the country. What kind of info. can I give him to make him feel better about me traveling to visit her, if any? Thanks, Leisa Snow :)

    1. Dear Leisa,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We understand that safety is a concern shared by many sponsors who wish to visit their sponsored friends. Be assured that we make every effort to ensure the health and safety of our participants.

      Trip participants are greeted at the airport by local CFCA staff that will remain with the group throughout the trip. All lodging and in-country travel are arranged by CFCA so travelers will not have to take a taxi or stay at an unknown hotel. They will be traveling with local staff that live and work in the area and are intimately aware of any concerns of a particular region. They are the first to take every precautionary measure related to the safety and comfort of the entire group. In addition, the group is welcomed in each community as an honored guest and family member, so they have the whole community looking out for them.

      Of course, there is always some risk when traveling internationally, and we can make no guarantees of safety, but our staff will take every possible precaution to care for the safety of the travelers. CFCA will also cancel or postpone any trip when there is a heightened risk to the safety of our travelers. We are in constant communication with our staff and will readily make changes that benefit the safety and security of our travelers.

      We hope this information helps. If we can be of any other assistance, please feel free to contact Sponsor Services by phone at 1-800-875-6564 or by e-mail at mail@cfcausa.org.

      Sincerely,
      Ashley
      Sponsor Services

  2. Have been to Venezuela two times to visit two sponsored children (2007 & 2008). On the second trip I took my 21 year old daughter – this was an awesome trip for the two of us. We were very disappointed that we couldn’t return for this years trip because my daughter is sponsoring a child on her own now and would like to meet. We felt very safe the entire trip and they have the most amazing staff in Venezuela and hope that we can go back some time soon – would love to bring my teenage son.

  3. I read both comments to my husband and we will keep praying and asking for God’s guidance in this decision. I have an almost l2 year old and an l8 year old also who would greatly benefit from this trip. Thanks for your input :)

  4. Leisa Snow
    i have been traveling to Venezuela for the past 10 years. The first six years on dental mission trips to Barquisimeto and the following 4 years with CFCA.

    I have never felt anything other than safe on these trips. The CFCA staff makes every effort to make the trip an unforgettable experience for every participant. CFCA trips are definitely life changing experiences..

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