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

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0 thoughts on “Bob’s notes – visit to Bolivia”

  1. Comments about La Paz and Cochabamba brought back memories of my visit to these cities during a trip to Bolivia in 1992. I got to know some Oblate seminarians “brimming with potential.” How good it felt to stand at their side!

  2. My wife, Jane, and I were two of the lucky ones to have accompanied Bob on this Bolivian mission awareness trip.
    We were absolutely awed by the beautiful spirit of the sponsored kids and their families, who wanted nothing more than to shake the hand or give a hug to the people who represent all of you who sponsor the thousands who are served in Bolivia. You’ve got to go on this trip…….as your brother and sister in the CFCA family, we could wish nothing better for you, or them.

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