Dec 27 2010

Walk2gether: Visiting the ‘Saints of Lima’

Catherine QuirogaCatherine Quiroga, CFCA director of information services, sent us this reflection from Peru. She has safely returned to the U.S. after joining Walk2gether, which continues in Peru.

From ìHeroes/Saints of the Walkî to ìSaints of LimaîÖ. The hijas de la misericordia (Sisters of Mercy) who run the residence home for girls are my No. 1 candidates.

The love and loving discipline they lavish on these girls are evident in how wholesome, happy and loving the girls are. The girls learn not just school subjects but life lessons ñ how to cook, clean and take care of each other.

The mother superior was here from Chile. She frequently served us and quietly cleared the table. Her attitude of gentle service and compassion is shown in each of the sisters.

One stood out among the others (although she probably wouldnít want to) ñ Hermana (or rather Madre) Cristina. As Bob (CFCA President Bob Hentzen) said, her spirit permeates this place ñ her joyful spirit and openness. Ö I believe those closest to God are full of joy. Over the last few days we have walked with God through these precious sisters.

Weíre sad to leave but onward we go ñ step by step.

Day one
Walked into Lima today Ö More than 80 people were ready to walk at 3:30 a.m..

Walk2gether in Peru

The Walk2gether team continues through Peru.

Ö. It was a challenge keeping this group secure along the road, but they started dropping out at the end of the first 5K, catching buses to return home. At 15K most were done ñ leaving us with about 12 girls from the residence home and the core group as we neared the center of Lima.

I was tracking our speed on my Garmin GPS ñ doing 1 km (about 0.6 mile) in less than 13 minutes. Ö

By now, my feet were ready to stop. I am so glad Bob had cut back to 35 km/day (more than 21 miles per day).

After an hour passed, I thought maybe Israel (our support vehicle driver) missed seeing the marker. We kept moving. Finally we came to a different style of marking ñ it said CFCA.

Turns out the police saw where the original marker was and decided it was too dangerous for us to stop there so they removed it. Ö Bob estimates we probably did more than 40 km (about 25 miles) with all the side roads, highway crossings and the additional km ñ all before lunch.

Day two

Girls from the residence home arrived mid-morning along with Hermana Cristina and a newly ordained priest friend of hers. We eventually left Lima.

At 30K, we stopped at a nice highway rest stop ñ gasoline station/eating places fairly similar to those in the U.S. Ö

After lunch and the final 5K, we bid the girls farewell ñ from here on, it will probably just be the core group.

A child from Peru

A child dressed in Peruvian clothing

Days three and four

We walked past the beaches south of Lima. Almost everyone took the opportunity to sit and watch the ocean.

As we get farther south of Lima you see the wealthier side of Peru ñ motocross bike paths on the hillsides, more personal cars on the road.

The farther we go the more money is evident Ö signs for beach condos, a golf course, etcÖ This is a very picturesque country.

Day five

Yesterday was filled with activities by the CFCA communities. Many displayed their livelihood projects.

Then they had a program for us ñ scheduled to last three hours but took about five. Even the seminarians prepared songs to share.

Ö.After many dances, speeches and songs, they had the grand finale. A ìmotoî had driven onto the back half of the field with lots of bamboo-type stuff. They proceeded to build a structure ñ dedicated to CFCA. Once everything was over they told the parents to keep their children under control and proceeded to start up fireworks that had been wired into the structure Ö Amazing and beautiful Ö

Take care,
Catherine

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Oct 27 2010

CFCA staff from different countries visit Kansas City headquarters

Itís interesting to read what visitors on CFCA mission awareness trips have to say about the countries they visit, but what impresses people who visit the U.S.?

Last week, six accountants from Latin America projects ó four from Guatemala, one from El Salvador and one from Colombia ó visited the CFCA headquarters in Kansas to learn a new accounting system. They account for the sponsorship funds and their use in the field, then make their report back to Kansas City. We asked our guests what impressed them most during the visit.

CFCA accountants from Latin America

From left are Francisco Chavajay, Mario Gonzalez, Pedro Ibate, Alexandra Cardona Gomez, JosÈ Alfredo Julajuj and JosÈ Nery Madrid.

Hereís what they said …

ìIt is a blessing to be here learning new ways of working, and it fills me with happiness. Definitively, looking at the culture, I see lots of organization. I also noticed much cultural diversity. I have seen people from many different countries here in Kansas.î

óPedro Ibate, Atitlan project, Guatemala

ìThis is a very orderly country. I could see different kinds of construction that I havenít seen in my country. You donít have buses or transport trucks, like we have in Guatemala. Here, everybody has their own car. And there are lots of people on the streets, people out exercising, lots of green space. The people are very friendly.î

óJosÈ Alfredo Julajuj, Hermano Pedro project, Guatemala

Read more from the other accountants

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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?

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Oct 19 2010

Fox 4 KC features CFCA and Walk2gether

CFCA president and co-founder Bob Hentzen was featured Monday night in a Fox 4 KC segment about CFCA and Walk2gether.

Fox 4 KC news (WDAF)

In its report, called “Metro Man Walks to Fight Poverty,” the news station WDAF highlighted Bob’s walk and explained CFCA’s role in serving those who are living in poverty.

Watch the video: http://www.fox4kc.com/videobeta/071f549c-024b-48ef-be7c-dc32e65b843d/News/Metro-Man-Walks-to-Fight-Poverty

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Oct 11 2010

Sponsorship legacy passes from mother to daughter

We enjoy hearing from sponsors about their mission awareness trips, and this story especially moved us. Mari Wrightís mother started sponsoring Andrea in Honduras when Andrea was only 2 years old. She never visited Andrea, but wrote to her regularly. Mari decided to continue the sponsorship after her mother died in 2003. This year, Mari visited Andrea for the first time and discovered a precious letter that her mother had written back in 1999. Mari recounts her experiences in the following post.

This summer I was so fortunate to be able to go on a mission awareness trip to Honduras, my first time to visit any CFCA project. I went to meet Andrea, the child I have been sponsoring since 2003.

Andrea and Mari

Andrea, second from left, and Mari, second from right, celebrate at a CFCA birthday party for sponsored friends.

The way I became a sponsor is a story worth telling. In 1998 a devastating hurricane killed many people and did horrendous damage to the small country of Honduras.

My mother, a devout Roman Catholic and resident of Kansas, heard about CFCAís work to help the people there. She wanted to contribute and decided to sponsor a child.

Andrea was then 2 years old. Every year when a photograph came, Mom would show it to me, along with letters written by Andreaís mother.

When my mother died in 2003, I decided to continue the sponsorship.

Before long Andrea learned to write letters, herself. She often would ask me if I could ever come to meet her. Finally this past summer I was able to do so.

From the moment my plane landed in Honduras I felt my motherís blessings close around me. The CFCA project leader, who met me at the airport, exclaimed, ìYou are going to be able to see your child three times, the most of anyone on this trip!î

Our first meeting was at the whole-day celebration held for visiting sponsors, the children and parents ó held at a water park not far from the airport and our hotel.

We spent a wonderful, relaxed day playing and getting to know one another.

When our group went to Andreaís home a few days later, she showed me a letter she had received in 1999 from my mother in Momís own beautiful handwriting.

They had kept the letter and treasured it all the years.

I think all of us had tears in our eyes as I read aloud the sweet message.

Stacy, a representative from the CFCA office in Kansas City, was with us that afternoon and urged me to write this story.

The next day I was in a group of sponsors attending a typical CFCA birthday party for all the children whose birthdays were in that three-month period.

Since Andreaís brother was one of them, she was invited to come too. We sat together and talked in a more easygoing manner as our friendship grew.

Then when it was time for the children to go, there wasnít room on the bus for all of them, so Andrea and her brother were allowed to stay.

One of the CFCA staff drove them home later after finishing the cleanup. That meant I got to spend even more time with her. I was so lucky! I felt I really got to know her and her family.

Andrea and her mother

Andrea and her mother meet Mari.

All the activities planned for us during the trip made plain how much our small monthly contributions are valued by the recipient families.

The very hard-working staff of the CFCA project ó all residents of the area and citizens of Honduras ó are a true inspiration. They create the incredible effectiveness of the program.

Andreaís project leader, has known her family over the many years that he has worked with CFCA.

Even though he is responsible for hundreds of children and their families, he remembers the histories and details of each one. He treated her and her brother with such care. And he welcomed me warmly into their community.

I have been tremendously enriched by this experience. I truly feel that I have a goddaughter now in Honduras.

Thanks, Mom!

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Oct 7 2010

ëMagic belt’ makes Ecuador walkerís pain disappear

Bill Hansen, accounting manager at CFCA in Kansas City, joined Bob and the walkers in Ecuador during Aug. 15-21. An avid runner, Bill had every intention of completing the route without incident, but had a surprising setback at the end of the week.

Bob Hentzen and Bill Hansen

Bob Hentzen, left, and Bill Hansen, center, continue along Walk2gether with their “magic belts.”

I joined the walk in Quito. Just outside Quito, we crossed the equator and had about a 6-to-7-mile uphill walk.

The terrain got steeper as we approached the top. On the other side of the mountains, we saw trees and mountains. It reminded me a lot of the Missouri Ozarks.

For the next two days, we walked through the Andes and fortunately, it was all downhill.

We saw cows. I donít know how they would get on top of these mountains, grazing, or how they would get down, but it reminded me a lot of Switzerland.

For two days, we didnít see any houses or any people. We saw traffic, of course.

When we arrived at the bottom of that mountain range, we entered the Ecuadorian rain forest. I saw a lot of palm trees, banana trees and coffee plants.

Thatís when we started seeing people. We saw poverty, too. We were walking seven 5K segments, or about 21 miles a day.

On Friday, we came to a community called Porto de Quito where we started walking uphill into the Ecuadorian pineapple growing range. Thatís when I had the experience with my back.

Iíve been running for about five years and I have never had any problem with my back. Everyone told me to watch out for blisters.

I was watching my feet, wiping them off, putting lotion on them, changing socks and I had no problems at all. I was in good shape and feeling good.

When I first felt the pain in my back, I thought I could walk it off. Sometimes when youíre running, you get a cramp in your muscle.

You run through it and it goes away. But this wasnít going away. By noon on Friday, my back had had it.

Magic belts

During a rest period, I was waiting in the van, discouraged and very depressed.

When I started planning my participation in the walk last February, it never dawned on me that I wouldnít be able to do the whole week. My back has never bothered me.

I prayed and told God how I felt.

ìWhy did you bring me this far just to stop it here?î I asked.

Bob came out of the camper to start the walk again. I knew at that point I wouldnít be able to go any farther.

Before I could say anything, Bob came up to me and asked, ìHow are you feeling?î

ìMy backís had it,î I said. ìIím really, really sorry.î

ìWait a minute,î Bob said.

He went into his camper. That was really strange because when Bob gets out of his camper to go again, he doesnít stop for anything. I knew something was up.

He brought out this back belt with two straps that go around your shoulders and an elastic band that goes around your midsection.

You tighten the elastic band around your midsection and it feels like somebody is pushing up on the small of your back.

The minute I put it on, it was instant relief. I didnít feel the pain at all. It completely went away.

We started walking, and I thought, ìWow! This is great.î It was the key.

I walked all day Friday and all day Saturday. I wore the belt both days and had no problems whatsoever. I would not have been able to finish the walk without that belt.

Some people call it the ìmagic belt.î It really is a magic belt. I was able to finish the whole week. It was an answer to prayer.

Bob Hentzen comments:

I believe the magic part of the belt is the fact that it was given to me as a gift in love and concern by our CFCA co-workers in Ocotepeque, Honduras.

Experience has taught me that on these daily long treks, one’s back can suffer from the constant muscular effort made in the same direction.

I have found two solutions: change one’s stride on a regular basis, and use some kind of support for the lower back. This is what I believe helped Peter (Ndungo, Nairobi, Kenya, project coordinator) and Bill.

It also helped Maria Mejias from Venezuela, and presently it is being used by Don Juan, a 61-year-old walker from Peru.

There are two belts. One I use, and the other magically finds its way to whoever needs it.

Greetings to all.

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Oct 6 2010

El Salvadoran man, 103, explains how to live a long life

In honor of International Day of the Elderly, weíre featuring Federico Antonio, a sponsored 103-year-old in El Salvador. He lives in a Catholic home for the aged. His sponsorship benefits are given to the home, and the sisters provide him with food and other supplies. Read on to learn why heís lived so long!

Federico Antonio

Federico Antonio, a sponsored 103-year-old in El Salvador.

What is your name? Federico Antonio.

How was your childhood? My childhood was humble. I did not have much upbringing, no education. I didn’t study. I had lots of difficulties. I was poor, and that is what I most regret.

Were you raised by your mother and father? Only by my mother. My father died when I was an infant.

Were you the oldest? No. I was the youngest. I am 103. My mother died at 105.

What year were you born? 1907.

Did you marry? No, I did not marry at all.

Do you have children? No, I don’t have children.

Why didn’t you marry? I didn’t have the means. Before, you paid 30 colones (6 U.S. cents) to get married. Imagine. And after that, you still had to eat, get a house and all the other things. Others can suffer, but me, no. If I am poor, I will suffer alone. But I had a girlfriend who told me, “Let’s get married.” But I always told her, no. Her name was Emilia and she was very pretty. But I didn’t want to marry, even though I intended to earn something to take care of her, but I wasn’t able to. I planted corn fields, but I couldn’t earn anything because the soil wasn’t good for corn. So, I learned to make bread and intended to get married at age 28, but I couldn’t.

In your youth, what work did you do? I was a day laborer. I cleared fields with a machete. I cleared coffee fields with a machete. The military accepted me. I learned to cut poles.

Did you live alone or with your siblings and mother? We lived together, with my mother, until she died.

Did your siblings play with you? Yes, we played and they beat me up and wrestled with me. I had to climb a tree to get away from them.

Read more about Federico Antonio’s story

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