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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Oct 4 2010

Nicaraguan zoo hosts sponsors, their friends

Bill Jasman, a CFCA sponsor and volunteer, reflects on a recent mission awareness trip to Nicaragua where sponsors accompanied their friends to the zoo.

Day 1
As we begin our travels from North America to Nicaragua, we are each making a separate but joint pilgrimage as we visit our sponsored friends. God bless all the little ones who are visited by their sponsors this week.

Jean Davis and Orlando at the Nicaraguan zoo

Jean Davis and her sponsored child, Orlando, visit the Nicaraguan National Zoo.

Day 2
We traveled to the mountain city of San Lorenzo to attend Sunday Mass with the sponsored members and their parents. Father honored CFCA with an award for improving the community, as well as presenting an honor from the mayor for the same reason. We had a great lunch with a cultural presentation followed by a visit. Some of us traveled the 2-kilometer hill on horses, while others took a truck to the top. Once we were gathered, a storm system trapped us inside a small community chapel for an hour. We had to leave without visiting a home, but the families welcomed us just the same.

Day 3
The sponsors made their way to Managua. These sponsored children come from families struggling to find constant work. One of the highlights of this visit was the home of sponsor William Patterson, who donated a home to a large family and sponsors nine people from one family. He believes this second family has given him a special blessing in his life. When we got back to our retreat house, we were greeted by the sponsored members.

Day 4
This is the special day of the trip: the sponsors accompany their friends to the Nicaraguan National Zoo. This zoo has a great collection of animals. The sponsored members learned about species from Central and South America. The butterfly house was very special. Afterward the sponsored members and their sponsors were treated to the pool and more time together. After we got back, gifts were exchanged. The sponsored members also demonstrated their talents in a talent show.

Day 5
We said goodbye to our sponsored friends in the morning and moved on to El Sauce. This city is far to the northwest of Leon. We were welcomed to the community by the CFCA families. Sponsored members celebrated in song and dance, and then we participated in a great birthday celebration. A sponsored memberís father played a very energetic clown who hosted the birthday party. Sponsors also got a lesson on the history of the organization.

Day 6
After a good nightís rest in Leon City, we visited the CFCA office there and learned more about the CFCA operation. The sponsored students put on a great cultural presentation, including a play that demonstrated what happens when a family gets sponsorship benefits. We visited the homes of sponsored friends and went to the Pacific Ocean. After a long ride back to the retreat center, we learned about Bob Hentzenís 8,000-mile walk and another subproject in Nicaragua.

Day 7
Today is our last day of visiting projects. One subproject hosted a farewell Mass and cultural display. We made our final visit to sponsored homes where artisans craft goods for the Masaya Mercado (market). Two sponsors got to travel to their childrenís homes. We were offered goods at 20 percent of the Mercadoís price. We all tried to help the families by buying goods directly from them. We then went to the Mercado to close the trip and put money into the economy. We held a closing meeting where we addressed what to do when we go home.

Hasta luego, Nicaragua.

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Sep 15 2010

Teaching hope to oneís children

Jesly and Laura

Jesly meets Laura, her sponsor, in Nicaragua.

One of our sponsors, Laura, discusses a recent trip with her daughter to Nicaragua, her home country, to visit their sponsored friend.

My name is Laura and I was born in the beautiful country of Nicaragua. I have the great pleasure of sponsoring a child from my home country; her name is Jesly and she is 6 years old. Recently, I traveled to Nicaragua to see my family and took the opportunity to schedule a visit to meet Jesly. The main goals for my visit were not just to meet Jesly but also to introduce my 5-year-old daughter Julia to the gratifying experience of helping others in need.

Jesly lives in a town called Esteli, which is about a three-hour drive from the capital of Managua where my family lives. When we arrived at the Managua project, my daughter, my brother and I decided to drive ourselves accompanied by a CFCA guide. We drove for a long while, passing through green valleys and mountains, and a couple of rain showers! I think I saw more of my country that day than I had in years!

When we reached Esteli we were met by the local CFCA coordinator. By this time the rain was pouring and when we pulled up to Jeslyís home, currents of mud were everywhere. I found Jesly, her mom Belky, and her little brother Jonathan waiting for us. I found Jesly to be a sweet, shy and beautiful little girl. I was so glad that I had brought my daughter to meet her. The humble home and surroundings made me reflect on the plight of so many people in Nicaragua and around the world. I was told of how CFCA provides assistance to families in need and Jeslyís family in particular.

Jesly and Julia

Jesly meets Julia, Laura’s daughter.

I was able to give Jesly a few toys and some clothing that I had brought for her. In no time, she and my daughter were playing with the dolls we had just ripped out of their packages! It warmed my heart to see how two little girls from different backgrounds could be brought together with the simple and universal act of playing with dolls.

When I was back at my parentsí home, I reflected on the dayís events. I was so thankful for the opportunity to meet Jesly and especially for being able to share the experience with my daughter. I spoke to Julia about the importance of helping those in need; that there are many people who need assistance and that a lot of them are kids just like her. I pray that this experience will stay with her as she grows up and that she recognizes how blessed we are in our family with everything that the Lord has provided for us.

I would like to thank CFCA for making this journey possible.

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Sep 10 2010

Welcome to our new website

What do you think of our new website? Our redesign has given it a more updated look, with interactive features and more stories from the field. We invite you to explore it and share it with your friends.

Weíve made your online experience easier to navigate. One of our highlights involves our work, with an interactive map of all the countries CFCA is reaching. You can view photos, videos and stories from around the world.

To keep up-to-date, explore whatís happening. Peruse the latest news and stories, read our blog, view upcoming events and find out how you can meet your sponsored friend on a mission awareness trip. Learn about special events and activities here, with Walk2gether updates, reports on the Zamboanga documentary and more.

Welcome to our new site!

Tell us what you think of our new site!

Details on how to get involved explain ways you can help spread the word about CFCA and participate in our work. View profiles of children, youth and aging friends waiting for sponsorship. Donate to one of our special funds or make a donation in memory of, or to honor, someone special. Finally, learn how you can get involved in CFCA outreach activities in your community.

We included youth resources on the tell others page, another new feature. Anyone interested in teaching young people about global solidarity can check out our quarterly eLessons and curricula. We also encourage you to subscribe to our monthly eNews and other communications to stay connected.

We have a brand new section where you can explore planned giving options. Learn about the latest options for immediate or future giving, including estate gifts, charitable annuities and donations of stocks, bonds and real estate. Create a personalized illustration using the gift planning calculator, and research tools and options using our resource library.

The why sponsor? section helps people who are considering sponsorship learn more about our program, how it works, and its transformative effect. It also highlights reviews about CFCA from others ó charity rating agencies, other sponsors, people who have been on mission awareness trips and more. We invite you to share your own history with CFCA on your blog or website.

Near the top right is a special section for our sponsors, where you can pay your sponsorship, find tips on how to write your sponsored friend, read frequently asked questions and learn how to get more involved with CFCA. We are working on a log-in section that will let you view information about your sponsored friend, see your payment history and manage your account.

The website has been a great tool in raising awareness about CFCA, and weíre excited about this opportunity to provide better service and information to those interested in our work. We hope you enjoy using it, and let us know in your comments what you think.

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Aug 25 2010

Peace through Costa Rica

Bob Hentzen and other Walk2gether participants walk through Costa Rica.

Update: This reflection is from Rafael “Rafa” Villalobos, San Jose project coordinator, written after Walk2gether passed through Costa Rica earlier this year. The walkers have entered Ecuador and expect to be there until Sept. 14.

“Peace is passing through Costa Rica”
A Costa Rican radio station gave this title to Walk2gether. We have been waiting for it with much faith, love and hope.

Day 1

At 6 a.m., 250 families, representing all sponsored families in Costa Rica, were waiting for Walk2getherís arrival. As we waited, songs were heard: ìCome, a new day is here and amidst challenges and happiness, CFCA is growing.î ìMy heart, your heart, become one when we walk.î School bands, flags from Latin America, big banners with messages, all awaited the moment.

The walkers crossed into Costa Rica three hours later to cheers, applause, songs, prayers and hugs. A sublime moment came when Bob (CFCA president and co-founder Bob Hentzen) and his wife, Cristina, knelt and kissed the land. This was a symbol of deep love for our country and our CFCA families. We are stepping on holy land, the land of the poor who are the face of God. This land is blessed.

Bob gave words of gratitude and reminded us of the meaning of Walk2gether: ìI want to be close to the families. We walk for the most in need.î Cristina offered her love to the families and encouraged them to continue despite daily burdens. There were 15 other walkers from Guatemala and the Philippines.

We walked five kilometers from the border, PeÒas Blancas, to the Las Vueltas River. In front of us a big banner said, ìCFCA, 12,500 kilometers, bringing hope.î

Day 2

We began at 4 a.m. with a prayer asking for blessings upon our route. The heat intensified, and we rested often. This was a great opportunity for teachable moments with Bob, to share our experiences, difficulties and achievements.

Brother Jorge, CFCA Hermano Pedro project coordinator in Guatemala, shared the meaning of the CFCA logo. Later, we heard the testimony of Jafet, a scholarship student. He thanked CFCA for the outreach he received from the Costa Rica team.

Day 3

We walked from the community of Santa Rosa to the community of Liberia. Bob spoke with the youth walking with us. The teens commented on their worry of drugs, violence and lack of job opportunities. Marvis, a CFCA social worker, shared about the importance of strengthening family values.

Families from the community of Liberia came to greet the pilgrims, singing and showing beautiful banners with messages of hope and gratitude for CFCA, Bob and Cristina.

Day 4

The route planned was to walk 40 kilometers from Liberia to the Bagaces community. At kilometer 10, we had breakfast at the community of Pijije. This community has donated a piece of land for a CFCA office. Bob and Cristina inaugurated the construction of a CFCA center for sponsored members and their families. A few trees were planted as signs that we are called to offer life, love and strength.

Later, we arrived at the gym of the community of Bagaces. Some 400 people welcomed the pilgrims.

We also blessed the house built for one of the CFCA families. It was built by a group of North American students from the Saint Anselmo school (St Anselm’s College from New Hampshire) and members of the CFCA team.

March 5

We rested near the Miravalles Volcano, surrounded by spectacular views and thermal waters. Bob and Cristinaís family, Jake and Cesar, their wives and grandchildren, as well as one sponsor, joined us today.

One song has tried to gather the spirit of this pilgrimage.

Walking we make borders disappear,
We all become one on earth
One voice where hunger, cold and fear unite
And your burdens become mine
And your loneliness becomes my pain

They mix like the soil and our steps
Dignity, hope become one flag for Latin America

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Aug 18 2010

Kenyan project coordinator joins Walk2gether in Ecuador

Peter Ndungo during Walk2getherPeter Ndungo is the general coordinator for CFCA projects in Kenya. He spent a week walking through northern Ecuador and reflects on his Walk2gether experience.

I have always aspired to work with the less privileged in society. I get a lot of inspiration from working with the beneficiaries and staff members.

I was very much excited to be coming on the walk. I always look forward to learning something new. In each and every project there are good practices, and I was able to learn so many new things to take back to Nairobi to make our project stronger.

It is so beautiful in Ecuador, and walking with these people and seeing how they live was a great experience for me. I grew up in a small village in Kenya and helped my father with our coffee plants from a very young age. We would wake up early to harvest coffee. I know the challenges that families living in the farming communities in Ecuador face.

There is so much potential in these families. It was a big lesson for me to see their energy and see how important they are in this movement. The sponsored members and their families helped us get through the miles by walking with us. It showed me how interdependent our mission is and that our community is growing even stronger each day with this walk.

On the walk, I started out well, but along the way things got very tough. I was only able to make it 20 kilometers out of the 35 kilometers my first day. It is a lesson, though, to see the families that came out to walk with us cover these distances, and we should not take their strength for granted.

It is an inspiration that these families are able to overcome so much. We just need to help them along their path. It is not easy work helping these families, and the walk is a symbol of this effort.

The walk is very challenging. We have to cover long distances. The pain in our legs and muscles can be translated to the pain these families experience. But like them, we just have to keep going and keep walking with them.

One of my favorite parts of the walk was interacting with the families. Singing and dancing is very integrated into society in Africa. Many of the youth walking with us were shy at first, but they were very eager to learn from me when I started a song or dance. And when you are having fun, the kilometers go by much faster.

Getting to spend time with Bob Hentzen (CFCA president and co-founder) on the walk was also a great experience. Bob is superhuman. Every time you are around Bob you get inspiration. When you see somebody that age (74) walking all that distance, and here I am a young energetic person who couldnít walk the whole way for just one week. He is a great example of how we can focus our energy.

CFCAís invitation for us to join the walk to help our brothers and sisters in South America is a good message. It was amazing to learn from one another and spend time with the people who have been on this journey.

People around the world need to know there are many people struggling and in need of help. I am proud to have been a part of this walk and to help spread the message that there is hope for these families.

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Aug 17 2010

Walk2gether moves from Colombia to Ecuador

Walk2gether in Colombia

Walk2gether has left Colombia and entered Ecuador, after covering a distance of 5,043 kilometers and walking through seven countries.

Judith Bautista, right, coordinator in CFCAís Bogota project, and Bertha Duran, left, coordinator in the Cali project, both in Colombia, reflect on their experiences with Walk2gether in their country.

Judith Bautista: Walking with the flag of CFCA

After walking almost two months in the company of the sponsored members and their families, throughout all the CFCA projects and its communities, Walk2gether left Colombia to enter Ecuador. This has been a very special experience; it has represented great benefits for all of us staff members in Colombia, and it has helped to unify the teams and projects of CFCA in Colombia.

The unity that we have developed among staff members and sponsored families is stronger than before. We are called to work harder toward the empowerment of the families and mothers, which directly enhances the creation of communities of compassion in our projects.

We witness how people came out to greet us, to offer us their best wishes, to bless us, and for me, this is walking with the flag of CFCA, which is the flag of Hope for a Family.

Ending Walk2gether in Colombia is a bittersweet moment, full of mixed feelings, because we have been so happy and received so much inspiration in this walk. But we are sad because we are not going to continue physically walking.

Bertha Duran: The beginning of a new vision

This walk has been exciting and rewarding. It has made all of us involved in CFCA proud that we were able to carry such a huge and strong mission. It is a great feeling to know that we were able to comply with the sacrifice made by staff, families and sponsored members while walking in Colombia.

This walk taught us very much about teamwork, solidarity, respect and hard work, but the most important thing that we learned is that in spite of feeling tired, hungry and thirsty, we need to continue with strong steps toward the completion of our hopes of a better world.

We had many teenagers, both sponsored youth and scholarship students, walking. This experience has helped them to restructure their own goals in life, realizing that it is worthwhile to fight for opportunities and their dreams.

This walk has offered our sponsored members and their families a sense of a new beginning, where there has been a before and after in their lives, a breath of hope and the call to live in solidarity, respect and unity as a family.

This is not the end of the walk; this is the beginning of a new vision that reminds the sponsored members and their families that we believe in them, that they are worthy and that we want to see them reaching their hopes and dreams out of poverty.

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