Paula Kiger is a CFCA sponsor and blogger at www.biggreenpen.com. For International Women’s Day, she sent us this blog post about her mission awareness trip to Guatemala last year.
Thirty-eight people and I participated in a mission awareness trip to Guatemala in July 2011.
On our first full day in Guatemala, we traveled to the CFCA center in San Lucas (about a two-hour drive).
On the way, we stopped in Ciudad Vieja to get acquainted with the people who are served by the CFCA office there.
The people at that office went out of their way to give us a big welcome. There were songs, dances, presentations by project participants, and lunch.
At each of the places we visited, we were given mementoes of the visit.
At Ciudad Vieja, we were given samples of the candy that many of the mothers of sponsored children have learned to make and sell to tourists. This project allows them to provide for their families and to learn a marketable skill.
We also heard from the mothers who do “ribbon embroidery,” also to be sold in Antigua, one of the main tourist destinations in Guatemala. Read more
Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day. As we celebrate this day, we recognize women around the world who are leading their families and communities as they pursue a full and meaningful life.
Read these inspiring stories about women who have been helped through CFCA and are returning that help:
She should have been one of the 60-plus percent of Guatemalan youth who drop out of school by the sixth grade.
But Maria Cristina is unique. This is even more significant given that she is a woman and a member of the indigenous population in Guatemala.
With the support of other mothers in the program, Farida gradually recovered her self-esteem. She†learned to sew and tailor clothing through a class at the CFCA resource center.
Farida now gives back to her community. She adopted an orphaned street child, cared for him and enabled him to attend school. She runs a sewing business and is building a home for her family.
In 2009, eight of the women officially formed a new mothers group. They called themselves ìCreaciones la BendiciÛn,î or ìBlessed Creations.î
The women borrowed $1,800 for one year from CFCA to purchase fabric and an industrial sewing machine. They have sewed more than 11,000 T-shirts for Walk2gether, CFCA President Bob Hentzen’s 8,000-mile trek through Latin America.
Q. When should I send a Christmas greeting to my sponsored friend?
A. If you would like to send your friend a Christmas greeting, we recommend sending your greeting card early because mail can be slow during the holiday season. It usually takes six to eight weeks for a letter to arrive at the project.
Although Christmas is a time for giving in the U.S., sending a gift to your friend overseas is problematic.
Packages can accrue customs fees in your friendís country, and items can be lost or stolen in the mail. Instead of a package, we encourage you to send a letter or card. Your friend will be thrilled to hear from you.
(You can also send an eLetter once you’re logged in to your online sponsorship account!)
In addition, please consider donating to the CFCA Christmas Fund. Your donation is used by your friendís project to plan culturally appropriate celebrations and provide practical and fun gifts for every child and aging member, so no one is left out. Family members often participate.
Sponsored members know that these celebrations and gifts are made possible by the sponsors. Plus, your donation benefits your friendís community because party supplies and Christmas gifts are purchased from local vendors or CFCA livelihood projects.
Today is International Women’s Day. We celebrate the accomplishments of all women and look with hope toward a future of equality and empowerment. On this occasion, it is fitting to share the story of Maria Cristina, a former sponsored child who graduated as a doctor and surgeon in 2010.
Such a profession seemed impossible for a girl from a poor household in Guatemala, but Maria Cristina persevered with the support of her family and her sponsors of 17 years, Mary Anne and Marshall.
Her faith in her abilities and in the constancy of God’s help was unwavering. This faith continued even when she failed the first two years of classes and had to repeat them.
“What is important is to have faith and to take advantage of all opportunities that may come your way,” she said. “Fill yourself with good intentions, have courage and be decisive, listen to good advice and rub shoulders with people who are optimists. Faith is something in which, without seeing, we believe. And if we believe in achieving something, we will.”
Lord, bless women everywhere. We pray especially for all those mothers, grandmothers and sisters who work to care for family members in need while forging their own paths in life. May their loving hearts and nurturing spirits be blessed with strength and joy. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.
CFCA Prayer Team
This is from our weekly ePrayer. Sign up to receive Prayer Partners in your inbox.
By Janet Tinsley, project director, Africa region
On a sunny day in the informal settlement of Kibera in Nairobi, the Vision Mothers group members file into a small courtyard in front of one of their memberís homes for their monthly meeting. The 30 women and one man, all wearing the same cloth wrapped around their waists, heads or shoulders, find seats on benches in the shady areas of the courtyard and open the meeting.
About two years ago, the Nairobi project team introduced the idea of mothers groups to the mothers of the Kibera subproject and asked them to begin forming groups and register with the local government. The project staff intentionally left these responsibilities in the hands of the mothers, insisting that they choose for themselves which group they would join, raise the funds for registration (around $20), and complete the registration process before asking the project for further support.
At the Nairobi project, the mothers group model operates from the basic belief that mothers are capable, resourceful people.
“We realized that whenever we called a parent meeting, it was the mothers who showed up,” Peter Ndungo, Nairobi project coordinator, said. “In our culture, the mothers are the ones [who are] most concerned with the well-being of children, so it made the most sense to work with them.”
At todayís meeting, the topic for discussion was finding a space to rent for their shoemaking business. Earlier this year, the group started learning to make and sell shoes as a way to add to their group loan fund.
The Vision Mothers came up with the unique idea for the shoemaking business through trial and error. Their original idea was to start a trash removal service in their community, but they soon realized that there were already many other groups doing this.
“We didnít want conflict with the other groups, so we decided to change our business idea,” the group chairperson explains.
Shoemaking, a craft that is typically dominated by men in Kenya, is a nontraditional endeavor for the women. Nonetheless, the Vision Mothers saw shoemaking as an opportunity to make good profits and provide a much needed commodity for their community, but CFCA families are only some of the many customers they hope to serve in Kibera.
With the sale of their first batch of shoes, the group made a profit of about $130, and in the future, they hope to use the profits to start a resource and training center that would include a meeting hall and computer training for the members and the community.
Today is International Women’s Day! Read (and watch!) more inspiring stories about the women of CFCA:
By Marcia Willman, CFCA director of child services
At 11, Kinya knows how important an education is for her future because she is growing up where there often isn’t one.
One day I received a letter from Kinya that changed both of our lives. She wrote, ìI’m now at a new school Ö This is because we moved after eviction. I’m still working hard.î I knew that Kinya, her mom and two older brothers were squatters on government land at the foot of Mount Kenya, but this word, eviction, caught me by surprise.
It is obvious that Kinya is loved deeply by her mom. Kinya is a joyous child. She is a good story teller. She shares her life with me in every letter that she writes. Her stories bring us together and build the bonds of our friendship. So when I heard that word eviction, I knew I had to help her.
I chose to sponsor Kinya because she is being raised by a single mother who struggles to put food on the table and pay rent because she can find occasional odd jobs. I know the challenges of being a single mom because I am one, too. Thus, I feel compelled to help another woman and mother in less fortunate circumstances provide the most basic needs of food and shelter for her family.
I have been painting with watercolors for years. I never considered marketing or selling my art until trying to figure out a way to help Kinya. I finally realized that I could use my God-given talent to help my friend.
For more than two years I have been on a mission to sell my paintings. Along the way, I won the right to call myself an artist. I send the proceeds from my art sales to help Kinya’s family. Last April Kinyaís family was able to purchase half an acre of fertile, productive farm land.
Kinya’s mom, Ann, immediately planted row after row of corn and potatoes to take advantage of the pending rainy season. Ann proved to be hard-working and industrious. Along the way, she proudly rose to the role of provider. While weeding with a hoe in hand, Ann beams in the photos I received from Project Timau. Annís smile demonstrates her strength to overcome adversity when given the opportunity. It shows she believes her family has a future.
So, Kinya’s house was built. Ann’s first crops were harvested. And, Kinya’s family bought two sheep because they were able to feed themselves and generate enough income by laboring on their own land. Along the way, Kinya found comfort and a safe haven from eviction. ìAt last I’m enjoying rains in a nice house that doesn’t leak. Thanks a lot for making my life happy Ö You are part of my life, I cherish your care.î Once again, I received another letter from Kinya that changed my life. It feels wonderful to be an artist, to help another single mom and to be cherished by Kinya!