Nov 4 2009

Bob’s travel notes to Chile

Mission awareness trip to Chile
Oct. 24 ñ Nov. 1, 2009

Iím told that the word ìChileî means ìland where the earth ends.î Staff reports that Chile is considered ìFirst in Inequityî in Latin America, with 42 percent of resources owned by less than 10 percent of the people. There are so many marginalized families, whose only shelter is a one-room wooden structure. A recurring theme is violence to women and children. Our CFCA families strive to make it on very modest income. According to staff, 70 percent of mothers in the Chile project are single heads of family.

A day with our sponsored elderly
CFCA currently serves 566 aging sponsored friends in subproject D. Most live precariously in houses constructed with nontraditional materials. Some of them rent a room in another familyís home. Only six live in homes for the elderly. The aging sponsored friends receive a $103 monthly subsidy from the Chilean government. However, the money is not enough to cover basic needs such as nutrition and clothing. CFCA provides daily breakfast, lunch and snacks for them at Casa de DÌa, a facility attached to the Valparaiso project office.

Bob serenades the sponsored aging during lunch.

Bob serenades the sponsored aging during lunch.

At the Claretian Sisters facility at El Cerro El Litre, the elderly can attend different kinds of workshops. Every year, the subproject offers a field trip to give them the opportunity to share their talents and stories, and also just to have a fun time.

Testimony of Maria Cena, a 14-year participant in the program: ìMy dream as a girl was to have loving parents, and I achieved it. Iím also grateful for excellent teachers and social workers. At age 80, I now play guitar and sing in our choir.î

Free clinics serve health needs
After sightseeing in Valparaiso, the group visited Consultorio de Salud las CaÒas. Consultorios de Salud are free health clinics created by the Chilean health system to serve the less fortunate. ValparaÌso has 13 consultorios in the hills of the city. About 11,000 people benefit from the services. Not only do these clinics provide medical and dental care to our sponsored children and aging, but they also make CFCA aware of other families that could benefit from the sponsorship program.

Sister Sara at the El Litre CFCA facility devotes herself to the aging and to the most rejected street people of Valparaiso. Their source of warmth at night is the dogs with which they sleep. Relying completely on Godís providence, her team of volunteers provides lunch each day for more than 100 people on the street. She receives donations of food and clothing.

Key programs for women
The training program was created in 1992 to help the mothers of sponsored children learn skills that would allow them to save money and increase the household income. The program holds workshops in tailoring, weaving and hairdressing, and provides supplies, transportation costs and child care for participating mothers. Every year, around 230 mothers benefit from the training program.

The CFCAís Womenís Program was created in 1993 to provide a space for the mothers to be better informed about domestic violence and its impact on their relationship with their children. The program offers workshops on self-esteem, child-mother relationships and formation for all members of the family. Around 200 people per year attend the workshops.

The fishermen and women of La Caleta
La Caleta de Pescadores Portales ValparaÌso is the biggest fishing cove in the region. Approximately 200 families make their living from the fishing activities here. Family fishing is not only a dangerous job, but it also presents big challenges, such as a lack of government assistance, climate changes, high cost of gasoline and overwhelming competition from the commercial fishing industry. Here, fishing is done both with nets and hooks. Some of the sponsored childrenís mothers work in this cove as fishhook baiters.

Don Juan, head of the fishermenís union, explains in Spanish and good English the life and lore of family fishing in Chile.

Don Juan, head of the fishermenís union, explains in Spanish and good English the life and lore of family fishing in Chile.

Indigenous roots
Cabildo, one of the communities served by subproject RUR, earned its name from the indigenous people known as Cabildos. Subproject RUR was created in 2001 to serve the rural communities of the ValparaÌso region. This is the biggest subproject of the ValparaÌso project with 1,258 children and 116 aging. The mid-sized Las Cenizas copper mine in Cabildo is owned by Chilenos who are seriously working on minimizing ecological impact of the mine.

Thank you for joining us in this wonderful experience! Cristina and I are looking forward to a couple of days ìon the farmî in San Lucas before heading for Costa Rica on Nov. 7. We shall be with you in spirit, song and prayer.

Godís blessings,

Bob Hentzen

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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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Sep 15 2009

Maria sells newspapers in El Salvador

What kind of job would you do if your life depended on it? Would you dive to the bottom of a river to collect sand? Pound rocks into gravel? Chop sugar cane in the hot sun?

Maria, the mother of two sponsored children, sells newspapers on a busy street corner in Santa Ana, El Salvador, to support her family. She earns $4.50 a day, not enough to cover expenses.

CFCA sponsorship helps fill the gap between what she earns and what she needs not just to survive, but to get ahead. She receives health care and food provisions for her family. Sponsorship support also enables Maria to provide an education for her children in the hope that they can break the cycle of poverty.

That’s why Maria continues to brave rush-hour traffic, blazing heat and pounding rain to sell newspapers.

Related links
Breaking rocks for a living

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Sep 9 2009

‘God’s work done in God’s way’

Dear Blog readers,

Greetings from Bhagalpur!

My name is Joachim Hansdak. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to acquaint you of the journey I have been taking to visit families for the last two years. There is wonderful mixture of hardship and thrill in this work, and the work itself is very much fulfilling. It is my pleasure to give you the real stories, photos and other related information.

I have not deliberately avoided writing about hardships in this entry, lest the readers are moved with sympathy, but honestly I can say the eastern half of the project is relatively safe and smooth when traveling. The western half of the project is bit of concern, though to date nothing untoward has happen. But when I read newspapers, I do find some mishaps in these very places and roads I had just crossed. I just believe ìGodís work done in Godís way will never fail,î and perhaps this is the reason I have yet to come across any hardships.

Challenges in reaching out to families
Traveling to the subproject office does not pose much of a problem, but when I visit individual sponsored childrenís family home, it is. Further it also depends on what part of the year one is traveling. May and June are scorching months with temperatures soaring as high as 38 degrees Celcius or 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

small_road bad_road
Some of the roads Joachim must travel can be very narrow and bumpy, which can make traveling difficult and time-consuming.

Most of the villages are situated in rural, hilly and forest area. The path leading to these villages gets narrower and narrower. Majority of sponsored families are living scattered in this forest and hilly areas. So reaching the sponsored familiesí homes is very difficult, difficult in the sense that it is time consuming.

Monsoon commence from mid-June to mid-September. Since the roads are not concrete the motorcycle can get stuck in the loose soil. The families are engaged in cultivation so I avoid visiting for this period of time. Still if urgency is there I visit the family come what may, sometimes I leave my motorcycle in one village and walk to reach the concerned family.

Hospitality is warm as ever, and I forget the tiring journey I have just taken. I get to see elderly people working in the field, double or triple my age. Nothing can be more embarrassing than to say I am tired from the journey. There are some times I donít find them at home because information of my visit failed to reach them. Also, some people do some unskilled jobs, which may happen to be available on the very day I visit, and people cannot resist a handsome wage of Rs 80.00 (US$1.77).

Mode of transport
Most of the visits I have made to the subprojects have been by motorcycle, with occasional walking. But when we travel in group we take our office jeep. Of course there is a big cost difference between journeying by motor cycle and Jeep.

Traveling time
The furthest subproject Chirkee (CKI) is around 264 Kilometers and time taken to reach it is six hours. By the time one reaches there, one will have visited or passed by no less than a dozen subprojects. Motorcycles give one a liberty to choose multiple routes, and that can reduce the cost, but time spent traveling is more or less the same.

Frequency of visit
Apart from urgent visit, on average I visit all the subprojects twice in a year. Apart from my personal visits, I join the team visits also. The subproject staff usually do most of the family visits as and when required.

Safety concern
Without being immodest, on my personal visits, safety has never been a problem. I have grown up with bad roads, rain, thunderstorms, scorching heat, chilling temperatures, traffic jams, noise and pollution. My own family members and others in my village work under these trying condition. As a young boy just few years ago, I had also worked in the field under these very conditions. Yes, I would say I am ill at ease for safety reasons when I have traveled with Ilene (a CFCA-Kansas staff member) or for that matter traveling with mission awareness trip participants. Now that cell phones are operational everywhere, my concerns have eased somewhat. As I noted earlier, the western half of the project continues to be challenging. I make sure that journey is completed before dusk.

In the end, I would like to ask what is a Pilgrimage? Who do I see the in the form of poverty-ridden and needy person? Who do I visit in hospitals? For whom do I devout my time and energy? What is “living oneís faith”? Come and see a piece of heaven created here.

Each new trip taken unfolds a new experience, a new facet like a well-cut diamond: whichever way one views it, there are new colors to behold.

Sincerely,

Joachim Hansdak
Bhagalpur field staff

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Sep 8 2009

Walk with our staff

By Natasha Sims, blog administrator

Of all the roles I fill at CFCA in the communications department, the one I love the most is overseeing the CFCA blog, which means I plan the stories you read, edit everything and occasionally cajole my co-workers into writing something for the blog.

My goal for every post is to enhance your sponsorship experience (for those of you who are sponsors). For those of you who are not, I hope that each entry is a small window into the CFCA community of compassion. I value each and every one of our readers. These posts are my thanks for reading.

I began working for CFCA when I graduated from college two years ago, and I am continually impressed by this organization. I love the stories of the sponsored individuals who heroically fight poverty each and every day. I cheer for the sponsors when they open their hearts to someone they have never met. And I applaud all our staff members who work diligently every day to serve your friends.

After two years, it still never ceases to amaze me how hard our field staff work. They don’t have “office hours;” they have “every hours.” And I think they deserve our gratitude and admiration for their diligence.

This Labor Day, I want to honor how dedicated these men and women are to serving those living in poverty. This week through the blog, I invite you to walk with them and experience their determination firsthand.

I hope you enjoy the journey.

Learn about their work
God’s work done in God’s way
A day in the life of a CFCA social worker
Notes from the Field – Costa Rica

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Sep 1 2009

From Facebook to an ‘about-face’

By Lori Richards, CFCA sponsor

I am a mother raising the last of my five children, Annie, age 14. I was becoming increasingly concerned about Annie’s materialistic viewpoint of life. You parents of teens know the deal: the iPods, the laptops, the cell phones … I wanted Annie to have the opportunity to experience the lifestyle of people less fortunate than she and perhaps open her heart and mind to the idea of service to others. I suggested a mission awareness trip to Guatemala to meet my sponsored child, David.

Annie was very sure she would not care to go. She would miss her hair straightener and Facebook contacts too much, not to mention the horror of having to consent to wearing a few clothes that carried the dreadful label of “appropriate dress.” But I put my parental power to use, booked the trip for the two of us and listened to her moan for the next six weeks.

As it turned out, the trip was more meaningful for her than I had dared to hope. I felt blessed each step of the wayófrom the first moment she met and “clicked” with another teenage girl taking the trip, to the culminating moment when she came to me and said, “Mom, I want to sponsor a child.” Bob Hentzen’s gentle spiritual guidance taught her more about the world than nine years of schooling had. Although she and her new mission awareness trip friends could have chosen to play basketball or use Facebook after a long day, they almost exclusively chose to sit in on Bob’s nightly talks and listen to his songs.

Annie is now in the process of putting together a picture collage of her new sponsored child, 2-year-old Shirley. She is eagerly thinking of ways to earn money to help meet the support payments.

Many things about this trip impressed me, but my daughter’s “about-face” attitude toward helping the less fortunate was an unexpected gift from God, channeled through his devout servants, Bob and his marvelous staff. Thank you, CFCA, for helping to shape the lives of young peopleónot only the lives of your sponsored children, but the lives of the teens who are inspired to serve others after participating in one of your trips.

Experience your own “about-face” by going on a CFCA trip.

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Aug 28 2009

A special sponsor for a special family

By Cheryl Petroff, CFCA sponsor

I had the pleasure to take a CFCA mission awareness trip to El Salvador in 2008 and 2009.

I can’t convey in words exactly what I experienced, but what I know for sure is that both trips were life-changing and some of the best experiences of my life.

In 2008, I went with a friend who sponsored children in El Salvador. I had sponsored a child years ago, but when she was retired from the program, I never got another child to replace her.

I told Henry Flores (director of the communications center in El Salvador) that I was interested in sponsoring a child with special needs. I know many times the cutest children are picked first and sometimes children with special needs are left behind. Henry told me that he had a special family he would like me to meet. He arranged for my group to go to the home of this family.

After a walk through an alley and up a steep, dirt path, we arrived at their home. I was in utter shock at the condition of this home. It was a small building made of cardboard, wood and metal. It had a dirt floor, and there were four beds against the walls inside. Outside was a small area that had a metal roof, but only poles were holding it up ñ this was the cooking area.

I meet this wonderful mother who you could tell loved her family and was doing the best that she could. She appeared very sad. She was raising four children on her own. Her husband had abandoned her and the children. All three of her sons had disabilities.

Her youngest son, Omar, was in bed and was rolling from side-toñside, making noises. He was severely handicapped and totally blind.

Her middle son, Luis, was blind in one eye, but was smiling and happy to have visitors.

Her daughter, Kenya, was very shy but was without any handicaps. She was attending school and had hopes of being a teacher or secretary.

The eldest son, Alonso, was lying in a hammock and swinging. He was totally blind and was so thin that he looked like a young child instead of his 20 years of age.

I told Henry that I wanted to sponsor the child with the most need. He said that he would ask the mother which child she wanted sponsored. She indicated that she wanted Alonso or Kenya sponsored. She indicated that Omar had little hope for improvement with his condition, but the two that she picked could have a better life if sponsored.

Cheryl with Kenya and Alonso in 2008I decided to pick Alonso. As I stood there watching this family, I felt the strongest desire to do more if I could. I left that hilltop sponsoring both Alonso and Kenya.

Through the year, I received beautiful letters from Kenya. She wrote for herself and her brother. Her letters were like a Christmas present each time I received them. She told me over and over again how thankful she and Alonso were. She told me about her schooling, and that Alonso was being tested so he could be taught a trade. The letters have become an important part of my life.

I had decided on the second day of my 2008 trip that I would be going back to El Salvador.

I went back this year thinking that there was no way that I would have a better experience than the past year. Well, I was very wrong!

We visited Alonso and Kenyaís family again this year. I knew the way up the hill, so I went ahead of everyone. When I got to the top, I didn’t recognize the home. I actually started to walk back down the hill, but when I looked back, I decided this had to be it when I saw their mother looking out at me. I went to her and got the biggest hug. She looked so happy!

The house was now larger. Bunk beds replaced the mattresses, and she even had a sofa in the large room. The place actually looked larger. There was a difference in her, too. She was smiling and was so happy. The kitchen now had walls, and she had an actual stove. The place looked much neater and cleaner.

My two sponsored children greeted me and hugged me. I felt like I was in heaven. The kindness and love I felt in that home was like nothing I have ever experienced before.

The difference in the home and family was unbelievable. Alonso had gained weight. Omar was walking and was not as thin.

Cheryl with Luis, Alonso and Kenya in 2009And then there was Luis, who was still smiling and kept looking at me. In his eyes, I saw that he too needed someone to sponsor him. I decided right then and there that I would sponsor him. When they told him, he couldn’t believe it. He was so happy and hugged me so hard. I will never forget this visit. I found out later from his mother that he had cried last year when he was not sponsored. I think God was right there in that spot, guiding my heart.

I can honestly say that this year was better than last year.

I love CFCA, and I love the people who work for this organization. I love El Salvador. I would encourage anyone who has or has not sponsored a child to take a trip to one of the countries where CFCA works to see what it is really like. You will never be sorry. It is the best investment I have ever made.

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