Jul 16 2009

Serious fun: part 4

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Soccer has grown from an obscure game played by a handful of kids to being the most popular, organized sport for children in the U.S. With more than 3 million youth registered each year in formal leagues, soccer has firmly established itself as part of the American childhood.

Without knowing it, kids who play soccer here in the U.S. are aligning themselves with the millions, perhaps billions, of children worldwide who play soccer (more commonly known as ìfootballî). However, these kids in developing countries donít always experience soccer with minivans, uniforms, coaches and juice boxes waiting for them when they are done. These are the kids who find any round object and a group of friends and play wherever they can find an open space. They run barefoot, kicking the ball through a goal they have fashioned out of scrap metal or their imaginations.

Henry Flores, director of the CFCA Communications Center in El Salvador, says that CFCA staff will often organize soccer games with the scholarship students because they find this to be a great way for staff to connect with the youth.

ìWith these games we are telling the students, ëWe want to spend time with you!í î Henry also observes that soccer is only fun when you play with others. It is a community sport. It unifies responsibility, ability and discipline.

Marissa Gargaro plays soccer during a mission awareness trip to El Salvador.“Plus, you donít need lots of equipment, just a 25-cent ball and a small space in your community. You often see children in the different communities who spend hours playing street soccer. When a vehicle is passing trough you hear, ëGAME OFF / GAME ON!í to let the children know.”

Often, when there have been teen mission awareness trip groups, the staff will organize soccer games because it is a simple way to break the ice, create community and strengthen bonds of friendship. “And,” says Henry, “You need no translator for it.”

In your next letter, have your soccer kid ask their sponsored friend about “football” in their country. Do they enjoy playing? Does their country have a national soccer team? Talk with them about the idea that they are in solidarity with their friend simply by playing soccer. What similarities does your child see in the way their friend plays football, and how soccer is experienced here in the States? What are the differences?

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun, part 2
Serious fun: Creative play

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Jul 8 2009

Serious Fun: Creative play

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

As I write this, I am watching my own children play in a well-manicured, well-equipped park in our neighborhood. I cannot help but think of the children around the world whom I have seen playing in sewers, empty lots, fields with crops and barren yards with scraggly dogs nipping at their heels. But somehow, they seemed just as happy as my children do today.

The joke at Christmastime is always that you spend a fortune on toys for children but what they enjoy most is playing with the boxes, ribbons and packing peanuts that the toys came in. This is universal for children. I have watched children in Sierra Leone, Haiti, Venezuela and, yes, even my own children pull items out of the trash to equip their imaginary world. I remember a beautiful bicycle that a boy in Africa made for me. He found scraps of wire and fashioned this incredible toy. An old sheet can hold powerful fairy magic. A large empty box houses a universe of possibilities.

This call to creative play is yet another gift that children living in poverty give to our children. I think we often do our children a disservice by creating imaginary worlds for them in the form of video games and TV shows. What grown-ups create will never be as good as what kids can think of. Unfortunately, (and this is a personal confession) when life gets harried, it sometimes feels easier to let the kids turn on the TV than to encourage creative play.

Summertime is a perfect time to send the kids outside and get them to dig in the dirt, climb a tree or watch clouds.

As a challenge to your children or grandchildren, let them go through your recycling bin or dig in your attic, garage or closet to see what treasures can be unearthed. To what worlds can they be transported? What magical creatures lurk in your laundry room? What important business must be dealt with in the secrecy of a clubhouse? They will probably not know it, but they will be in solidarity with the billions of children around the world who do not have toys, TVs and video games. All children need is the time and space to be a child.

As a challenge to you, allow yourself to enter that world as well. Allow yourself the freedom to be child-like and think of your own sponsored child. But beware Ö as you magically turn into a knight in shining tin foil or first mate on a raft floating down the Mississippi, you might find that you get lost while other, more “important” matters disappear in a fog of your own childhood memories.

Related links:
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun, part 2

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Jul 1 2009

Serious fun, part 2

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Upon my return from a mission awareness trip to El Salvador, my children were greatly interested in the details of the trip. I told them about our day spent on a volcano, showed them a jar of sand from the beach and pictures of all the beautiful people I met. And, I kept wistfully talking about pupusas, calling them ìSalvadoran comfort food.î

We decided to make pupusas, and we had the most fun! They are so simple to make and so wonderful to eat. The best part, however, was how making dinner together easily fell into a lesson about solidarity. For instance: at first, our dough was too dry. As I went to the sink for more water, I started talking about how hard it often is for the women to get water and how easy it is for us. The kids asked questions about where the water comes from for the Salvadorans and began to understand how a simple faucet is a luxury.

As we pulled the cheese from the refrigerator, my daughter asked me how they keep things cold with no electricity. So, we talked about how they have to go to market every day to buy food since people in developing countries generally donít have a refrigerator. (My kids hate going to the grocery store, so the idea of going to market every day really hit home!)

Below is the recipe for pupusas (they are super easy for kids to make), but we encourage you to do a little research to find kid-friendly recipes from the country where your sponsored friend lives. As you cook with your children or grandchildren, talk with them about what it must be like for their friend to cook. How is it the same? How is it different? Tell them what an indescribable luxury meat is in most countries, but how easily we have access to it here. Have them picture walking up to a mile to fetch water for cooking (this is often the job of children in a family).

Pupusas
(Please supervise children closely during the cooking.)

Ingredients:
2 c. Masa harina (this is a corn flour that can be found in most grocery stores)
1 c. Water
Filling can be grated cheese, refried beans, veggies, whatever!

1. In a bowl mix the Masa harina and water. Knead it well. If you need to, add a teaspoon of water at a time to get a consistency similar to play dough. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll a ball of dough a little smaller than the size of a baseball and, with your thumb, press a hole in the middle. Pinch the sides a bit to make the hole bigger. Put some of the filling in the hole and pinch it shut. Now comes the fun part. Slap the dough from hand to hand, pressing it out flat. But make sure none of the filling leaks out. They should end up about º – Ω inch thick.

3. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium heat. Cook each pupusa for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Serve with salsa.

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun: Creative play
Make Filipino oatmeal soup
CFCA food benefits in Kenya

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Jun 25 2009

Serious fun

Schoolís out for summer! Kids are lost in a lazy haze of swimming, camps and vacations. But, as the excitement of having no homework fades, it is often replaced with, ìMom! Iím booooooored!î

What a great time to encourage solidarity with their sponsored friend. Have them do a little research about the country, culture and history of their friend. The library has wonderful books for all ages about different countries. This will make letter writing easier, too, because the research may stir up good questions they can ask of their friend.

Over the next four weeks, we will offer some ideas and activities that you can do with your children or grandchildren that will teach them about other cultures.

Global play
The most global, common element about childhood is play. Children play. Even when faced with inhumane conditions and hardship, it is part of a childís nature to engage in some kind of play. There are many games that are manifested in areas all around the planet in various forms (hide and seek, tag, jump rope games, etc.) but there are many games that seem to be organic, having grown out of the imaginations of a nationís children. The following is a game that children play in Chile.

Mar, Luna, Sol (Ocean, Moon, Sun)
You need a couple of steps where the children can stand side by side. This can be the front porch or the steps of a pool.

The bottom step (or the ground) is Mar (ocean). The next one up is Luna (moon) and the top step is Sol (sun). One person is the caller. The caller says either, ìMar, Luna or Solî and everyone has to jump to that step. The caller keeps choosing different levels and everyone must jump to that step. If a players jumps to the wrong step, they are out. The last one left standing wins and gets to be the caller.

There are many great Web sites where you can find games that are played by children in your friendís country. Research the games together with your own children or grandchildren. Then, let the games (and the learning) begin!

You can also look at our 2008 edition of Sacred Ground for more games around the world (look at page 15 of the pdf).

Related links
Serious fun, part 2
Serious fun: Creative play

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