Friday, November 20, 2009

NCYC update

We are one day into the National Catholic Youth Conference, and already the NCYC youth have walked enough minutes to help Mae, a 15-year-old girl from the Philippines, and Rosmely, a 17-year-old girl from Guatemala, finish high school! Our last minutes update was at 676. They are now walking to help Jose finish high school. (See below to read more about all three of them.)

As we mentioned earlier this week, the NCYC youth have the opportunity to raise money to help six Walk with the Poor students finish high school. Each NCYC youth who decides to walk on the CFCA treadmills will get to sign a WWTP shoe print for our booth wall. Each foot print represents four minutes of walk time. Each minute earns $4.

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Mae is finishing high school!

Rosmely is finishing high school!

Walking for Jose


Monday, November 16, 2009

We'll see you at NCYC

NCYC alert: The CFCA treadmills are back!

The National Catholic Youth Conference (or NCYC, as it is more commonly known) is a three-day event, full of prayer, fun and oh, did we mention, 20,000 high school students. The biennial conference comes to Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 19-21, and CFCA is excited to be at NCYC again this year.

Back to the treadmills, two years ago, NCYC participants were invited to walk on treadmills to raise money for students living in poverty. This year, we’re doing it again.

We’re hosting an interactive exhibit (Exhibit 9) in the Reign Forest where students can learn more about sponsorship, watch videos of students around the world and walk on treadmills to raise money toward the sponsorship of Walk with the Poor students.

To top it off, CFCA sponsor and Colorado high school student Sami Freese, 17, will deliver a key-note address at the Saturday general session for all NCYC attendees. We can’t wait!

At NCYC 2007, youth walked a total of 2,234 minutes on the treadmills. This year, while they walk, they’ll get to watch this video of Sami telling about why she sponsors through CFCA.

Sami Freese: Why I walk from CFCA on Vimeo.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Let's Walk2gether

Hello, my name is Henry Flores, director of the communications center in El Salvador. For the past two years, I have been helping guide Daniel (read more about Daniel) in his dream to become a journalist. Praise God, he finished his first college semester and passed all subjects, with an 85 percent as his lowest grade. Recently I gave Daniel the assignment to cover the first solidarity walk of the CFCA Project Santa Ana, El Salvador, and I think he did a great job interviewing and taking pictures, below is his final article, which was translated from Spanish to English.

For many people, walking is a way to exercise; for many others, walking is a necessity, and there are millions of people around the world who must walk to school, to work, to get water from the river, to see a doctor. In this spirit, CFCA tells the world, let’s “Walk2gether.”

CFCA President and Co-founder Bob Hentzen will embark on a 16-month walk from Guatemala to Chile beginning Dec. 29, 2009. Hentzen, 73, will walk an estimated 8,140 miles through 12 countries in Central and South America.

CFCA Project Santa Ana, in El Salvador, recently celebrated an eight-mile solidarity walk, which inaugurates the project’s activities in connection to Walk2gether.

“The idea of this solidarity walk is to give the initial kick off to the project´s activities in relation to Bob´s pilgrimage. Short solidarity walks are being organized among all our CFCA families in the country,” said Yesenia Alfaro, Santa Ana project coordinator.

The staff members of Project Santa Ana felt supported when they saw sponsored families cheering for them along the walk route.

“To see the families, along our eight-mile solidarity walk, was very gratifying. It was exciting to see how they took time out of their daily lives to come greet us as we arrived at our destination in the community of San Luis La Planta. It was a great moment because, for us, to walk is to tell them that they are not alone and their welcoming was their way to tell us, you are not walking alone either,” Yesenia said.

For those who are not accustomed to walking, it may look like fun in the beginning, but later, one discovers that it is not easy; it is then, when you connect with all sponsored families around the world who walk every day.

“Today we walked about eight miles and, in many moments, we felt very tired,” said Yesenia. “This helped us to connect and understand the sponsored families and their daily burdens.”
The mission of CFCA calls us to be pilgrims, to be connected as a community.

“I hope that this solidarity walk will instill in all of us that all our future steps in CFCA must be focused in the support, the learning and offering our work for our sponsored families.” Yesenia said.

Written by Daniel, CFCA sponsored youth and scholarship holder, in collaboration with Henry Flores, director of the communications center in El Salvador


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Building a foundation

Taylor Ventura traveled to Guatemala with members from her church for a mission awareness trip July 24-31. During the trip, Taylor met Beverly, her sponsored child, and helped build a home for a Guatemalan family.

By Taylor Ventura

Going to Guatemala was a great opportunity to “build my foundation” on God. The trip to Guatemala was my first out of the country and certainly won’t be my last. Ever since the trip was presented at my church with the little blue sign-up sheets waving in the air, I have wanted to go. My mom always said, “You have to be older to go.” So every year, I would look forward to this and finally in July 2009, it came.

The Sunday of the trip, I met the most beautiful and sweet young lady named Beverly. She ran up to me saying, “Hola, mi Taylor Ventura!” In shock that she was finally here, I gave her a big hug and the day just got better from there. She brought her mom and her brother, and we ate lunch together. I knew some Spanish, but not enough to completely have a conversation. Despite the language barrier, we connected well because of the joy that we brought each other. The family traveled 10 hours just to see me! But, they didn’t care. They were just so grateful that we were meeting, that a small distance was worth it.

As the day went on, Beverly never left my side. We laughed together, played together and danced together. Although I was aware of her life back at home and how devastating that might be, I forgot about all of it that day. I realized that Beverly and her family were so happy because they had built their foundation on God rather than material things. This was extremely touching, and when the day came to an end, I did not want to part ways. We were so inseparable for those few hours, and I knew that even though we live in different places, our hearts will remain together.

The week after, we built a house with Church of the Risen Christ group and some of the CFCA staff. It started out looking like a small area and lots of dirt, but with teamwork and a lot of prayer, it was beginning to look like a house. Everyone had their jobs: cement mixing, digging and refilling water. No matter what the job was, it helped. Our goal was not to complete the house, but to grow new relationships between us, the staff and the family who would own the house. So everyday that we went to work, no one would complain or whine because they knew it would be a great day, even if it was hard work. As the work days passed, progress continued to excel, and at the end, the family shared something with our church. The mother said, “I have nothing to give you and my husband has nothing to give you, but we have something even stronger. We pray to God that each one of you receives a spiritual blessing for the work you have done here because it is truly God’s work. Thank you.” This beautiful statement made me realize that we weren’t building a house: we were building a home.

The Guatemala mission trip helped me to see life through a different light and really focus on building a foundation on God because as Beverly and the family showed me, happiness is found there.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Focused on his children

Daniel, 18, was first featured in the opening edition of The Scholar. Since that edition, Daniel was sponsored, graduated high school and started his journalism studies at a university. Here, his father reflects on raising his children and seeing Daniel graduate. As told by Daniel’s father to Henry Flores, director of CFCA’s communication center in El Salvador.

My name is Daniel Ernesto, I am 46 years old and I was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador.

I have two brothers, however, we did not grow up together.

When I was little, my father decided to take me to his sister's house to live with her because neither of my parents could take care of me. My father died when I was 2 years old, so I did not get to meet him.

My aunt did not have any children, so she gave me everything I needed. Now that I am an adult, I realize that family is more important than having everything you need. The family and the
mother offer a natural trust.

My aunt was a teacher. She died when I was 19 years old. However, I was blessed to finish high school and had some extra education in electricity.

When my aunt died, and I got married, I started to work in anything that would give me some income. I did carpentry, bricklaying, etc. When you want to accomplish things, you need to put forth all your efforts. Good things are hard to get.

One of the most difficult moments in my life was when my wife left me and our three children. I stayed with the three of them. From one day to the next, I had to wash their clothes and cook for them. I remember I used to get up very early in the morning to do all this.

It was very difficult for me to adapt to my new situation as a single father, but I trusted God so much. He has never left me alone.

Raising my children was hard, but I had solid moral values. I told myself, “I have gone through this, I grew up without a father or a family, I don’t want my children to live what I lived.” My mother even told me to let her raise the children, but I told her that I was going to be their mother and father.

When he was about 10, my son Daniel would take care of his younger siblings when I was working. The three of them were attending the afternoon shift in school, so I would leave Daniel to take care of his siblings in the morning. He would heat up the food I had made the day before, feed his siblings, and later they would all go to school.

There were times I had to stay home from work because one of my children was sick. One thing I remember is that Daniel was always there with me, helping me. He has been such a great support for me.

I worked at a restaurant for 14 years. I was cook, waiter, cashier, maintenance person. I would do all kinds of jobs in that restaurant. But the business was sold, and I was left jobless. I then started work as a day laborer.

I never had a doubt that Daniel and my other children were going to study. I knew that I was going to do all I could to send them to school. Daniel deserves that opportunity. He has given so much of himself, and he has demonstrated that he is a good person, a good son and a very good student. I was going to do everything it took to send him to high school.

One thing I tell Daniel, now that he is in college, is that no matter his level of success, he must remember to be humble.

think my son has chosen a good career. He has everything to be a journalist. From a very young age, he has enjoyed talking in front of people, doing research and other things.

When I saw Daniel receive his diploma at his high school graduation, I felt so many emotions. I was so proud of him and proud of myself because I was able to put my child through school with the help of God and CFCA. It’s a nice feeling. It is an experience that I will never forget, to see all
our effort and sacrifices reflected in that diploma, reflected in him.

The moment I enjoyed the most during his graduation was when he called me to walk him up to receive his diploma and to see him actually receive it. It was great. (Ed. note: In El Salvador, parents walk their children to the podium and wait while they receive the diploma.)

Daniel is now about to finish his first semester in journalism. College is more difficult. It has been hard for him. He goes to bed late at night. But I keep telling him to study hard, and he will be compensated in the future.

My dream for Daniel is for him to reach all his goals. I work hard every day for that.

Praise God, Daniel is being supported with the scholarship and sponsorship, but I still have two more children to work for: my daughter, Diana Marina, 15, and my son Ernesto Enrique, 11. Imagine, Diana is about to start high school, Ernesto will soon be in junior high and Daniel is at the university. I am trying to find a stable job to give me a base salary, and I can work extra on weekends. However, it is difficult because at my age, people don’t want to give me a job, even though I may have more experience than those they hire.

I am focused on everything I can do to bring up my children with an honest life and to help them graduate.

Once my children are grown and have graduated, I will feel satisfied. Then, I may have a chance to think about me and my life.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When Allison met Allison

By Allison Kline, student at Missouri State University

My mission awareness trip to Costa Rica was one of the most unique experiences of my life. I got the chance to practice my Spanish and meet my sponsored child, Allison.

Before my trip to Costa Rica, I had never left the United States, so I didn't really know what to expect. I have studied Spanish in school for the past six years, but I had never spoken it outside the classroom. But, on my first day in Costa Rica, that changed.

My mom, who works in communications for CFCA, was taking pictures of families at the La Estrella subproject, and she needed to tell them that the pictures she was taking were for CFCA. She asked me to tell the parents what the pictures were for, using my Spanish. I was really nervous, but surprisingly, they could understand me, and they seemed happy that I communicated with them in their own language.

The highlight of my trip was the day that the sponsors and sponsored children got to spend together. We spent the whole day at a beautiful park area playing games and getting to know the kids. Allison, who is 7, really enjoyed jumping on the trampoline that was set up. She would have spent the whole day jumping if she could.

I taught her how to use my digital camera and showed her how to look at the pictures she'd taken. She caught on quickly, and she took a bunch of pictures of the children and their sponsors playing and having a good time. My mom and I really enjoyed spending the day with Allison. She was quiet, but the whole day she had a big smile on her face.

The next day, my mom and I went with three social promoters and a translator to visit Allison’s house. When we got to their neighborhood, we had to climb up a muddy hill that the promoters told us was almost impossible to climb during the rainy season. We could imagine that: we were having problems climbing it in the dry weather.

Allison's house was made of tin and had cardboard walls. Seeing the house was sad, but it made me happy when we walked inside and saw Allison and her older brother and sister coloring with the coloring books and colored pencils we brought them. Allison's mom showed us Allison’s school notebooks filled with her schoolwork, and we got to see some of the food benefits and the bunk beds that the family received from CFCA.

Going to Costa Rica was one of the best experiences of my life, and I especially enjoyed getting to know Allison and her family. A mission awareness trip is a really eye-opening experience, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to participate in one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

House building is the 'party' on this spring break

This year for spring break alternative, 17 students from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., traveled to El Salvador to build two houses for CFCA sponsored members Ines, 88, and Yesenia, 7, and her family. By working eight to nine hours a day, the students were able to complete their goal, plus build a latrine and half of a third house (which was completed two days later by the two men who helped the students with the construction). The third house was built for sponsored member Raymunda, 84.

Below, students Catie Kneemiller and Holly Lancaster share some reflections about their time in El Salvador.

Related links:
Watch a short video about Ines and Raymunda
View a slideshow created by Denise Whelan, one of the Benedictine students

Day 1 (by Catie)
Today was absolutely incredible. This afternoon we left for the work sites and got to actually see El Salvador in the daylight. There is so much hope and such a sense of community here. They really do depend on each other. In the U.S., many times we do not connect with our neighbors. Here they rely on and depend on their neighbors for basic needs. So many times we don't want to have to rely on others, but we were made to support and build each other up, and those who we are serving today are living that out. They know what it truly means to give of yourself so that others may live. They are able to find joy without needing material things, and just knowing that they have their community and are loved by the people in that community. Their community is what makes them strong, which is so amazing to see and learn from.

Day 2 (by Catie)
We definitely worked hard today. Our group leveled the ground for the house, built the frame and put it up. All of these tasks are easier said than done. The wood had to be cut certain lengths for the frames, and the ground was nowhere near level. It made me realize how much work ethic they have. I have also come to see how strong the people here are. They live in such poverty, but I never hear them complain. They are so grateful for everything they have, and for everything we are doing for them. The majority of Americans are not that grateful, and we take so much for granted. Even in the work today, I realized how much we take power tools for granted. Here they make the most with what they have. I am learning so much from them, and I know that I have not even begun to get it all.

Day 3 (by Holly)
Wow! What a great feeling it is to come back, after a long day, and have your hands full of dirt and sealer! I seriously had a BLAST today, and it was so fulfilling.

We got to the site this morning after breakfast and prayer and started to put up the sheet metal on the sides and roof of the house. In the afternoon, Steve, Catie and I put up the window and the door. How great of a team we all were, and everyone did a great job. Our work seemed to fly by, and although most of us had a few scrapes and cuts and bruises, we still got our job done and kept up the enthusiasm.

We had a really good breakthrough with Oscar, a neighborhood boy, and some of the other people living in the area. Marty had a soccer ball, and they were kicking that back and forth for a bit, and then we brought out the bubbles, and the excitement on Oscar's face was indescribable. Even the other little kids were so excited. We asked Ines and her friend if they wanted to blow bubbles. It was so cute and so great to watch their interaction with the bubbles, us and each other. I really believe that they trust us now and are glad we are there. We had some neighbors stop by to look at the house as the day was ending, and it was so nice to see their community together. It really makes me want that in my life—a community full of love, support, laughter, and to take nothing for granted.

Day 4 (by Catie)
I absolutely love all of this! Today we worked on a bunch of different projects, finishing up little things on the house, built a latrine, an oven and worked on Raymunda's house. It is awesome to see how we work together, yet apart. It's amazing how much people can accomplish when they put their minds to it. In working on the neighbor’s house, the construction workers realized it was going to collapse soon. As a group we decided to work all day tomorrow and work on starting to build her a new house. I absolutely love our group.

Day 5 (by Catie)
Today was probably the hardest day yet. We tore down Raymunda's house and began to build a new one, while finishing up last-minute stuff on the other two houses. I didn’t realize how attached I had become to this place, until I realized I wasn't going to be back. There is such a great love here that I have yet to find anywhere else. Mass was also awesome today. It really struck me how we are a universal church. It is something we hear all the time, but I don’t think we can fully understand it until we see it with our own eyes. I absolutely love how no matter where you go in the world, you are going to understand what is going on in the Mass. Leaving today was so difficult. My heart is here with these people. Just because we leave doesn't mean their poverty goes away, doesn't make everything suddenly better. When we leave, they will still be here, still living in the same poverty. I don't think one can fully understand poverty until they see it for themselves. I know my life is going to be different because of this trip. I just have yet to figure out how so.