Unbound, A CFCA Mission Trip to End Poverty

Parishioner Contributed Post by Sally Kinane

If you have heard the story of the Boy and the Starfish, you know that the man questioned the boy throwing the starfish back into the sea saying: “There are thousands of starfish on this beach,” the man said. “Nothing you can do can possibly make a difference.” And the boy said, “It makes a difference to this one.”

When people talk about poverty around the world, the most often refrains are, “What can I do, I can’t begin to solve the problem” or “How do you find a way the is really doing good.”

I just want to tell you a way my family has found to help one person at a time.

When my children were in school, we wanted to have them realize that many children in other parts of the world do not live with many of the things they take for granted, such as food, drinking water or a place to sleep. We were looking for someway to help, when I found an advertisement in “St Anthony’s Messenger” about an organization, CFCA – Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, where you can support a child or elderly for a small amount each month. Since it was a Catholic organization, which advertized in a Catholic magazine, we were interested and started sponsoring a boy, Jose Eduardo, in Guatemala.

It worked out very well. We would receive letters from him at least once a year finding out how he was doing and we could write letters to him as often as we desired. It was also possible to send small presents. This worked out for many years, through the death of his father and finally his life situation improved and he did not need the aid.

Next I asked to support a child in Bolivia, as my father was born there while his parents were missionaries. By now my children had moved out but my husband and I continued as we found it so rewarding. We were given a 5-year old girl, Cateryn, to sponsor. We are still sponsoring her and she is about to finish high school and go to college. She has had many ups and downs these years with her father leaving the family and her mother having to go to Brazil to find work, but we keep in touch regularly and it is nice to give her support and encouragement.  Bolivian house1

The organization organizes mission awareness trips so you can travel to the country, visit your sponsored person and see how people live. A few years ago, my husband and myself traveled to Bolivia to see Cateryn and different areas of Bolivia. It was so utterly rewarding to see how our money is used with these families. Unless you see it, you cannot imagine the conditions people live in. We saw one-room houses where 9 people were living. The room had a bed, small wardrobe and an area for cooking over a small gas burner. Clothes hung in sacks from ropes above the bed.

It is hard to imagine the condition many people live in, but yet somehow manage to enjoy their life thankful for what little they have. CFCA started a program of Mother’s Groups where mothers meet, have small dues and help each other find jobs; they manage the donations for their respective families. This gives the mothers more power in a society dominated by men and helping them manage priorities.

After that life-changing trip, I decided to support another young man, Kevin, in Kenya. In 2001, I took another mission awareness trip to Kenya and Uganda. If I had thought living conditions were bad in Bolivia, they were nothing like some I saw in Kenya. We visited a slum in Nairobi, where the pathways between the shacks had layers of garbage. The shacks they lived in had such flimsy walls and I walked so unsteadily on the paths that I was afraid I would put my hands through the walls. But again the people were beautiful and we saw how much our small contribution helped them.  In that part of Africa part of the money is spent on sending their children to private and boarding schools. It is the only way their children can get a good education to be able to have a good job as the private schools have one teacher for 100 students.Afraica Kilbera Slum

Kevin dropped out of the program by not going to school. That is one thing CFCA insists the children do or they loose their aid. But now I have increased my support to a few other people including an elderly lady in Columbia. This May, I am again making a mission awareness trip to see her.

The surprising thing is how little it costs to support a person. In CFCA, it costs $30 a month. I figure that is the cost of one meal out for one person a month. These are the average minimum wage (in US dollar) per year for the 3 counties I have visited: Bolivia – $2,258, Kenya – $689, Uganda – $29.Bolivia Outside bedroom

In conclusion, I’ll share one story on how a little money can make a large difference. We visited one mother’s group in Uganda that were having struggling to raise chickens, they didn’t have enough money to buy a proper coop. As a result some chickens would escape and others would be stolen. When we came to leave Uganda, I still had a little left over Ugandan currency. Ugandan currency, the shilling, rates are 2,510 shillings per dollar or 0.00040 US currency to one shilling. The Shillings I had left over were about $10 to $15 dollars. I decided to give that money to the group with the chickens to help them out. I received a letter a few months after thanking me because it paid for the complete chicken coop and the labor to build it. Plus it encouraged many more people to join that mother’s group.

This year CFCA changed its name to Unbound to better define who they are in their effort to unbind people from poverty. If you would like to support someone in an extreme poverty situation (beyond anything you can see in the US), go to unbound.org and pick a child or elderly or just ask me. It is still a very Catholic organization and on the trip to Bolivia there was a priest along who was sponsoring a child.

Sally Kinane

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