June 03, 2013
A sponsor visits her sponsored child
After sponsoring Angelica for 14 years, Zena Weist was full of excitement when she headed to the airport to join the CFCA awareness trip in Guatemala.
She was finally going to meet the 18-year-old she had watched grow up through photos and letters decorated with Angelica's floral sketches scattered on the page.
CFCA-Guatemala staffers met the arriving sponsors at the airport with hugs, like they were old friends.
Zena Weist and her sponsored child, Angelica,
embrace the relationship they have formed through
the last 14 years of being connected through CFCA
The countryside was studded with volcanic mountains, graceful onion fields and intensely blue lakes.
A planner and organizer for most activities in her life, Weist was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she fell into the preplanned trip schedule provided by the CFCA staff.
Weist was nervous and full of anticipation the day that she was going to meet Angelica. She was one of 31 sponsors waiting that morning for the same experience.
Angelica's mother and father, Eidelberta and Luis, and her 3-year-old brother Fernando came with her. When Angelica and Weist were face to face, they fell into each other's arms and cried.
While visiting with the family, Weist felt a strong connection with Eidelberta.
"You want the best for your kids," Weist said. "You love them to death, but more than anything, you want to be their champion. That's what she was for her daughter. And that's the way I am with my kids."
Angelica and Eidelberta made Weist a traditional Guatemalan outfit. The mother-daughter team is known for their excellent weaving and sewing abilities, which helps supplement the family's income.
Angelica and Eidelberta helped Weist adjust the blouse, skirt and sash. The bright blues, reds and greens of the embroidery burst forth from the hand-stitched design.
Angelica had another surprise for Weist. The two were scheduled to perform a traditional dance on stage that afternoon at a talent show in front of all the sponsors and sponsored friends' families.
Weist and Angelica dancing together.
"I never thought I would be up on the stage with my sponsored child doing a Guatemalan dance and [dressed] in Guatemalan garb, too," Weist said. "That really touched my heart."
During her visit, Weist found their connection growing.
"She has a little brother. I have a little brother," Weist said. "And even though we come from different backgrounds, there are just a lot of common threads."
The day was over too quickly. She wanted one more chance to hug Angelica, to swap mom-talk with Eidelberta, to play peek-aboo with Fernando.
'One family at a time'
While the highlight of Weist's trip was meeting Angelica's family, the trip also included visits with other families who were part of the CFCA sponsorship program. Weist met families who had lost homes and family members in recent earthquakes and mudslides.
Weist with Angelica's family after dancing in
"I experienced things that tourists will never see: highs and lows, goods and bads," Weist said. She had an overwhelming feeling of "what can we do to help?"
CFCA President and Co-founder Bob Hentzen travels with sponsors on many CFCA awareness trips each year. Hentzen was on hand to introduce sponsors to families, answer questions and sing songs.
Hentzen accompanied the group from morning until night, leading after-dinner discussions about the day's events and staying up to chat with the night-owl teens and 20-somethings who were thrilled to have his ear. He was as enthusiastic as they were.
When Weist asked Hentzen, "How do you make a difference?" Hentzen had a simple but confident answer, "One family at a time."
Because CFCA is part of every community where it serves families, sponsors are able to get a unique view of each country and an opportunity to meet families on a very personal level during awareness trips.
The trip deepened Weist’s understanding of what sponsorship means to families.