Partner with Caritas to make a difference
|With new skills but no money or assets, Elisabeth (right) qualified for Caritas Goma’s $100 loan to start her own business selling pineapples. |
By Evan Ellis, Diocesan Caritas Director, Catholic Outlook, March 2011
The past few months have been a difficult time for many Australians. The devastating floods of Queensland and northern NSW were followed by the king hit of Cyclone Yasi. Australians have dug deep to help out.
Not that Australians are only generous when a disaster is on their doorstep. Only six months earlier many gave generously to Caritas Australia’s emergency appeal for the Pakistan floods. There the great tide of water that wiped out whole communities was eerily familiar to the ‘inland tsunami’ that swept across Queensland.
Such disasters remind us of the fragility of human life and of our shared humanity.
Caritas Australia’s annual Lenten appeal, Project Compassion, is ever mindful of this. Monies raised ensure the Australian Church has the resources it needs to respond to disasters overseas as well as confronting the daily disaster of poverty.
The theme for this year’s appeal, ‘Partner with us to make a difference’, is a back-to-basics message. The struggle to overcome poverty is too big for any one individual or organisation. It requires people working together, as so often happens in times of crisis or disaster, to make a difference.
The continued success of Project Compassion in our Diocese also relies upon strong partnerships; both in and between our schools, parishes and communities. Each year six projects that Caritas supports are featured to coincide with the six weeks of Lent.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of Africa’s richest countries in natural resources, yet remains one of the world’s most poverty-stricken nations. Despite the official end of war in 2003 violence continues, homelessness and food insecurity are widespread and basic services have yet to be restored.
In 2007 Elisabeth, then 24, her husband and four children were forced to flee conflict in their village near Goma, taking refuge in a camp. Tragically, here Elisabeth was raped and the family’s tent set alight. Her two-year-old son died in the fire, and Elisabeth suffered severe burns.
Caritas Australia works with Caritas Goma to support programs providing medical, psychological and economic care to more than 2,700 men, women and children affected by sexual violence, and helping to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Many survivors are not able to afford medical treatment or access facilities due to pain, lack of services and the danger of travelling through a conflict zone.
Caritas Goma worked in the camp and hearing about Elisabeth began trauma counselling. They also received mediation counselling, but Elisabeth’s husband didn’t want to return to a woman with such physical injuries. The unconditional acceptance and compassion from Caritas Australia’s partner, Caritas Goma, allowed Elisabeth to feel hope.
With new skills but no money or assets, Elisabeth qualified for Caritas Goma’s $100 loan to start her own business. This economic support has made a life-changing difference. “I began a small business selling pineapples. This new activity is very important to me,” she said. “It has helped me buy food, pay rent and settle some of my debts.”
By giving to Project Compassion we can share in the struggle of others both near and far. Nor is this a one-way exchange. Since the onset of flooding in Australia, Caritas has been inundated with prayers and expressions of solidarity from places as far away as Sri Lanka and Brazil.
Such thoughtfulness, from communities already marginalised or struggling with poverty, is a powerful illustration of solidarity.
This year Caritas Australia is inviting everyone, in any way they can, to partner with us to make a difference.
Dr Bruno Miteyo, Secretary General of Caritas Congo, will officially launch this year’s appeal in the Diocese of Parramatta on Compassion Sunday, 6 March, directly after the 11am Solemn Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral.
You can make a donation through collection boxes available from your parish or school, phone toll free 1800 024 413 or go to www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion
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