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Project Compassion: making a difference

Catholic Outlook, April 2010

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have the responsibility toward the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.” Pope Benedict XVI – Caritas In Veritate 2009.

In Malawi, Caritas is helping to improve life for Bule and his family.
More than half of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. Low farm yields, limited access to credit and land, and poor health from water-borne diseases all impact heavily on families.

In recent years, Malawi has also experienced a food crisis with annual food shortages compounded by environmental degradation, poor food storage and few non-agricultural employment opportunities.

Caritas Australia is supporting the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi to run an Integrated Community Development Program that is improving the living standards of 450 poor families.

The program aims to improve access to food, safe water and sanitation, restore the degraded environment and enhance community resilience to disasters.

Bule, 56, lives with his son Wesley, 17, in Gamphani village in the Diocese of Mzuzu, north Malawi. Two years ago Bule depended on casual farm-hand jobs to support his son.

“Finding work was unpredictable. We ate only one meal a day and I worried that I wouldn’t have enough money for Wesley’s school materials and examination fees. I wished we had enough food and other requirements throughout the year,” Bule said.

In 2007, Bule joined the Caritas-supported program, attending training at the community borehole on how to increase vegetable production from his small home garden. Bule learnt to make organic compost, simple techniques for soil and water conservation and food storage methods.

He also received a loan of a goat and resilient seeds to plant at the start of the rainy season. “I learnt to diversify my crops and started growing maize, soya beans, groundnuts, sweet potato and pumpkins. I use the goat manure for fertiliser,” he said.

The program encouraged Bule and the other farmers to save seed for the following season by establishing community-managed seed banks. After harvest, Bule repaid his seed loan, helping stock the seed bank. Some seed was loaned to other farmers to grow, while other seed was sold and profits shared among the members.

Caritas has supported the construction of 15 community boreholes to provide safe drinking water in the Diocese. Bule and other community members contributed bricks and sand, and received training on how to maintain the borehole site. Bule also learnt to construct a kitchen drying rack, rubbish pit, latrine and bathing room so the family now has access to improved sanitation.

Bule is now able to confidently pay for school fees and encourage Wesley’s hope to study medicine. “I wish for Wesley to finish his education, to be employed and self reliant, so that he should not face the same problems I have gone through,” he said.

You can help people like Bule by making a donation to Project Compassion, Caritas Australia’s annual appeal. Call toll-free 1800 024 413, post your cheque to GPO Box 9830, Sydney, NSW, 2001, or go to

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