Compassion in action: bringing hope to the poor


As well as the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday (22 February) marks the start of Catholic international aid and development agency Caritas Australia's Project Compassion for 2012.

This year's Project Compassion carries the message of “If you want peace, work for justice” (Pope Paul VI) and for the next six weeks, people across Australia will raise money and offer hope to the millions of families who fight for justice, peace and survival every single day.

“Caritas Australia is about helping people help themselves. It is about delivering justice and peace by changing lives for the long haul,” Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot said.

“Project Compassion is the ultimate demonstration of this philosophy. Every year the Catholic community humbles us with their capacity to ensure the poorest of the poor are delivered justice and peace, which ultimately leads to stability and security.

“Last year we saw Queensland and Victoria devastated by floods and the far north trampled by a cyclone. At the same time there was a string of major international emergencies. But the Catholic faith is resilient.  With a record $9.7 million generated last year, we look forward to seeing how much we can raise in 2012.”

Flabiana’s hope for the future and her family

Project Compassion 2012 News Story
With the support of Caritas, Flabiana has an opportunity to build a better future for her family and community.
The saying goes: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”

This well-known proverb is certainly true for Flabiana. Only Flabiana is a woman and her fishing line is a tofu making machine.

Basic human needs like financial security, nutrition, safe shelter and money for school fees seemed almost unattainable for Flabiana and her family not so long ago. But a $500 grant from Caritas Australia changed her family’s life. This grant enabled Flabiana to purchase a soy bean processor and make tofu and tempeh.

“The most important thing I’ve learnt is to make tofu and tempeh,” said Flabiana, now a widowed mother of four who comes from the isolated Timor Leste province of Oe-cusse.

“Besides eating the tofu, I sell it to make money for household needs, schooling and traditional ceremonies.”

Life for Flabiana in 2012 is a peaceful one, but memories of 1999 when Timor Leste declared independence are still strong. In the violence that followed, Flabiana and her family fled into the country’s rugged mountains. When it was safe to return to their village, they found their home destroyed and property stolen.

The following years were very tough. Over time they managed to recoup a small number of goats and pigs, which they sold to rebuild their house and establish a small kiosk. But this did not provide the income and food security they desperately needed.

Around that time, Flabiana’s husband suffered respiratory problems and became extremely ill. This made life very precarious for Flabiana and her five children.

Fortunately for Flabiana, in 2007 she was able to take part in Caritas Australia’s Integrated Rural Community Development Program. Flabiana and other community members learnt new techniques for managing fast growing crops, processing food, producing traditional medicines and breeding animals.

“After joining Caritas we’ve found many changes. Now we have food for the whole year because we grow vegetables and earn money from food processing. Our health has also improved,” she said.

With her children now going to school and Flabiana training other women to use the soy bean processor, she feels hopeful about the future – for her family and her whole community.

Sadly Flabiana’s husband has recently died. Mercifully, Flabiana’s newfound financial independence means her large family is able to survive this terrible loss.

“Living in peace, we can send our children to school; we can do our work well. I thank Australians and ask that they continue to support us,” Flabiana said.

To donate, support or fundraise for Project Compassion 2012 please visit our website at or Ph: 1800 024 423

Tags: Project Compassion   Caritas   Lent

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