Project Compassion 2015: Food for Life

16/02/2015

Catholic Outlook February 2015: Project Compassion
The Kolkatla Fish Raising Group has established a lifelong source of food and income. Photo: Stephen Kadlec.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook February 2015

On 15 February 2015, Caritas Australia, the international aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church, launched its annual Project Compassion appeal.

Each year Project Compassion, which runs through the six weeks of Lent, brings hundreds of thousands of Australians together in solidarity with the world’s poor.

Caritas Diocesan Director, Sr Louise McKeogh FMA, said Project Compassion would be launched in the Diocese of Parramatta on Shrove Tuesday (17 February).

“Caritas international speakers Eric and Ma from the Tutu rural training centre in Fiji will visit Parramatta Marist High School, Westmead, and Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta,” Sr Louise said.

Caritas Australia CEO, Paul O’Callaghan, said Project Compassion was an extraordinary, ongoing demonstration of the faith, love and generosity of caring supporters, all in the name of justice and peace.

“Project Compassion has transformed the lives of many of the most marginalised people around the world,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“It’s thanks to the generosity of the Australian supporters that Caritas has been able to work alongside communities over the long term in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Latin America and with First Australians.”

This year’s theme is Food for Life, which aligns closely with the Caritas Internationalis global initiative ‘One human family, food for all’, aimed at ending hunger by 2025.

With practical training and support from Caritas, the men and women of the Kolkatla Fish Raising Group in rural Nepal have been able to share their skills and create a lifelong source of food and income where once there was nothing.

Do you know the proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"?

Caritas Nepal has taken these words to a new level, working with men and women in a remote village community to turn a disused pond into a thriving fish-raising business so that together they can share food for life.

In rural Nepal many people are very poor and survive by farming small plots of land that grow just enough food for their families. Unemployment is high and very few people have the skills to develop new businesses.

Mother-of-three Sarita attended school until the eighth grade, making her one of the most educated women in her village. Yet her family still struggled to survive.

Their small family farm simply couldn’t sustain them. “With the produce from the land we did not meet our food and basic needs,” Sarita said.

When Caritas initiated the Kolkatla Fish Raising Group eight years ago, Sarita was one of the first people to join.

This collaborative program provided the group of eight men and four women with a low-interest loan along with training and equipment to establish and run a successful business raising and selling fish.

“This program embraced the poorest of the poor like us, gave us skills and supported us with funds to invest and make something of ourselves,” Sarita said.

The group leased a natural pond on the northern side of their village, and with a huge amount of hard work and dedication their business has grown to become one of the most successful enterprises supported by Caritas Nepal.

The group now produces about 8000kg of fish each year. “There is high demand for fish in our locality and also in nearby markets so we are able to sell at a good price,” Sarita said.

With a steady income from the Fish Raising Group, Sarita’s family has bought more land, invested in livestock and planted fruit trees along with their regular crops.

All together this means they have long-term earning power, a secure source of food for life, and a healthy diet.

Sarita is proud that she can share food for life and can now afford to educate her children, so that they will be able to create their own futures. “The program has provided our family with good health and hope. And it has become a platform for the unity and growth of the community,” she said.

To make a donation to Project Compassion visit: http://www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion

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