All posts by sndden

Coronavirus quarantine: How Catholics in Italy are helping the poor

Virus
A woman walks past a “Wall of Kindness,” a charity work phenomenon, encouraging people to items such as winter clothing for the homeless, on Jan 25, 2020 in Milan. Credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty

– While Italy is under nationwide quarantine to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Catholic charities throughout the country are doing what they can to help the poor and most vulnerable.

In Milan, the center of the Italian epidemic, the Caritas Ambrosiana Catholic charity network has kept open the doors of its shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries, albeit with some modifications to help keep people safe.

“In the midst of the emergency we have tried to balance two principles: public health and the support of people in difficulty,” the spokesperson, Francesco Chiavarini, told CNA by phone.

At soup kitchens and food pantries, people are first checked for fevers and then enter in limited numbers. Night shelters and dormitories are now kept open during the day for the homeless.

“In this moment, life is very complicated for the homeless,” Chiavarini said, explaining that places where people without homes go to escape the region’s still cold weather, public libraries for example, are now all closed.

The Italian government has ordered people to remain at home during the quarantine, but people living on the street have no way to comply with that mandate.

“In some way, with this little initiative, we are trying to resolve this paradox,” the Caritas spokesperson said. “It’s a drop in the ocean really, but it’s what we can do.”

Milan’s Caritas hopes that during this difficult time, the shelters can become a “home” for those who do not have one.

People in northern Italy are “really, really worried,” Chiavarini said. As the number of cases grows, so does the risk of the collapse of the health service.

He encouraged Catholics to think of ways they can show closeness and solidarity to others, even while they cannot be physically near them.

Caritas Internationalis’ is helping refugees in Italy know what is going on with the coronavirus and what they should do.

In Rome, the Catholic lay community of Sant’Egidio has volunteers continuing to bring food to people living on the streets. Volunteers are also handing out products such as facial tissues and hand sanitizer to the poor.

The community’s soup kitchens also remain open with extra precautionary measures, such as limiting the number of people who can enter at one time, ensuring hygiene and physical distance between people.

Sant’Egidio encouraged people to do their part to combat isolation by reaching out with phone and video calls, letters, and messages to the elderly and disabled, especially those in institutions where they cannot be visited because of the risk of contagion.

In an interview with Vatican Media, the president of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, said it is important to remember the most vulnerable — such as the homeless, the elderly, and hospice patients — during this time.

“You have to find new ways to stay close to these people, naturally avoiding being infected and infecting, it is something that requires a lot of intelligence, a lot of creativity, and a lot of passion and love,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/coronavirus-quarantine-how-catholics-in-italy-are-helping-the-poor-59229

Nonprofit seeks to provide computers to Iraqi Christian schools

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Refugee children at a refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq, March 28, 2015. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

– While Christian schools in Iraq continue to suffer, a non-profit that promotes positive engagement in the Middle East is aiming to provide computers to Assyrian Christian schools.

In partnership with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the Philos Project is trying to raise $25,000 to install computer labs for Christian schools throughout northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan has seen a drastic decrease in educational funds, said Juliana Taimoorazy, advocacy fellow for the Philos Project and founder of Iraqi Christian Relief Council.

“These schools don’t have what they need from a technology perspective,” she said.

“It’s really debilitating because they’re unable to type on Word for example, physically or create spreadsheets. Everything they’re doing is by theory. I mean, you can imagine how integral computers are in our daily lives,” she said, pointing to the fact that most homes in Western culture have a computer.

She said that out of 23 Christian schools in the area, the project will provide computer labs for five of them. The Christian schools range from elementary to high school.

These computer labs will consist of printers, projectors, and at least five laptops, electrical wires, and internet routers.

For four years, these schools in Iraq have requested Taimoorazy for new computers because scarcely any families have this technology themselves and the few schools that do have these machines own computers that were manufactured around 2004.

“I kid you not, they have books. They study book to book through pages [on how to] create spreadsheets, how to turn it on and off, how to do a cut and paste, how to create a graphic for example, or attach a graphic into the word document,” she said.

Taimoorazy, who is the granddaughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide, has also been persecuted in Iraq for her faith. She said Christian children not only face difficulties to obtain their education but they have also been persecuted. During her time in Iran, she talked about times when she was not allowed to play with Muslim children and moments when she was ridiculed for her faith.

She said that since the invasion of the Islamic State funds for Christian schools have drastically decreased.

“People started giving to life-sustaining projects like food, tents, and repairing their homes, if they’re going back to their homes. The amount of money that was allocated for schools, for teachers or transportation or printing books and translating books from Kurdish to Assyrian or Syriac, it’s dropped to really a very, very low level.”

Among other hardships that these schools face, she said educators continue to teach without being paid and some students are not able to access school because of a lack of transportation.

However, she said they are strong-willed people with a deep respect for education. Some of the students are even trilingual, understanding Assyrian, Arabic, and Kurdish. She said that while parents will struggle with the basic necessities, these families will sacrifice to further their children’s education.

“They’re actually resilient children, but they haven’t seen anything but war, devastation, hunger, and yet they have such love, profound love for education,” she said.

“[These] people will grow up to go out there in the world to serve humanity and based on their own experience, based on the trauma that they’ve gone through, they can be even more impactful. I come from a traumatized generation … We suffer from collective and generational trauma. We have been persecuted. My great grandparents were persecuted.”

She expressed hope that the worldwide Christian community and people of goodwill will take this project seriously. She stressed the importance of offering these children equal opportunities in technology, noting that, in order to be successful, these children must have hands-on experience with computers.

“We have to remember what John Paul II said that ‘the Church breathes with both lungs’ and we cannot forget the right lung of the Church, which is Eastern Christianity. So my plea to the Catholic world, to the Christian world in the West is not to forget their brothers and sisters in the East, and to really help these young minds, these young children to lead dignified lives,” she said.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/nonprofit-seeks-to-provide-computers-to-iraqi-christian-schools-14988

Church’s social justice teachings inspire young climate activist

climate strike
Isabella Johnson demanded the city of Chicago declare a “climate emergency” at the Oct. 7, 2019, Youth Climate Strike. Johnson, 17, leads the organization that planned the event. Her pin reads “There is no planet B.” (Zack Fishman)

Climate activist Isabella Johnson is planning a massive Earth Day protest that requires permits and other paperwork with the city of Chicago. But she is finding it challenging to get to the city’s offices before they close at 4:30 p.m.

That’s because she is still in high school.

As the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, 17-year-old Johnson has helped organize four Chicago protests that are part of an international movement that encourages students to skip school to advocate for action on global warming and environmental justice.

Johnson, a senior at Benet Academy, a Catholic prep school about 35 miles west of
downtown Chicago, oversees 20 volunteer staff and regularly takes a train downtown to meet with adults from partner organizations. She squeezes in responses to media during homeroom and lunch.

“I try to fit in my homework somewhere in there, too,” she said.

Now Johnson is working on what she hopes is her biggest youth protest yet, the April 22 event that could attract some 15,000 or more Chicago-area youth.

“I’m really passionate about all these things,” she told NCR’s Earthbeat. “I saw something that needed fixing in the world, so I decided to spend my time fixing it.”

Johnson is quick to share facts about the seriousness of the crisis, citing the estimate that the world has about 12 years to avoid disastrous consequences from global warming.

“I think climate change is one of the most important issues of today, just because it is so time sensitive,” she said. “We’re damaging the earth. It’s our home; it’s our earth; it’s God’s creation.”

But being in the spotlight has not always been easy for Johnson, who grew up in nearby Naperville. She has faced online bullying and struggles with her own mental health.

What keeps her grounded — and motivates her activist work — is her faith.

Youth stepping up

Last fall, while in Colorado checking out prospective colleges, Johnson had the chance to meet Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg while backstage at that state’s climate strike.

Johnson thanked Thunberg and apologized for President Trump, who had publicly mocked the activist during her visit to the U.S. Thunberg, in turn, thanked her and the other Colorado activists.

The whole experience was “mind-blowing,” Johnson said. “Without her, I would not be doing what I’m doing.”

Johnson also owes her activism career to her older sister, Olivia, who in 2018 took her to her first protest after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. For the first time, “I felt like I could create change, too,” she recalled.

Johnson began to educate herself about the issue of gun violence and about politics. That’s when she decided to trade her involvement with track and cross country for political activism, especially around environmental issues.

“Because the adults and the politicians aren’t doing enough about this, it’s been left to the youth,” said Johnson. “Most youth activists say they don’t want to do this, but we’ve been forced to.”

As a state leader, she created an ambassador program that allows students outside the core team to get involved at a lesser level. Illinois now has more than 100 ambassadors, and the program has been replicated by other state chapters.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/churchs-social-justice-teachings-inspire-young-climate-activist

Oversize vehicles offer tenuous home amid U.S. housing crisis

Screenshot_2020-03-05 Oversize vehicles become homes amid US housing crisis
A sign in Seattle restricts overnight parking in 2014. Handout photo by Graham Pruss

WASHINGTON, – Judith Ortiz was living in an apartment near San Francisco, working in a restaurant, when she realized she could no longer make ends meet.

Rents had gotten too high, she recalled, and the job was not paying enough.

About a year ago, she took a step that experts say is increasingly common amid the record rental affordability crisis gripping the United States: She left her apartment and bought an RV, a large vehicle equipped with beds, plumbing and a small living space.

Today Ortiz lives in the RV — short for recreational vehicle and designed for camping or road trips — with her sister and two-year-old niece.

The arrangement allows her “to be in the neighborhood and not stay on the street”, said Ortiz, 45.

But it is hopefully only a temporary solution, she said, adding that living in an RV in the street was unsafe and that her sister had been hassled.

“Nobody wants to live in an RV. It’s just convenient because the cost of living is way too high,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from East Palo Alto, California.

A dramatic rise in homelessness in the United States after the recession of 2008-09 has been running parallel to an increase in people living in vehicles, said Graham Pruss, a University of Washington anthropologist.

Those living in oversize vehicles make up a unique subset, he said: “RVs are being used as a new form of affordable housing.”

In places like Seattle, the booming tech industry has made it difficult for those with lower-paid jobs to find a place to live.

“People who work in the service economy can’t live here,” said Pruss, who works with the city of Seattle on homelessness issues. “They have to live 100 miles away — or they’re using these vehicles.”

MOBILITY, PROPERTY, PRIVACY

Especially for those who are newly experiencing homelessness, an RV can be enticing, Pruss said.

They “look around them on the street and see everyone else living in tents, and there’s a valuation, seeing (a) vehicle as better,” he said. “Especially an RV, which has a stove — you have mobility, a certain property right, privacy.”

The number of those living in vehicles has skyrocketed over the past decade, Pruss said — in Seattle, rising within a decade to 3,372 from 881 in 2008, according to official annual counts.

And the anecdotal evidence is clear, he said: RVs have become an incredibly common sight on the streets of many U.S. cities, particularly on the West Coast.

Yet RVs as a housing option pose unique challenges for cities, support services and residents alike, said researchers and activists.

Their size — often more than 20 feet long, and wider than a standard vehicle — makes it difficult to find parking. RVs also often have toilets or sinks, meaning residents have to figure out a way to safely dispose of wastewater, while generators can be noisy.

These factors also make them easy targets for residential neighborhoods that may not want them on their streets, and for cities to crack down on them.

Ordinances to outlaw sleeping in a vehicle rose by 213% in 2019, according to a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Such bans now exist in 50% of U.S. cities, the report said.

DOWNSIZING

RV residents can also pose an additional complexity as they may not want to move out of their vehicle, said Jennifer Adams, an outreach manager with the Bridge Care Center, a charity in Seattle.

Instead, they may see themselves as having made a purposeful decision to downsize, and thus may not want to access homelessness services that could be of help, she explained.

“A lot of them are a lot more independent — it costs a lot more money to be that way, and they usually have an income,” said Adams, referring to those living in RVs.

The city’s tech industry has displaced roofers, painters, fishermen and other contractors, she said, and those are the types that may consider moving into an RV to save costs.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200304092324-4fz13/

 

Ethiopia’s enslaved child maids seek solace at night school

Screenshot_2020-03-04 Ethiopia's enslaved child maids seek solace at night school
An underage domestic worker takes notes in a class in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 14, 2020. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Emeline Wuilbercq

ADDIS ABABA, – Each day, 12-year-old Tesfa waits for the clock to strike 3:30 p.m. and provide her respite from the cooking, cleaning and beatings she endures working as a maid in Ethiopia’s capital.

Once she finishes her daily tasks – which include caring for a toddler – Tesfa runs to a primary school to avoid being late for a catch-up class tailored towards underage domestic workers.

“I’m only happy when I come here,” Tesfa, whose name was changed to protect her identity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after a class in Addis Ababa last month.

Fiddling with her necklace, she spoke of sleeping on the floor, eating only leftovers and being denied any days off.

“I do anything (the employers) order me to do … they beat me, always,” added Tesfa. She was left with the family last year by an aunt who took her from northern Ethiopia to Addis Ababa.

Tesfa is one of countless girls working as maids in cities across Ethiopia although official data is lacking. Most come from rural areas and are sent away in search of a living by their families – often via labour brokers or with relatives.

Kept indoors, far from home, and unprotected by labour law, many child servants are denied an education, exploited and enslaved, according to activists that work with such victims.

Run by a local charity, the two-hour lessons are attended by about 130 pupils, most of them young maids, who have permission from their employers to go to school once their chores are done.

“These children are hungry for education,” Fikirte Assefa, a volunteer for the Organization for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Integration of Female Street Children (OPRIFS), which has been running the early evening classes since 2006.

“(The classes give them) hope and a vision,” Fikirte added, recounting success stories of former child maids she had worked with who later went on to become nurses, doctors and engineers.

LEGAL STRUGGLE

Yet such triumphs are thought to be rare in a country where the rights of domestic workers are not enshrined in labour law.

Their working conditions are regulated by Ethiopia’s civil code of 1960, leaving them highly vulnerable to abuses according to lawyers who say this limits their legal avenues to pursue justice and fuels a sense of impunity among exploitative bosses.

Under the code, employers must pay domestic workers living in their homes every three months and cover healthcare costs, while being entitled to offset the outlay against owed wages.

Former federal prosecutor Mussie Mezgebo Gebremedhin said this meant that the lives of Ethiopia’s domestic workers “largely depended on employers’ sense of fairness”.

“The government has drafted a regulation on domestic work but still it has not been enacted,” he said. “(It) thinks that domestic work based on a contract can disrupt the family-like conditions or the relationship between the employer and worker.”

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200304002433-0qarl/

 

India PM Modi hands over his social media accounts for Women’s Day

Screenshot_2020-03-05 India PM Modi hands over social media accounts for Women's Day
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the media prior to the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

NEW DELHI, – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hand over his social media accounts on Sunday to celebrate inspiring women on International Women’s Day, months after facing criticism over a series of high-profile rape cases.

With more than 50 million followers on Twitter, Modi, 69, has one of the biggest followings on social media among world leaders.

“This Women’s Day, I will give away my social media accounts to women whose life & work inspire us. This will help them ignite motivation in millions,” Modi said in a tweet on Tuesday.

He asked people to share entries of such women using the hashtag #SheInspiresUs, which became the top trending topic on Twitter about an hour after he posted his tweet.

His support for the March 8 event came after he faced flak for failing to check violence against women following a series of rape cases late last year that triggered mass protests.

In November, a 27-year-old vet was raped, suffocated and her dead body set alight on the outskirts of the southern city of Hyderabad.

Another rape victim was set on fire and killed by a gang of men, including her alleged rapists, in December.

In the same month, a court sentenced a former lawmaker from Modi’s ruling party to life imprisonment for raping a teenager.

These cases highlighted India’s grim record of sexual violence against women despite enacting some of the world’s toughest laws after the gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in December 2012, which sparked global outrage.

One woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to government data released in January.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200303094604-h0hgs/

 

University of Notre Dame converts tons of dining hall leftovers into energy

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University of Notre Dame senior Matthew Magiera stands in front of one of the school’s 5,000-gallon holding tanks of ground-up food. (William E. Odell)

Notre Dame, Indiana — On the campus of the University Notre Dame with its “Fighting Irish” mascot, green is undeniably the school color during football season. But in recent years, the 177-year-old university with about 12,000 students has been going green in other ways — reducing its carbon footprint and working towards sustainability.

In 2016, the university adopted a comprehensive sustainability strategy that featured six major areas the university intended to work on. One of them was a commitment to reduce waste, including food waste. At Notre Dame, food waste comes primarily from its two main dining halls and from campus catering events. Food waste was painfully visible on home football game weekends. Thousands of fans came to campus to cheer, eat, drink — and discard what they didn’t consume.

“One of the first things I realized when I started working at the university was that we were generating an awful lot of waste on campus, and most of it was food,” recalled Allison Mihalich, senior program director at Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability.

Until two years ago, Mihalich worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. She’s found campus culture very different than the EPA environment. Not everyone on campus is well informed about or even interested in environmental issues. But she saw that Notre Dame administrators had a growing commitment to sustainability and wanted to both recycle and rescue food.

Mihalich said she first encountered Matthew Magiera, a chemical engineering major from Pittsford, New York, in the university’s sustainability office conference room. His research notes and calculations were spread out across the table and floor. Collaborating with Campus Dining and the Office of Sustainability, Magiera had been tasked as an intern with calculating the amount of food waste from dining hall food trays and from catering.

It was quite a challenge for a sophomore college student, even an exceptionally committed and capable one. For months, “waste weighs” of food were painstakingly recorded, analyzed and re-analyzed.

“We realized that we were generating a ton of food waste a day,” Mihalich told NCR’s EarthBeat. “Literally an actual ton of food waste every day from the two dining halls and the catering facilities!”

Two years later, Magiera shies away from taking much credit for his critical food waste research. Nonetheless, the research soon led to Notre Dame’s installation of three Grind2Energy systems, one near each of the two dining halls and one by the catering office.

Last year, Notre Dame began utilizing the Grind2Energy systems in order to process its food waste and then send it to another site for anaerobic digestion, the biological break-down of organic material that produces biogas that can be used to generate electric power.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/university-notre-dame-converts-tons-dining-hall-leftovers-energy