Category Archives: Charity

Catholic aid groups provide relief to those affected by Cyclone Amphan

Residents survey damage left by Cyclone Amphan in Gobardanga, West Bengal, India, May 21, 2020. Credit: Boby Ortain/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, – Catholic Relief Services is among the agencies providing aid to those impacted by Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and eastern India. The storm killed at least 96, millions were evacuated, and Kolkata was devastated.

The cyclone made landfall in India May 20, and it dissipated the following day. It brought winds of as much at 160 mph, and waves up to 15 feet.

Kolkata, a city of 4.5 million, was without power for at least 14 hours, and its roads were flooded.

“Initially they were not willing to evacuate, because they were weighing between the risk of the cyclone and the invisible risk of Covid-19,” Snigdha Chakroborty, CRS’ Bangladesh country director, told PBS NewsHour May 20 of local residents.

“They do not have income, they do not have homes, they also lost their crops in the field. So basically it a devastating and painful situation that they will have to live with now.”

CRS and Caritas have indicated there are immediate needs for shelter, potable water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Ahead of the storm, the groups indicated they had “pre-positioned emergency supplies” and were “supporting efforts to clean evacuation centers and procure critically needed supplies in local markets.”

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta has asked Church officials to open their facilities to those rendered homeless by the cyclone, according to UCA News. The “top priority is to arrange food for so many people who have lost everything,” he told the independent Catholic news source.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-aid-groups-provide-relief-to-those-affected-by-cyclone-amphan-78538

DC parish fills pews with food for parishioners in need

Pew
Parish of the Sacred Heart, Washington, DC. Courtesy image.

– Public masses remain suspended in the Archdiocese of Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the pews at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart are not empty.

Priests, parishioners, and staff at Sacred Heart Parish recently assembled 500 boxes of food and other resources to be delivered to families facing hardships like job loss or illness during the pandemic. Fr. Emilio Biosca Agüero, the parish’s pastor, told CNA in an interview that the needs he sees are immediate.

Agüero said Sacred Heart, which serves the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods of Washington D.C., is a primarily Spanish-speaking community, and has many immigrant members.

“When many immigrants arrive to DC, Sacred Heart is one of the first places they visit,” he said.

Agüero said the pandemic hit the parish community hard.

“When the pandemic started, people began losing their jobs, some of them are undocumented so that presents a challenge in finding other work as well, others have been affected by COVID-19,” he said.

Agüero called the boxes “a gesture from the Church,” and added that in addition to food, they include spiritual resources like rosaries and prayer cards, as well as information about local food banks and coronavirus testing sites.

Sacred Heart parishioner Carola Cerezo-Allen said in an interview that she wants her fellow parishioners to know that “the temple doors are closed, but we are with them even though we cannot be together.”

“Sacred Heart is a big church, and so we came together as a community to walk with people in our community facing disease and unemployment,” she said. “It’s what we need in this time of so much anxiety.”

Cerezo-Allen said she hopes a time many Catholics are unable to receive communion will prompt them to think about what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

She stressed that those who assembled the boxes maintained social distancing guidelines and they will also deliver boxes to parishioners rather than having people come to the church.

“I’m a nurse, so I’m very aware of what’s needed,” Cerezo-Allen said.

Monica Zevallos is Sacred Heart’s RCIA coordinator and a member of the parish staff. She helped assemble the boxes and told CNA she is proud of the “teamwork” the parish showed by working to support members of their community in need.

“This is a very strong community, this is not a parish where people come and go,” Zevallos said.

Zevallos said she was moved to see parishioners bringing in small donations for the project because it was what they could offer.

“It’s beautiful seeing people do what they can, that’s how we are building these baskets,” she said.

Agüero, Cerezo-Allen, and Zevallos all stressed that many members of the parish contributed to the project, and mentioned parishioners Juan Melendez and Javier Alvarez as additional leaders of the project.

Being Catholic, Zevallos said, isn’t “just praying, it’s putting our faith in action.”

“This is a way to let them know Christ loves us, is walking with us, and this little thing–these boxes–are a way to say He’s going to take care of us,” Zevallos said.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/dc-parish-fills-pews-with-food-for-parishioners-in-need-62813

Priest in Costa Rica bakes bread to help families in need

Bread
Father Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín baking bread. Photo courtesy of Father Ortiz.

– When he was just 15 years old, Fr. Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín had to quit school and find a job to help support his family.

Faced with a difficult economy, Ortiz’s family was struggling financially. He quit school and found a job opportunity at a neighboring family’s bakery, where he worked for five years.

The priest told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that he learned important life skills from the job, such as “knowing what it is to meet a schedule, getting up at dawn and working overtime. In short, it was an enriching experience.”

He took those life skills with him when he entered seminary at age 21. He has now been a priest for 10 years and serves as pastor of Saint Rose of Lima parish in Ciudad Queseda in northern Costa Rica.

Recently, however, Ortiz has returned to his roots as a baker to raise funds for the needy in his parish during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public Masses were suspended a month ago in Costa Rica due to the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, the priest could see the financial strain mounting on members of the community.

“A lot of people starting knocking on the rectory door asking for help, while the parish and local charitable groups weren’t getting any income from the collection,” he explained.

So Ortiz began baking. He uses around 55 lbs. of flour each workday to bake different kinds of bread, rolls and other items. A bag of baked goods sells for 1500 colones, or about $2.65.

“With 1500 colones here we can buy perhaps a 5-pound package of rice,” he said, adding that he has been able to help about 60 families so far.

From the sale of baked goods, he was able to raise extra funds, he said, which have ensured that anyone who has knocked on the rectory door has left with a package of rice, sugar or beans.

No one has been sent away empty handed, the priest said.

“I work all day long baking bread, selling it, and in the evenings I celebrate the Eucharist. I always tell the Lord, ‘Thank you for the true bread that gives eternal life, which is the greatest of riches and is what I want our people to have, receive, taste and feel’,” he said.

Ortiz encouraged other priests to find creative ways to help serve those in need during the challenging times presented by the pandemic.

“I believe that this is a special moment,” he said. “God has allowed me to return to my origins. God has allowed me to help meet the needs of our brothers. This is a moment in which the Lord is allowing us to live in solidarity and to reach out in a very special way.”

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/priest-in-costa-rica-bakes-bread-to-help-families-in-need-17858

Nigeria’s tech experts step in to help those losing livelihoods under lockdown

Screenshot_2020-04-30 Nigeria's tech experts step in to support jobless during pandemic
Emmanuel Onyeahiolam, 30, a contractor, who is one of the beneficiaries of the We Are Together crowdfunding site speaks to Reuters during an interview in his home amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lagos, Nigeria April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

LAGOS,(Reuters) – Tech startup founder Ebun Okubanjo watched with dismay as his home city of Lagos entered a coronavirus-containment lockdown, knowing well that millions of Nigerians on the margins could be left with nothing.

So he and his team used their expertise to create a crowdfunding site, “We Are Together”, to distribute cash to those in difficulty who apply for help.

Others in Nigeria’s flourishing tech sector have also put their skills to use to help cushion the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

“The reality is to tell people to stay home, and not work .. you have to give them something,” Okubanjo told Reuters.

Africa’s informal sector accounts for more than 85% of employment across the continent and has been largely bypassed by limited support measures from cash-strapped governments.

An African Union study warned that the pandemic puts some 20 million jobs at risk in Africa, with the continent’s economies projected to shrink this year.

While Nigeria said the lockdowns will begin to gradually ease from May 4, it is not yet clear who will be able to go back to work, and the economic impact will be lasting.

Okubajo said his site, and others like it, are effectively a DIY economic stimulus, allowing those with cash to prevent people from falling into destitution.

Emmanuel Onyeahiolam, 30, an electrical equipment contractor, got 10,000 naira ($27.78) from We Are Together.

He said he was abruptly unable to work when Lagos locked down, and his last client was not able to pay him immediately.

“It’s not too convenient for me to stay for a long time without working,” he said, adding that food costs had gone up fivefold. “It’s just scary.”

We Are Together raised more than 17 million naira ($47,222) and distributed it to 1,739 recipients.

Justin Irabor, a tech worker with Nigerian startup Eden Life Inc, founded “Angels Among Us” with a team of volunteer software engineers. The site matches donors directly with recipients, and has enabled more than 2 million naira in donations.

Both platforms are primarily online – a fact that puts them out of reach to the poorest Nigerians.

Both sites must also to an extent take applicants at their word, although Angels Among Us tries to vet its recipients and volunteers call to verify their stories. The site tries to use bank-issued biometric identification numbers to prevent graft.

We Are Together uses location technology to ensure that recipients are in the parts of the country under federally mandated lockdown, and not in wealthy parts of those states.

Okubanjo conceded the system is not perfect – and that some who do not need cash could get it. But it is a risk worth taking.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200430091923-4vulw/

Seminarian in Spain returns to roots as doctor amid pandemic

Doctor
Credit: Spotmatik Ltd/Shutterstock.

– While most of the students at the San Fulgencia Seminary in Cartagena, Spain, returned home when the country declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, one seminarian felt a different calling.

With a background in medicine, first-year seminarian Abraham Martínez Moratón asked permission of the rector at his seminary to go back to work as a doctor to help treat COVID-19 patients in the regional healthcare system.

With permission granted, Martínez got in contact with his former employers at Queen Sofía Hospital. He began working March 16 at a facility in Monteagudo.

Martínez shared his experience in an article posted on the Diocese of Cartagena’s website.

“It was a blessing to go to work everyday and going down the Alicante highway to catch sight of the statue of Christ atop Monteagudo mountain. It was a huge gift to meet all the staff, we worked together as a team very well,” he said.

Martínez spent several weeks in Monteagudo and then was transferred to a facility in the Carmen neighborhood in Murcia.

There he was reunited with some of his former colleagues, who were surprised to see him again. “When they saw me they said, ‘This is a mirage, weren’t you in the seminary?’”

Martínez always felt his vocation in life was to help others, and from a young age he wanted to be a doctor. He said that returning to medicine has made him more aware of “growing in holiness day by day, seeing the face of Christ in the patients and praying more for them.”

Martínez said that the experience has reinforced his vocation.

“I want to be a disciple of Jesus, who is the physician of bodies and souls,” he reflected.

“I used to say to God: If I’m already helping you through medicine, why add on more things? But it’s also true that I always told him and I continue to tell him, whatever he wants for me.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/seminarian-in-spain-returns-to-roots-as-doctor-amid-pandemic-61538

Pakistani taxi drivers give free rides to Spanish health workers

Divers
Like all drivers, Sheraz Syed wears a masks and gloves, and uses hand sanitiser regularly while at work [Sheraz Syed/Al Jazeera]

Barcelona, Spain – When Sheraz Syed returns home from his working day, he cannot hug his three children or his wife, because of the coronavirus.

Being a taxi driver these days is a high-risk job. But on top of his regular work, along with 195 Pakistanis in Barcelona, he provides free rides to healthcare staff in the city.

The initiative started at the beginning of Spain’s lockdown, in mid-March, as six Pakistani taxi drivers led by Shahbaz Ahmed discussed how medical workers would be able to return at night to their homes.

Since then, their effort has expanded to about 200 volunteers, including some drivers from other nationalities.

They started by sharing their contact details with hospitals and organised their schedules to cover the city centre and more remote facilities, such as the Can Ruti Hospital.

“Medical staff work too many hours and we saw that they were going to their jobs using public transport,” said Asim Gondal, a driver volunteering his services.

“For this reason, as they are working on the frontline for humanity, we began this service also to save them more time and, in this way, they don’t spend it on public transport.”

Gondal and his family have lived in Barcelona for about 20 years and Spain, he said, a country he now considers home.

“This is a difficult time for Spain,” he said.

About 43,000 Pakistanis live in Barcelona, and almost 89,000 in Spain overall, according to the Spanish Statistical Office.

The drivers follow preventive measures: they wear masks, gloves and have disinfectant gel in their cars.

None of the people in the group have the virus, but there have been previous cases of Pakistani taxi drivers with COVID-19.

Five are reported to be recovering in hospital.

“It’s frightening when your workmate is at the hospital. Some are my friends and they have eaten in my house,” said Syed. “There is always a risk.”

In an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) has limited taxi traffic to 20 percent each day and each driver is allowed to work once a week.

“We will provide this service until we can,” said Gondal.

Like many in Spain, which is facing a severe economic downturn as thousands have been laid off, the coronavirus outbreak has impacted the drivers’ personal finances.

“We don’t have any economic help from the government and only self-employed workers are able to work, the rest have been fired,” claimed Syed.

This has impacted their personal protection; not all taxi drivers can afford a screen to separate them from their passengers.

In addition to the taxi drivers’ inititative, over the past two weeks, the local Pakistani community has stepped in to help.

Grocery store owners have converted industrial warehouses into spaces taxi drivers can use to organise food parcel distribution to the homeless and families in need.

Hundreds of masks and robes for medical workers are being sewn together at pace at the the Catalan Islamic Cultural Centre.

More than 15,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Spain since the start of the epidemic, and there have been more than 152,000 cases overall.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/pakistani-taxi-drivers-give-free-rides-spanish-health-workers-200408120354440.html

Priests and volunteers deliver 15,000 food baskets amid coronavirus pandemic

sanchez_portilo
Fr. Omar Sánchez Portillo distributes food in Lima’s Lurin district. Credit: Beatitudes Community

– Priests and volunteers have distributed more than 15,000 food baskets to Peruvians unable to work during the nation’s coronavirus pandemic lockdown. They say they aim to distribute 15,000 more.

Fr. Omar Sánchez Portillo, secretary general of Caritas Lurín and leader of region’s Beatitudes Community, announced March 26 the distribution of 15,000 food baskets to families living on metro Lima’s south side. Lurín is a southern district of Lima, Peru.

“Today we’ve already distributed 15,000 food baskets in the poorest and most vulnerable areas of South Lima. And we’re going for another 15,000!” the priest said March 26.

Sanchez manages a home for orphans in Lurin, in addition to a homeless shelter. Earlier this month, he began an online fundraiser for cleaning supplies and other provisions needed for the facility. He said because of the success of the fundraiser, he was able to purchase food for distribution in the region.

He began another fundraiser when several families approached Caritas, “asking us for help so they could have something to eat because these are people who work as street vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers and unfortunately they don’t have anything to eat because they’re out of work.”

For roughly four dollars per basket, his organization is able to assemble enough staples to replenish the food stores of hungry families.

Sanchez described one family assisted by his group, in which nine family members had been quarantined while the family’s father had been hospitalized. The family had run out of food by the time Caritas brought them a food basket.

Thanks to the group’s donors, Sanchez said, “we gave them a little statue of Our Lady of Aparecida donated by some good friends from Brazil…. We’ll keep on going!”

The delivery of food baskets is being undertaken in coordination with public health authorities, in order to avoid crowding at the headquarters of the Beatitudes Community.

Volunteers reportedly stay quarantined on the premises so as to avoid possibly infecting their families or other citizens.

The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency starting March 15, limiting travel in the country, closing public institutions and private businesses and issuing a 15 day stay-at-home order for all residents. However, on March 26 it announced the order would be extended to April 15.

While isolation and social distancing measures are expected to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, day laborers have been especially hard hit financially.

There are 950 coronavirus cases in Peru and 24 deaths.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/priests-and-volunteers-deliver-15000-food-baskets-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-27964