Category Archives: Charity

Sisters set troubled Filipino teens on course to self-sufficiency

Smiling Jane Ollivier with another younger girl
Jane Ollivier, pictured at left in 2015, entered the School of Life at age 15 after being orphaned and passed around various relatives. While living at the School of Life, she earned an education degree, taught school and now works as a home life officer for ACAY to help other teen girls. (Courtesy of the Missionaries of Mary)

Quezon City, Philippines — Jane Ollivier lost her parents by the age of 10. For five years, she bounced around between various relatives before she entered the School of Life, a residential program for teenage girls in metropolitan Manila run by the Missionaries of Mary.

“I wasn’t treated as a child who needed help, but as a member of a family,” she said. “I found the care of a family that I was looking for.”

In her three years in the program, Ollivier earned an education degree. She taught school for a year before returning to the School of Life as the home life officer to help other girls learn to be self-sustaining.

The sisters “gave me a foundation of what real life was like,” said Ollivier, now 30.

The School of Life is one of the central programs of Association Compassion Asian Youth, or ACAY. For more than 20 years, the association has focused on providing the support, skills and structure to change the lives of troubled teens and young adults in the Philippines.

The School of Life, founded in 2000, provides a home for around 20 girls between the ages of 14 and 21, many of whom were abused. The program helps them with school or vocational training and teaches practical life skills to help the girls become self-sustaining, such as budgeting and managing a house, planning meals and shopping. The girls also can earn money by doing administrative tasks for the program and making and selling crafts.

The Second Chance program for teen boys who are in detention centers began in 2002 and also emphasizes personal development, such as through anger-management classes, and vocational training to enable participants to get jobs in construction and other skilled trades once they are released from detention.

ACAY is the brainchild of Sr. Sophie Renoux, who prefers to be known as Sr. Sophie de Jésus. In 1995, the French sister heard a call to help children in the Philippines after she participated in World Youth Day in Manila as a member of the Community of the Beatitudes. She moved to the Philippines from France two years later.

There, she found few programs to help teens, so she and Sr. Edith Fabian, a Hungarian sister Sister Sophie knew through the Community of the Beatitudes, founded Association Compassion Asian Youth in 1997. Over the years, they were joined by Sr. Laetitia Gorczyca from Poland and Sr. Rachel Myriam Luxford from New Zealand, who were also members of the Community of the Beatitudes. Together, they founded the Missionaries of Mary, a diocesan community, in 2007.

Now, the programs are models for other organizations in the Philippines as well as similar programs in other countries. A Second Chance program began in Marseille, France, in 2014. Members of a nongovernmental organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo have welcomed ACAY staff in Kinshasa for training and have gone to the Philippines to find aspects of the School of Life to incorporate into its program for teenage and young women.

Girls are referred by nongovernmental organizations and detention centers or after they age out of other social service programs; boys are referred through social workers, counselors and other staff at the detention centers. After they leave the program, the women tend to work at offices or as teachers or nurses, and the men become carpenters or entrepreneurs or work in the field of social development. Most alumni return to speak with the young men and women still active in the program.

A caring, family-like atmosphere is fundamental for the teenagers, Sister Sophie said. The sisters, staff and volunteers offer encouragement, counseling and support.

“Emotionally, I had people I could lean on,” Ollivier said. “The sisters gave me that motherly care I was looking for. They’re not just there to give you the basic needs, but they are there to give you everything that you need to empower you as a woman.”

Raymart Montinola credits the sisters with helping him change his life. He was in a detention center at age 18 when a social worker referred him to the Second Chance program.

“I felt hopeless,” he said. “I had no skills. I couldn’t get a job.”

The sisters helped him get an apprenticeship in furniture-making. When he was inspired to start his own business, the sisters loaned him money for machinery and helped him find clients. Now in business for more than a year, he is supporting his wife, who was in the School of Life program, and their two children.

“I learned a lot, and I’m thankful because they’re still there, even if I’m not in any program now,” said Montinola, now 30. The sisters “continued to give me opportunities, give me wings so I could fly.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/justice/ministry/sisters-set-troubled-filipino-teens-course-self-sufficiency

Catholic campaign to aid Syrian children who ‘have known nothing but war’

Syrian refugee. / D.Khamissy/UNHCR via Flickr CC BY SA 2.0.
Syrian refugee. / D.Khamissy/UNHCR via Flickr CC BY SA 2.0.

CNA Staff, – Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the start of the Syrian war, the Catholic charity Caritas has launched a campaign to help children in Syria with much needed medical, humanitarian, and educational resources.

March 15 marks the grim anniversary of 10 years of war in Syria. The World Bank estimates that the country has suffered at least $197 billion worth of infrastructure damage during the conflict.

“Syrian children have known nothing but war,” Caritas Internationalis states on its website.

The charity’s “Tomorrow is in our hands” campaign seeks to bolster educational opportunities for Syrian children after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 50% out of the education system.

An estimated 2.45 million Syrian children were already not attending school at the end of 2019, according to the charity. Now, 2 in 3 children in the country are out of school.

“The lack of access to education by Syrian children risks having a devastating impact on the future of the country. The education sector is in dire need of resources, and donors should fund interventions designed to lift families out of poverty,” it states.

Caritas is seeking to provide meals in line with international nutrition indicators for children at schools and to launch child oriented workshops to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.

Eight in 10 people in Syria live below the poverty line with an estimated 11.1 million people in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including 4.7 million people in acute need in 2020. Children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and the elderly are the most at risk.

The Syrian conflict began when demonstrations sprang up across the country protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party. In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters.

The civil war has been fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

Russia and Iran have been supportive of the Syrian regime, while western nations have favored some rebel groups.

Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican’s diplomat in Syria for the past 13 years, has said that after nearly a decade of war, the Syrian people had now been hit with a “poverty bomb” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fr. Firas Lutfi, a Franciscan priest who served as a missionary in Aleppo at the height of the violence, witnessed the trauma endured by a generation of Syrian children who have spent the entirety of their lives in the uncertainty and tragedy of war.

The Franciscan sought to create a place of safety and healing for these kids, many of whom were suffering from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

“We observed that the children, the Aleppian children, many had trauma, post-war. Lots of them lost parents, some of them had mutilation, losing hands or legs, and they are afraid of everything,” Fr. Lutfi told CNA in 2020.

Lutfi founded the Franciscan Care Center’s post-traumatic war treatment program in Aleppo in 2017. Since then, its staff of clinical psychologists, volunteers, and social workers have served 1,500 Syrian children aged 6-17 years old.

Many children born in Syria amid the bombings and chaos of the war never received a birth certificate because their birth was not registered with the government.

To give these forgotten children an identity, the Franciscans began the “Name and Future” project in Eastern Aleppo.

“We take care of these children, and we gave them an official registration … We have in each center 500 children,” Lutfi said.

Among those cared for by the Franciscans in the centers in Aleppo are abandoned young people with Down syndrome and autism, as well as pregnant mothers in need of assistance.

Pope Francis offered encouragement to charities seeking to rebuild Syria in a video message in December.

“Every effort — large or small — made to foster the peace process is like putting a brick in the construction of a just society, one that is open to welcome, and where all can find a place to dwell in peace,” Pope Francis said.

“My thoughts go especially to the people who have had to leave their homes to escape the horrors of war, in search of better living conditions for themselves and their loved ones,” he added.

According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than 5.6 million people have left Syria since 2011. 

The majority of refugees stayed in the Middle East, with more than half registered as living in Turkey (3.6 million in 2021) and another 1.6 million refugees also living in either Lebanon or Jordan, which also border Syria.

Within Syria itself there are 6.7 internally displaced persons, according to Caritas.

“I appeal to the international community to make every effort to facilitate this return, guaranteeing the security and economic conditions necessary for this to happen. Every gesture, every effort in this direction is precious,” Pope Francis said.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-campaign-to-aid-syrian-children-who-have-known-nothing-but-war

What do we owe immigrants? Love, says Archbishop Gomez

Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Staff, – During a webinar on human dignity this week, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles reflected on immigration and the Christian’s obligation to love.

Gomez, who is president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, spoke on Jan. 12 at the 21st annual Winter Conference for the Notre Dame de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. He highlighted the dangers a secular society poses to a culture’s understanding of human dignity, especially toward immigrants. 

“As we know, the condition of migrants and refugees has been one of the key moral concerns of [Pope Francis’] pontificate. And it is true: forced migration, mass movements of populations, is one of the signs of our times. Not since World War II has the world faced this kind of refugee crisis,” he said. 

“We are all brothers and sisters, and we need to treat others as we want to be treated. As faithful citizens, we need to work to ensure that our nation is welcoming and generous, that we never close our hearts or turn our backs on people in need.”

The theme of the conference is “We Belong to Each Other,” which is taken from a quote by Saint Mother Teresa: “Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” 

Taking place Jan. 12-14, the webinar includes speakers such as noted moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, Notre Dame law school dean Marcus Cole, and California State Poet Laureate Dana Gioia.

In his talk, Gomez reflected on the Christian obligation to welcome the stranger.

“As Christians, we worship a God who has revealed himself as Love. And as Christians, we know that human beings are made in the image of this God, in the image of Love,” he said.

“We are created out of love. And we are made to love. To love as Jesus loved, and as Mother Teresa and the saints love. Whenever I hear this story, I am reminded of that beautiful saying from St. Augustine, ‘If you see love, you see the Trinity.’ This is the truth about God, the truth about the human person.”

Gomez has advocated for immigrant and refugee rights for over 20 years. He noted that the United Nations estimates that 80 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced by war, persecution, social unrest, and economic distress – including about 40 million children. 

“They are living on the run; they are exploited by human smugglers and some of them are being sold into slavery,” he said. 

“Their living conditions have been made even more desperate now, because of the pandemic and the closing of borders,” he added. “But the global refugee crisis – like so many of the troubles in the world – is more than a failure of politics or diplomacy. It’s a failure of human fraternity and solidarity. It’s a failure of love.”

The archbishop pointed to Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti. He said the pope has issued this encyclical as a missionary appeal to share God’s love in a heavily secular culture. 

Catholics must respond to this calling by sharing the truth about God’s love and the Christian family, he said.

“Unless we know these truths, we cannot understand our Christian commitments – for immigrants and refugees, for the poor, the unborn, the imprisoned, the sick, the environment. Unless we know these truths, we cannot understand how to create a society that will be good for human beings. “

“To put our challenge in its simplest terms: unless we believe that we have a Father in heaven, there’s no necessary reason for us [to] treat one another as brothers and sisters on earth,” he said. 

During his many years advocating for immigration reform, the archbishop said he has repeatedly encountered the question – “What do we owe to the migrant?” Simply put, he said, Christians are obliged to show love, recognizing that an immigrant’s dignity is not qualified by his legal or social status. 

“Love means remembering that they are souls, not statistics. They are men and women and children with dreams and hopes, no different than you,” he explained.

“Every immigrant and refugee is a child of God, made in his image. Every one of them has rights and dignity that can never be denied,” he said. “And that’s true whether they are in this country legally or not; and that’s true whether they’re eligible for asylum under our laws or not.”

Amid an atmosphere of political tension and division, Gomez challenged Catholics to remember that God is the Father of all people and to bear witness to God’s love. 

“We need to tell our neighbors about the God who is love. We need to tell them the good news that we are all children of God, that there is a greatness to human life,” he said. “That every one of us is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/what-do-we-owe-immigrants-love-says-archbishop-gomez

Sisters adapt food ministries to cope with pandemic, surge of those in need

Hour Children food pantry participant and Queens resident Jackie Terrasi, left, receives a food package from pantry coordinator Kellie Phelan. The pantry, based in New York City, is an initiative of Hour Children, a ministry headed by St. Joseph Sr. Tesa
Hour Children food pantry participant and Queens resident Jackie Terrasi, left, receives a food package from pantry coordinator Kellie Phelan. The pantry, based in New York City, is an initiative of Hour Children, a ministry headed by St. Joseph Sr. Tesa Fitzgerald. (GSR photo/Chris Herlinger)

In a time of uncertainty, one thing U.S. women religious and others who have been providing food during the COVID-19 pandemic know for sure is that the number of those who need food assistance has risen dramatically and continues to rise.

Officials from Feeding America, a national network of more than 200 food banks, told The Washington Post they have distributed 5 billion meals this year, and 40% of their food bank clients are people who have never relied on them before.

And food insecurity is projected to get worse: There could be 50 million food-insecure Americans by the end of 2020, up from 35 million at the start of 2020, the Post reported. But unless Congress can break its deadlock on what assistance to provide, the federal food programs supplying about half of the food that food banks distribute will end.

At a New York City food pantry that is an initiative of Hour Children, a ministry headed by St. Joseph Sr. Tesa Fitzgerald, the number of families using the pantry’s service is roughly double what it was over the summer.

Kellie Phelan, the food pantry’s coordinator, is struck by the number of new faces she sees in the lines every week. Many are young people, and many are coming from different boroughs in New York City.

“People are coming from everywhere,” she said.

Phelan told Global Sisters Report that while the number of families using the pantry’s services declined in the summer months from an early peak during the initial months of the pandemic, the numbers now are as high as they’ve been all year — about 700 a week.

The pantry, located in the Long Island City area of the borough of Queens, is open three times a week, and each day is averaging more than 200 clients, Phelan said. And she expects the numbers to stay that high or even increase in the coming months.

“There’s a lot of panic thinking right now,” she said. “Nobody knows what tomorrow is going to bring.”

Local community groups in Queens are helping restock pantry shelves through food drives in which volunteers ask shoppers at nearby grocery stores to buy canned foods and other nonperishables and donate them as they leave the stores.

Those efforts have been a huge success, Phelan said, helping to “completely restock” the Hour Children pantry shelves. “We’re beyond grateful.”

Because of social distancing concerns, the pantry earlier this year changed procedures, and clients now come to a table where they receive a prepackaged bag of food items rather than entering the pantry premises and picking items “supermarket style.” Those procedures remain in place, Phelan said, as do social distancing guidelines of people standing 6 feet apart.

But even with those guidelines in place, Phelan said, many clients are uncomfortable, particularly elderly people who are guarded about standing in line.

“It can be a scary situation for them,” she said. “They are scared, sad, but still grateful.”

The House of Bread, a 40-year-old soup kitchen in the poorest neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut, has also seen a change in its regular patrons.

St. Joseph Sr. Maureen Faenza, one of the kitchen’s directors, said people addicted to drugs and those experiencing chronic homelessness are no longer the usual faces who come through for one hot breakfast and one hot lunch a day.

Though some still visit the kitchen, now, the House of Bread is largely seeing “neighborhood people, poor people, families who are struggling because they have lost their jobs and income,” she said.

Faenza, co-founder and co-director of the House of Bread alongside St. Joseph Sr. Theresa Fonti, said since the start of the pandemic, the city has placed their homeless clients in hotels or other housing while their daytime shelter attached to the kitchen has had to shut down because of the pandemic.

Fortunately, the House of Bread was able to maintain operations throughout the pandemic, though they have had to manage with fewer volunteers, as some were elderly and couldn’t take on the risk of exposing themselves to the virus, Faenza said.

With glass partitions protecting patrons who dine in, the kitchen is able to continue serving about 200 meals a day, with half of the visitors choosing to take their meals to go. And while the House of Bread usually delivers an additional 600 meals to children throughout the city, local schools have managed to provide those meals for the time being, though Faenza said they’ll restart that program in January.

In terms of stock, Faenza said they haven’t had a problem: This year’s annual fundraiser was done as a drive-thru Nov. 18 and was “extremely successful,” Faenza said. “We’ve been fortunate as far as donations and food.”

But just a few miles over in West Hartford, Mercy Sr. Beth Fischer’s ministry has had to make some adjustments that — while understandable and necessary — have been tough to swallow; namely, the lack of human connection between the volunteering students and the patrons at local food pantries.

Fischer oversees the community engagement office at the University of St. Joseph, where she works with students who are volunteers and those who do community clinicals and internships.

“For the 15 years I’ve been doing this work through the university, I’ve seen the transformation on the part of the students who get to meet people that they might not necessarily meet, but in a class, they might hear about it. And these experiences really touch them,” she said.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/news/sisters-adapt-food-ministries-cope-pandemic-surge-those-need

Catholic groups aid recovery after Beirut explosion

Damage in downtown Beirut following an explosion at the city’s port, Aug. 6, 2020. Credit: Erich Karnberger/Shutterstock.

Following an explosion that killed more than 150 people in Beirut, international Catholic groups have responded by providing health services and necessities to the victims.

At least sixteen Catholic organizations, including Catholic Relief Services and Caritas International, have responded to the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port.

As victims in Beirut face an urgent need for shelter, medication, hygiene kits, and mental health services, these organizations have dispatched medical teams and relief groups to assist with basic necessities. 

The explosion killed at least 154 people, and injured about 5,000 others. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud estimated that the explosion has caused as much as $10-15 billion in damages and as many as 300,000 people to be temporarily displaced from their homes, according to the BBC.

The fire started near the port’s large grain silos. It soon spread to a warehouse holding 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be made into an explosive.

Many buildings and warehouses along the docks were completely destroyed, and the explosion’s shockwave caused damage within a six-mile radius. The adjacent areas included Beirut’s mostly Christian neighborhoods of Mar Maroun and Achrafieh.

Despite damages to their own facilities, CRS has provided relief to the victims of the explosion. Caritas Lebanon has offered water and hot meals at several locations throughout Beirut. Caritas health care centers have also opened, and a mobile medical unit and mental health team have been available to the public.

“Our partners started working right away to make sure people were getting help, even though their own buildings were damaged in the explosion,” said CRS spokesperson Megan Gilbert.

“At CRS we’re privileged to contribute to the overwhelmingly generous volunteer response of the Lebanese people, despite all that they have been through over the past year,” she said Aug. 6.

Gilbert added, “many people in Lebanon were struggling to get by even before this explosion. Now because of the destruction, people are staying in severely damaged homes, or even out in the streets. They are going to need long-term support to get through this.”

Lebanese president Michel Aoun promised a transparent investigation into the explosion.

“We are determined to go ahead with an investigation and unveil the circumstances surrounding what happened as soon as possible and hold those responsible and those who were negligent accountable and serve them the most severe punishment,” he said Aug. 5.

However, many Lebanese have blamed the government for corruption and negligence. They see the investigation as an attempt by political officials to avoid blame.

The ammonium nitrate had been stored at the port since 2014.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-groups-aid-recovery-after-beirut-explosion-77785

British prison launches meal delivery service run by inmate trainees

Sea Bream made by inmates at the Clink restaurant at Brixton prison in an undated handout photograph. Paul Griffiths via Thomson Reuters Foundation

LONDON, – A British prison has launched a meal delivery service staffed by inmates as part of a charity initiative that aims to cut reoffending rates by giving prisoners a better chance of finding jobs after their release.

The Clink Charity opened a restaurant at Brixton prison in London six years ago, but the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close in March, prompting the debut of the “Clink at Home” delivery service last week.

Prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences get on-the-job training and work towards industry-recognised qualifications. They work on a voluntary basis in exchange for the training they receive.

Christopher Moore, the Clink Charity’s chief executive, said the restaurant programme gives prisoners a vital taste of “life on the outside, on the inside”.

“Prisoners come down for eight hours a day, in an environment that doesn’t look or feel like prison, replicating a real-life working environment,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“They’re learning to work as part of a team, they’re gaining confidence and are motivated and proud of what they do.”

According to the Clink Charity’s 2019 report, which draws on government statistics, reoffending rates among former prisoners who were enrolled in the programme fall by up to 66%.

Those who take part in the programme leave with industry-standard certificates in food service, preparation and cookery, as well as soft skills essential to helping them readjust to life outside prison, Moore said.

The Brixton restaurant, where diners have to pre-book a table to enter the jail, is one of four similar eateries based at prisons across the country. Between them, they train about 200 prisoners at any one time.

Moore said many former trainees do go on to find jobs in the restaurant business, with several now working at four- and five-star hotels and Michelin restaurants.

Elizabeth Orr, 42, one of the programme’s first participants at a prisoner-run restaurant in Styal Prison in northwest England, is now head chef at her family-run business in Liverpool.

“I lost everything when I went to prison but the support that was given to me absolutely changed my life,” said Orr, who has been nominated to receive a local award for her contribution to helping maintain vital services during the lockdown.

“When I first came home, I was in full-time employment as a pastry chef within two weeks. It felt like a sense of normality.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200731143614-w4n5j/

Meet the entrepreneurs using fintech to help refugees

Lucia Gallardo, CEO of Emerge, in Tijuana, Mexico in 2018. Photo provided by Lucia Gallardo

ROME, – Berat Kjamili has vivid memories of queuing for days outside a government building in Turkey for papers that would allow him – an 18-year-old refugee from North Macedonia – to legally reside and study in the country.

“There were 1,000 people there and I couldn’t get in. The next day I went at 6 a.m. and still I couldn’t get my papers. The third day, I slept on the street that night (to beat the queue),” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The experience led him to build a website where refugees can apply for residency permits. It is now operated by the Turkish government.

Kjamili, 27, is part of a generation of refugees who have set up fintech firms to help other refugees and migrants send money, access paperwork and share information about housing and jobs.

Often working in shops, cafes and factories, refugees have been harder hit by coronavirus-triggered job cuts than citizens in their host countries, U.S. development groups said on Wednesday.

Businesses like Kjamili’s could play a key role in helping refugees to integrate amid a global pandemic that, according to the United Nations, has increased xenophobia and led to a surge in evictions.

LOCKED OUT

Among the world’s 30 million refugees and asylum seekers are many who lack bank accounts and have only intermittent access to Internet and mobile phones.

More than 1 billion people worldwide lack government-issued credentials to prove their identity, which can result in “social, economic, and political exclusion”, UNHCR said in a recent report. 

Refugees given ID cards by the United Nations on arrival in a new country have limited ways to partake in the economy, said Hanna Mattinen, a senior officer in the agency’s cash aid team.

“In the vast majority of cases, with this ID… they can’t open bank account, they don’t have access to SIM cards,” she said.

As businesses go cashless and require card payments – a drive hastened by COVID-19 – refugees and migrants could be left “locked out of the system”, said Marta Zaccagnini, Program Manager Europe for Village Capital, an organisation supporting impact-driven start-ups.

A NEW BANK

Roham Soleimani, an Iranian refugee in Berlin, is hoping his company BankeNu – Nu means new in Persian – could help. The 28-year-old is working on a blockchain-based service that would allow people to transfer money from anywhere.  

“It’s a big opportunity to help people like us. To give opportunity to people who suffer sanctions, the un-banked, the migrant communities… and offer the services with low fees,” he said.  

Soleimani set up a marketing agency that helped secure European wages for Iranian freelance designers back home.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200709093832-5q87i/

Catholic Charities serves families facing food insecurity in DC

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington at the National Shrine, Friday July 10, 2020. Credit: Catholic Charities.

Washington D.C., – In the shadow of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington distributed food to families in need Friday, as the nation’s capital continues to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we provided food to hundreds of people who have been impacted by the pandemic,” Joe Dempsey, director of special projects for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA. 

“This shows that this crisis is still very much affecting the D.C. area, and it continues to hit struggling families the hardest. But we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs for as long as this situation lasts,” said Dempsey. 

The distribution was held in the parking lot in front of the basilica, a Washington landmark and the largest church in North America. In addition to the 500 grocery boxes, Catholic Charities also distributed boxes that contained a hot meal for a family of four. 

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the district’s Ward 5, where the basilica is located, praised Catholic Charities for their work in feeding the hungry. 

“Here in Ward 5 we have the second highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the District,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie told CNA on Friday. 

“A large number of our businesses have had to close temporarily, leaving many of our residents without employment. Catholic Charities has been committed to serving some of our most vulnerable residents in the District and I am immensely appreciative of their continued service during this difficult time,” he added. 

According to research done by Northwestern University, Black and Hispanic families are particularly struggling with food insecurity in the wake of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Approximately 40% of Black and Hispanic families say that they are having trouble feeding their children. 

Ward 5 is approximately 56% Black, and about 11% of the ward’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. About 16% of the residents in Ward 5 live below the poverty line. 

These numbers are a stark increase compared to previous years. In 2018, which was the last time a national survey was held concerning food insecurity, 25% of Black households with children and 17% of Hispanic households with children said that they were food insecure. Those figures are now 39% and 37%, respectively. 

For white households with children, 22% report food insecurity, which researchers say is more than double the previous figure prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist and the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told POLITICO that these numbers are “uncharted territory.” 

“We’ve never seen food insecurity rates double, or nearly triple–and the persistent race gaps are just appalling,” she said.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-charities-serves-families-facing-food-insecurity-in-dc-22571

‘Pope Francis’ hospital boat delivers aid to pandemic-hit Amazon

Pope Francis hospital ship. Credit: Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, – A hospital boat named after Pope Francis has been delivering medical aid along the Amazon River as rural communities struggle amid Brazil’s devastating coronavirus outbreak. 

“This vessel has already done great miracles in the lives of our riverside people, bringing health and hope,” Franciscan Brother Joel Sousa told the Brazilian bishops’ conference news portal.

Since the boat was inaugurated in July 2019, the medical crew has carried out 46,000 medical consultations in the communities along the Amazon River. However, in the face of Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak, the crew has shifted its focus to prevention and testing.

“We couldn’t be out of this fight. We got together, reorganized ourselves in our service so that together we could also fight against COVID-19,” Sousa said.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Brazil hard. With nearly 1.9 million COVID-19 cases, Brazil has the second highest number of recorded pandemic fatalities in the world after the United States. 

At least 72,833 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil as of July 14, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced July 7 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Vatican News reported July 14 that Pope Francis has donated four ventilators to Brazil to treat those who have contracted the virus. One of them, sent to a hospital in Marabá, a municipality in the state of Pará, will be “used especially for the Indigenous peoples,” according to the local bishop.

Despite their isolation, communities along the Amazon River have not been shielded from the outbreak. The virus has spread after two cities along the mouth of the river, Belem and Macapa, experienced outbreaks in the spring.

“We are mainly treating flu-like symptoms and mild, outpatient COVID-19 symptoms. The doctor performs the consultations and we also deliver medicines to the local health department,” Sousa said.

The hospital boat is staffed by medical volunteers, crew members, and Franciscan friars. It was founded by the Fraternity of St. Francis of Assisi in the Providence of God, in partnership with their local diocese and the Brazilian government.

The Brazilian Franciscans were inspired to create the floating hospital when Pope Francis visited their healthcare facility during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. During the visit, the pope encouraged Friar Francisco Belotti to expand his religious order’s charitable works into the Amazon region.

The boat, 105 feet in length, contains an operating room and analysis laboratory, and is able to provide a range of medical services, including X-rays, vaccinations, electrocardiogram, mammograms, and ultrasounds. The hospital began treating its first patients Aug. 18.

In a letter marking the boat’s launch on Aug. 17, Pope Francis, who has often spoken of the Church as a “field hospital,” said that the Church can also now be seen as a “hospital on the water.”

“Just as Jesus, who appeared walking on water, calmed the storm and strengthened the faith of the disciples, this boat will bring spiritual comfort and calm to the worries of needy men and women, abandoned to their fate,” Pope Francis said.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-hospital-boat-delivers-aid-to-pandemic-hit-amazon-43303

Indian nuns aid migrant laborers stranded on way home during lockdown

Mothers and children wait at Kaushambi Bus Terminal on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border to go to their villages in eastern India hundreds of kilometers away. (Jessy Joseph)

New Delhi — Sr. Sujata Jena could not sleep after seeing a picture of a young girl with a heavy load on her head in a WhatsApp message. “Her stained face, wet with tears, haunted me,” the member of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary told Global Sisters Report.

The photo was being circulated to illustrate the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who hit India’s highways following a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

As Jena saw on social media platforms pictures and videos from around India, the 38-year-old lawyer and nun set out to help migrants reach home. One video clip showed 10 workers crammed into a room in Kerala, a southwestern Indian state. The men said their employer had locked them up and that they desperately needed help to reach their villages in Odisha, more than 1,000 miles northeast.

As the lockdown confined her to her convent in the Odisha capital of Bhubaneswar, Jena on May 17 joined a social media network that helps the stranded migrants.

By June 24, more than 300 migrants, including the 10, stranded in southern Indian states reached their native villages in states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal in eastern India, thanks to Jena’s efforts.

Jena is among hundreds of Catholic nuns who are on the front lines as the church reaches out to migrant laborers affected by the initial 21-day lockdown Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed on India’s 1.3 billion people from midnight of March 25 with only four hours’ notice.

The lockdown, considered the world’s largest and toughest attempt to contain the pandemic, has been extended five times with varying degrees of relaxation until July 31.

The lockdown suddenly rendered jobless millions of migrant laborers in cities.

“As they lost the job, they had no place to stay, no income and no security,” says Salesian Fr. Joe Mannath, national secretary of the Conference of Religious India, the association of men and women religious major superiors in the country.

As the lockdown halted India’s public transport system, migrant laborers in cities swarmed highways and roads within a few days. Most walked and some cycled to their native villages, hundreds of miles away.

Mannath says the fear of starvation and contracting the coronavirus led to a “chaotic exodus” of workers from cities.

Church groups are among those trying to help these workers.

On June 6, Caritas India, the Indian bishops’ aid agency, informed a webinar that the church reached more than 11 million people during the lockdown period, including many migrant workers.

Mannath, who coordinates India’s more than 130,000 religious, including nearly 100,000 women, claims the bulk of that service was carried out by the religious.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/news/indian-nuns-aid-migrant-laborers-stranded-way-home-during-lockdown