Category Archives: Hunger

Celebrating Mother’s Day by Supporting Families

by Ken Hackett

The highly skilled professionals who work at international humanitarian organizations have developed our own “insider” language to describe the work we do. For example, many humanitarians refer to the people we serve as “stakeholders.” Others call them “beneficiaries.”

I prefer to use another term: families.

At Catholic Relief Services, we are guided by the principles of our tradition and teaching. And at the heart of our work as an instrument of the Church is the sacredness and dignity of the human person. As our mission statement says, “We are motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life.”

This is the foundation that undergirds our programs of relief and development in more than 100 countries around the world.

This month, we celebrate mothers and the role they play as the backbone of the family. How does CRS support mothers and promote families in the poorest and most underdeveloped places? Let me just mention a few:

· We support mothers with programs that offer prenatal health services as well as assistance for mothers with infants. In the remote Honduran province of Intibucá, our training programs for midwives, which help them to recognize complications during and after pregnancy, have reduced maternal deaths by 40 percent.

· We support women entrepreneurs through our microfinance programs. The programs reach more than 1 million people, about 70 percent of them women. We target women because they tend to use the additional income from their businesses to meet household needs, such as purchasing more and better quality food, improving family housing and health care, paying children’s school fees, and saving for emergencies.

· We help children orphaned by AIDS to stay together. We provide extended families and communities with the resources they need to support these children, so they do not have to be sent away to live in an institution. CRS is becoming recognized as a leader in this approach. We currently serve 650,000 orphans and vulnerable children, and our goal is to serve 1 million children by 2013 and 2 million by 2018.

· We promote faithfulness in marriage and abstinence in our HIV prevention programs. Within the context of Catholic teaching, we encourage communities to discuss how abstinence, fidelity, respect and sexual responsibility are essential in stemming the spread of HIV. We also help families understand that they can provide compassionate care to their HIV-positive relatives without putting themselves at risk.

These are just a few of the many ways, through your generous assistance, you help CRS to support mothers and families around the world. As we commemorate this Mother’s Day, let us recall the love of our own mothers, as well as the sacrifices of mothers who struggle to help their families carry on to see another day.

Ken Hackett is the president of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community.

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Economic Turmoil Calls Us To Sacrifice for the World’s Hungry

By Ken Hackett

As we Americans watch the financial crisis unfold, and our investments and retirement accounts plunge in value day by day, many of us are approaching the New Year with an overwhelming sense of fear and helplessness.

We are beginning to reassess plans we’ve made, wondering whether we’ve saved enough for retirement or college tuitions. And in our neighborhoods and communities, we are seeing signs of economic stress. People are out of work. Auction signs are sprouting up in front of foreclosed homes. And food pantries are reporting depleted stocks as demand for their services rises.

This is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. But imagine how much worse it would be if we could not afford basic food for our families. If we had to tell our kids, “There will be no dinner tonight—maybe we can eat something at breakfast tomorrow.”

This is what life is like for the working poor in the developing world. Poor families in places like Burkina Faso are really having a hard time. A sack of rice in this West African country that cost $28 this past January is now going for more than $50—more than a day laborer makes in a month.

As I’ve traveled recently, in Haiti, Tanzania, Rwanda, I’ve heard first-hand how people are struggling — to feed their families, to pay school fees, to afford anything beside food. That’s not surprising when food takes up as much as three quarters of a family’s income, which is common where people struggle with poverty. And the global food crisis, combined with the world economic meltdown, is only going to make things worse.

With the current economic turmoil, the plight of the world’s hungry people is getting much less attention in the media. And with hundreds of billions of dollars devoted to bailing out huge corporations, foreign assistance directed toward the poor will likely be a candidate for budget cuts.

We are feeling the stress at Catholic Relief Services. The increased cost of food and fuel has made our work more challenging. We are calling upon the resiliency and creativity of our staff. I have personally asked them to make sacrifices and strategically cut back in some areas so that we can stretch our budget as far as we can. Employees across the agency have contributed to developing a plan that will generate significant savings.

But there is one thing we will never sacrifice, and that is our mission: serving the poorest and most vulnerable people overseas. Despite these cuts, we will continue to do what we have been doing. We’ll just have to do it smarter.

As Americans, now is not a time to turn inward. Now, more than ever, it is important to remember we are all part of One Human Family. Pope Benedict reminded us of this in his Lenten message two years ago, when he spoke of the compassionate “gaze”’ of Christ toward the poor and suffering in the world:

In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the “gaze” of Christ.

As you gather with your loved ones this holiday season, please take time to thank the Lord for all your blessings. And as you sit around the table, please include our brothers and sisters living in poverty around the world in your prayers.

Ken Hackett is president of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. CRS alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality.

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