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.