World Humanitarian Day

by Patrick Nicholson, Director of Communications for Caritas International

A boy walks at Dalhmieh Syrian refugee camp near Zahle, Bekaa valley, Lebanon - CAFOD.

A boy walks at a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.

“Children were dying of hunger. There was no milk to feed newborn babies,” says Amal, a 27-year-old mother who recently fled from Damascus.

“People were eating cats and dogs. We were boiling grass in water to make it go further. You hated the day because there was nothing to eat and you hated the night because there was nothing to eat.”

While the media focuses on the plight of people in Iraq and Gaza, Syrians continue to flee the war in their country, crossing the border to Lebanon and other neighbouring countries. Even if it is to face a life of uncertainty as a refugee, they say they have no choice because they have to save their children.

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“They’ve lost everything, not just their homes and their belongings, but their self worth,” says Laurette Challita, an aid worker for CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon. “Our job is to give them back their dignity; to give the refugees control of their own lives.”

The refugees live in makeshift tented camps, abandoned buildings or apartments, for those who can still afford it. They need to pay for rent, electricity, food and water. The children need to go to school, mothers need to give birth in hospitals and older people need medical help. Continue reading

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Praying for rain in Sebeya

 

Praying for rain

Members of the community praying for rain outside Holy Trinity Catholic Church

For Sebeya farmers, rain is crucial to grow cereal and vegetable crops every year. A little rain in June helps the farmers start preparing farmland, such as plowing the land, and the main rainy month in July is when the famers plant their crops. The rain is then expected to continue in August and September.

However, this year’s rain is extremely in short supply for the farmers. Children and mothers in Sebeya are praying for the rain every day. They present themselves inside and outside Catholic and Orthodox Churches praying for rain. They pray ‘egzihomarene Kristos’, which means ‘O! Jesus Christ, please forgive our trespasses’.

Abba Solomon, the parish priest of Sebeya Holy Trinity Catholic Church speaking about the lack of rain, says:

Normally July is the green month in Sebeya as rain is available. But it is now like in the middle of the dry season – very arid and dusty. I have never seen such a bad drought in recent years. As the planting season is passing, it is very unlikely for the farmers to plant and have harvest for the following season.

My brothers and sisters in England and Wales, I was glad to see you during my recent visit to different parishes. I was amazed by your effort to support people in Ethiopia and elsewhere.

I pray for my people, Lord

You saved this people

Because of your deep love

May you forgive us and remember us

During this depression and suffering.

Let us pray for each other. Please keep Sebeya and my people in your prayers.”

However, while farmers depend completely on rain for agriculture, underground water is used for drinking and sanitation. Recently, two clean water facilities for drinking have been renovated in the villages  of Argit and Adi Ezana, in Sebeya. These are hand-pump type water facilities, which will be used by 300 people in nearly 60 households, who will now have access to a clean, drinking water supply.

To sign your parish up to Connect2: Ethiopia and hear more from the community in Sebeya visit: cafod.org.uk/connect2ethiopia

 

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Filed under CAFOD, Connect2, Connect2Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Farming, fundraising

Connect2: Brazil: “This was truly a job of partnership and sharing”

 

The community in Verguerinho, a favela in south east São Paulo, decided to come together for a day,  to work together to improve the living conditions for local residents in Verguerinho.  The party of 50, which was made up of members of the local parish, and municipality, and supported by the local government, carried out maintenance of the area around the Machado stream, which flows behind Verguerinho.

Speaking about the day, Zeza, from MDF (Movement for the Defence of Favelas), said:

“We planted 110 trees, picked up litter and went from house to house, giving out leaflets to raise awareness about not throwing rubbish in the stream. This was truly a job of partnership and sharing.”

Also in attendance was the deputy mayor, who said he was going to organise for the stream to be cleaned, which will benefit a neighbourhood of many residents.

To find out more about the Connect2: Brazil community and to sign up your parish visit: cafod.org.uk/connect2brazil

 

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous People: Land is life

By Father Sterlin Londoño, CAFOD partner Diocese of Quibdó in Colombia

The Diocese of Quibdó, where I live, is a beautiful place. Scattered among the land, in the thick jungle between the rivers, are many small villages, some with just 10 or 11 houses. My neighbours practise ancient cultural traditions like dance and handicrafts, and we travel the land using small wooden boats. We have plants that cure many diseases and illnesses. We have fish that you can’t find or buy in any shop. We can see incredible birds without having to pay to go to a zoo. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than living here, among my family and my community.

Transport in Choco, Colombia, CAFOD

Choco, Colombia

How mining leads to conflict

But this beautiful community has been scarred by conflict and corruption. The fertile land beneath our homes is rich in desirable minerals like gold, copper, zinc and coltan. Over the years, both guerrilla groups and paramilitaries have taken control of different areas within the diocese, pushing local people off their land to make way for illegal mines, cattle ranches and banana plantations.

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When these armed groups move in, they monitor and restrict people’s movements – stopping them from going to work or to market, and restricting how much money families can spend each month. More than half of the inhabitants in my diocese have been forced at some point to leave their homes and their land. In the last few years around a thousand people have been murdered. We have had to collect their bodies and bury them ourselves. Continue reading

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People of Darfur still hope for peace

Recently back from her visit to Darfur, Nana Anto-Awuakye shares more about her experience witnessing the work of our partner Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). In the last instalment of her series of blogs about life in the region, Nana writes about the solidarity of the women in the Hassa Hissa camp.

A wedding highlights the hope in Darfur

A bride young bride in Hassa Hissa Camp, Darfur

A young bride in a Darfur Camp: Annie Bungeroth/CAFOD

On a bad day it’s easy to say that the situation in Darfur is complicated and overwhelming.

But then you pause for a moment and look a little closer, and listen a little harder, and everywhere there are small signs of hope.

It’s the sun shining down on the solar panels pumping clean water to camp residents; it’s the farmer’s crops swaying in the breeze; and the sound of children laughing.

People talk about the challenges they face, camp life is not easy, but they also always talk about wanting peace, wanting to return to their homes.

In Hassa Hissa camp on my last day, I meet a large group of women dressed in their best brightly coloured toubs carrying large silver pots on their heads.

They sang and danced their way to their destination, the home of a bride.

The wedding party entered a small compound where women were cooking the wedding feast. Large pots bubbled away on open fires.

Just when I thought people here had nothing left to give, they proved me wrong.

The solidarity of the womenfolk was overwhelming. I was asked to help stir one of the large pots, it looks easy, but my wrist action barely got a swirl going. The women laughed at my feeble efforts.

I was struck by the inventiveness of a small boy who had made a toy car out of a discarded plastic bottle, and had attached a small flower to his toy car for decoration. He held it in both hands, and grinned with such pride at his wonderful creation.

“It was difficult to make, it took me a long time. But, I love cars. I love my toy.”

Here in Darfur people have not let camp life rob them of their hopes and dreams. Instead they have held on to them tightly with both hands.

Pray for Peace in Darfur>>

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