CRS Offers Five Fixes for Youth in Central America

Claudia, pictured here with her daughter and cousin, lives in a small town in Honduras. With the highest homicide rate in the world and few economic opportunities, many young people like Claudia feel compelled to migrate. She tried to reunite with her mother, who lives and works in the United States, but the journey was too dangerous, and she was eventually sent back to Honduras. (Photo by Silverlight for CRS.)

Claudia, pictured here with her daughter and cousin, lives in a small town in Honduras. With the highest homicide rate in the world and few economic opportunities, many young people like Claudia feel compelled to migrate. She tried to reunite with her mother, who lives and works in the United States, but the journey was too dangerous, and she was eventually sent back to Honduras. (Photo by Silverlight for CRS.)

Sean Callahan, chief operating officer for Catholic Relief Services, recently traveled to Central America to meet with government officials, members of marginalized communities and Church partners to discuss real solutions to the realities children face.

 

“I not only heard of, but witnessed the increasing desperation of families due to inescapable violence for many children, degrading poverty and family separation,” Callahan said. “In the long run, we must help to provide security and opportunity in their home communities to stem this migration.”

 

As part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual conference, Callahan participated on the panel Unaccompanied Central American Minors: Long-Term Solutions. He presented five fixes to help youth in the region:

 

Revitalize rural agriculture: Rural Central American economies have struggled to compete in the globalized marketplace. Public-private partnerships, investments in technology and training can help small farmers significantly increase their incomes and stability. CRS’ ACORDAR program in Nicaragua has more than doubled incomes for more than 7,000 coffee farmers by helping them form 107 cooperatives, and invest in technology and business know-how. With coffee production at its lowest levels in a century owing to coffee leaf rust, farmers need ACORDAR and other investments to provide for their families and stay on their land.

 

Invest in youth: Nearly half the population in Central America is under 20 years old. Many teenagers never finish 9th grade and are unemployed. But there is hope. The YouthBuilders program has reached 5,000 youth in just 4 years; 80% of the graduates returned to school, found jobs or started microenterprises. Such programs should be scaled up and replicated throughout Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

 

Protect children: The child protection systems in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are weak. Schools must be established as safe zones, and their quality must be increased. Law enforcement personnel should be better paid and better trained. Robust child welfare services, including foster care, family reunification and family reintegration services must be established. Increased interdiction in Mexico only shifts the problem; the United States must help protect children there and in Central America.

 

Strengthen families: Families are being torn apart by violence, poverty and migration. They have few support systems. Programs that help families communicate effectively, manage conflict without violence, and bond can reduce the incidence of domestic violence and help prevent children from eventually looking to gang life for answers. Community centers, day care, and other family support programs can keep families together and provide opportunity.

 

Interrupt the violence: Repressive policies don’t work. It is possible, however, to stop violence by working with youth in gangs, and incarcerated youth and their families. This will help reduce repeat offenses and help gang-involved youth begin to lead healthy and productive lives. As Father Greg Boyle of Los Angeles says, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”


Web Chat: Providing Assistance for Refugees and Vulnerable Populations in Iraq and Syria

On September 30, 2014, Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion: Crisis in Iraq and Syria: Providing Assistance for Refugees and Vulnerable Populations. Below is a transcript of that conversation.

Live Blog Crisis in Iraq and Syria: Providing Assistance for Refugees and Vulnerable Populations
 

Background: Since January of this year, more than 1.8 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes. Christians, Yazidis, and mainstream Muslims have been slaughtered and many more have fled their homes in fear of the extremist group, the “Islamic State” (also known as ISIS), that has committed heinous atrocities in the region.

Sadly, there does not appear to be an end in sight to the violence in Iraq. ISIS forces cross in and out of neighboring Syria, a country embroiled in its own brutal 3-year-old civil war. Iraqi and Syrian refugees fear what the future holds.

For more information:

  • Read Pope Francis’ appeal for peace in Iraq.
  • Read Bishop Pates’ letter to National Security Advisor Rice calling for greater humanitarian assistance to help our brothers and sisters affected by violence in the region.

God’s Fields Are Never Fallow

Dear Friend,

There is no time like fall to appreciate the magnificent generosity of God. The fields that a few weeks ago were filled with plants reaching for the sky—full of grain and corn and beans and all sorts of other crops—have yielded their bounty.

In orchards’ tidy rows, the branches of trees that were dipping toward the ground as they tried to support the burden of their heavy fruits, have done the same.

In so many ways, the earth lets us know once again that its promise has been fulfilled as God intended. With fields harvested and those orchards picked, their abundance is now available to us, whether in farm markets or roadside stands or at your local supermarket. This is the time of year when we can see and smell and taste how good God is to us. There is no doubt. But when we think of the fruits of the harvest, let us not limit ourselves to this familiar yearly cycle. There are many seeds that are planted which do not bear their fruit according to that calendar. Some take years to mature.

At Catholic Relief Services, we till the ground in a variety of ways. Certainly we work in agriculture, one of our signature program areas. Because of your generosity, farmers all over the world grow more and better crops. Their families are better fed; their communities are more prosperous. In this season of harvest, they experience the bounty of God just as you do. But at CRS, we also help to grow many other types of crops. Think of when we bring prenatal care to an expectant mother. Or when we bring her new baby proper nutrition. When is that plant harvested? In a healthy birth? Certainly. In a smiling toddler? Of course. But even as it yields these wonderful fruits, that crop does not fully ripen for years and years. Because if that infant had not received proper care in the womb, if she had not been fed nutritiously in her first 3 years, she would never have grown into a healthy adult, ready to take her place in society. She would be like a crop in the field that had never been watered, that had never been tended to properly. She would never have developed her full potential as God intended.

There is a term we use in our agriculture work—“inputs.” It can mean a wide variety of things, from seeds and fertilizer to tools and training—almost anything that helps improve agriculture. Now think of all the inputs that go into all of our crops, whether they are in the field or the home or the marketplace or the schoolroom. That young girl who has been properly fed in the womb and in her early years still needs to receive nutrition, so her family grows better and more food, her mother is trained for a better job or starts a business with a small loan, earning money to provide better meals. She needs to be educated, so schools are built, teachers are trained, and materials are provided. She needs to be healthy, so clinics are staffed and medicines are made available. These are all some of the inputs you provide to that growing girl through Catholic Relief Services. They help children grow up healthy so they can live full lives. So as we see the bounty of our Lord in these months of harvest, let us not forget the many other cycles of growth that run through our lives and through our world. What is so wonderful about harvest time is it reminds us of the cycle of growth. Healthy babies grow into healthy, educated adults who contribute to their societies. In turn, they become supportive parents who can raise their children. They provide their own inputs.

God’s fields are never fallow. They are always providing a harvest that is humbling in its generosity.

May blessings overflow,

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO


Learning Support and Solidarity During Crises

Dear Friend,

As our children go back to school this month, it’s a good time to educate ourselves about a world in need.

Everywhere, people are crying out for help. Together we show them God’s care and grace. As children open their new textbooks, I urge you to read and learn about how you can build solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters overseas. The Gospel asks us to hear their cries, and to respond to them, because no matter where people live, they are our neighbors. When we help them, we become God’s helping hands.

In Iraq, adherents to minority religions—including Christian faiths that have been there since Christianity began—have been uprooted by militant fighters. People are fleeing their homes to escape persecution, violence and death. Their future, and that of the entire region, is precarious.

Read the rest of this entry »


Web Chat: Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency of Unaccompanied Children

Please join Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion:

Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency of Unaccompanied Children

July 29, 2014

12 -1 P.M. EDT

Live Blog Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency of Unaccompanied Children
 

Background:  Our country is witnessing the results of a drug war and intensifying gang control: child refugees. The number of unaccompanied children fleeing their home countries has alarmingly increased – numbers arriving to the U.S. have doubled every year since 2011, creating what Pope Francis has described as a “humanitarian emergency.”

Increasing despair has led many families, youth and children to the inevitable conclusion that they have no choice but to flee. They are primarily fleeing violence. They aren’t just coming to the United States; in fact, other Central American countries have experienced a sharp increase in asylum claims in recent years as well.

Join us for:

  • A discussion about the Church’s ongoing work to protect and care for these children before, during and after their journeys, and address the root causes of why they are leaving their homes;
  • An opportunity to learn how you can take action on this issue now and during the upcoming Congressional Recess from August 4 – September 5, 2014; and,
  • A chance to ask questions and engage in dialogue with experts on this issue.

 


Disasters Threaten South Sudan, Central African Republic

Dear Friend,
Responding to emergencies is one of the most important jobs we have at Catholic Relief Services. Many are high-profile events covered extensively in the media, like the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake in Haiti or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. But many are events you’ve likely never heard of—local flooding or storms or violence just as devastating as the ones that draw widespread attention.

Working with our local partners around the world—often Caritas and other Church organizations—CRS spreads the bounty of your generosity to those forced from their homes or in need of food, water and other necessities through no fault of their own.

The spotlight usually falls on disasters that happen suddenly—like an earthquake or a typhoon. The suddenness is part of the story, part of the drama, part of what makes it so compelling to news organizations and to viewers and readers.

What often receives far less attention, though, are what we call slow-onset emergencies. They don’t strike all at once like disasters that make the ground shake or the waters rise or the wind blow. But they are just as devastating.

I want to call your attention to two coming disasters. Both are man-made—caused by escalating conflict.

Read the rest of this entry »


Making a Difference

By Lisa M. Campion

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

“What did you learn?”

Members of the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows Cooperative Society (BOWW) in their store during a training session led by Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Lisa Campion. Copyright Lisa Campion 2014, used with permission.

Members of the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows Cooperative Society (BOWW) in their store during a training session led by Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Lisa Campion. Copyright Lisa Campion 2014, used with permission.

This question was a main question I asked on a daily basis. Every day for 11 days, I worked with the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows (BOWW) Cooperative Society to build their capacity in leadership and management training. Over 11 days, I trained almost 500 people, of which 350 were women, as a volunteer for the USAID Farmer to Farmer program. BOWW is located in the Lira District of Uganda Africa.

So what did BOWW learn?
“I learned not to be lazy and to work in my garden. That I am now part of a group and need to contribute.” Said one women in a session (Note: This was translated for me. A “garden” is their farm field). After attending a session and being educated about what a cooperative is, what the roles and responsibilities are of members, the board, the officers and the manager, and learning about how to be a leader in their homes, community and cooperative, this woman along with others learned the important lesson that if you want to be successful, you need to work hard towards your goals. The day after this session, I saw this woman everyday working in her garden tirelessly weeding and planting.

Read the rest of this entry »


20 Years, 11 Countries: Q&A with Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Tom Cadwallader

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Tom Cadwallader poses for a picture with members of the Kitui Development Centre (KDC) in Kenya. Tom conducted a month-long assignment to build the capacity of the KDC by designing effective data collection tools and monitoring systems to ensure efficient poultry project management. Copyright Thomas Cadwallader, 2014

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Tom Cadwallader poses for a picture with members of the Kitui Development Centre (KDC) in Kenya. Tom conducted a month-long assignment to build the capacity of the KDC by designing effective data collection tools and monitoring systems to ensure efficient poultry project management. Copyright Thomas Cadwallader, 2014

Thomas Cadwallader is a seasoned Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, having volunteered in over 20 countries around the world. This spring, he traveled to Kenya to work with the Kitui Development Centre. Read on to hear about his experiences in the field and the impact he made.

CRS: Tell us a little bit about your relationship with the Farmer-to-Farmer program?

Tom: In 2013 I celebrated 20 years of assignments through the Farmer-To-Farmer program. I was approached for my first assignment by a good friend who had taken the job of VOCA Country Director in Macedonia. My friend knew that I came from a fairly diverse farming background that provided me with lots of experience in everything from commercial production to direct marketing so I he thought I could draw from those experiences to customize the assignment as needed once I got on the ground.

After meeting with the brothers, I found that they had lots of great things going on and I was able to finish my assignment early. That allowed me the opportunity to take on another assignment in Slovakia with a gentleman who was putting a business plan together for a dairy goat operation. I was hooked. Although my career with the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service and helping my wife run our own farm were keeping me plenty busy, whenever I saw an opportunity to work on an interesting project and I could carve time out of my schedule I jumped on the chance. Over those 20 years, I’ve worked on about 25 individual assignments in 11 different countries around the globe; from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to the rain forest of Guyana.

Read the rest of this entry »


“The Changes Were Momentous”

By Jessica Sawadogo

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Dr. Hans Kandel trains villagers about dry bean nodulation.  Copyright Hans Kandel, 2014.  Used with permission.

Dr. Hans Kandel trains villagers about dry bean nodulation. Copyright Hans Kandel, 2014. Used with permission.

Hans Kandel, an extension agronomist from North Dakota State University, recently traveled to Wolayta, Ethiopia to share his technical skills and expertise with local farmers. Kandel collaborated with host organization Sodo Catholic Secretariat (SCS) to work with smallholding farmers who primarily cultivate maize, wheat and dry beans.

The gains crops sector is the most important component of agriculture and food security in Ethiopia. Maize, teff, sorghum and wheat are the most widely cultivated grains—but lack of knowledge related to various farming techniques has seriously hurt the farmers’ ability to produce high yields of crops and sustain their livelihoods. Read the rest of this entry »


A Glimpse at a Typical First Week in the Life of a Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer: A Personal Diary

By Jill Motschenbacher

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Location: Iganga, Uganda
Date: May 4–25, 2014
Assignment: Training and Field Demonstrations, Preventing Post-Harvest Grain Loss, Improving Grain Handling and Storage, Soil Management and Sampling

Day 1: Monday

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Jill Motschenbacher, 35, instructs farmers on how test soil.  Ric Francis for CRS

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Jill Motschenbacher, 35, instructs farmers on how test soil. Ric Francis for CRS

I arrived in Uganda at around 11 pm last night. I got delivered by a great driver (Michael) from the hotel; we drove an hour from Entebbe to the Kampala hotel and then I got settled in my room. I also got a welcoming folder that gaves me all information I might need about Uganda, including safety measures, geographic information, and a schedule. I found this very informative and it is comforting knowing all of this information. I ordered some dinner, took a shower, and fell asleep. I was exhausted after the 30 hours of travel, yet, the travel was good because I scored an extra empty seat beside me on the 8-hour plane ride from Brussels to Entebbe! That is like winning the lottery.

I woke up this morning to rain on the window. Hello, monsoon season! I worked at the CRS offices for a couple of hours, and then headed off to Iganga. The staff at CRS was very welcoming and they have everything organized. I am lucky, because my bags arrived with me!

I’m at my hotel in Iganga (Mum Resort) now. It was a long drive to Iganga, but the scenery was very beautiful once we got out to the agricultural areas. The city had a lot of traffic “jams”, which means a lot of exhaust fumes. In the country area, there are lots of sugarcane crops, tea crops, and green forests. Everything is green here! The warm air feels good after spending a long winter in Fargo, North Dakota this year. Having 85 degrees F is a lot warmer than -40 degrees F. Tonight, I went to dinner with the CRS people that drove me here, so I got to check out the town. It feels like being in a movie. There is so much to look at. Read the rest of this entry »