‘Laudato Si’ ’ Echoes Centuries of Church Teaching

Dear Friend,

I was honored to be asked to the Vatican last month to be one of the speakers at the press conference announcing Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. It was an honor that really goes to Catholic Relief Services—including all of you who support CRS—because it was a recognition of the important work we do to help the poor around the world.

Because of my background in business education, I was asked to address the issues the encyclical raises with the business community. I have always felt that the true purpose of business is to contribute to the common good by harnessing its power and importance with appropriate ethics. The environmental issues that our world faces as we contemplate the fate of God’s creation give business just such an opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »


Climate Change in Ethiopia: Six Personal Perspectives

Scratching out a living in a homeland once hospitable to farming and grazing, Ethiopians say climate change is real. Their searing question: How will we feed our children?

Rain has all but ceased. When it does come, it’s often too little, too late, too early, or too much too soon. Generations of knowledge about when and what to plant no longer applies.

In Ethiopia, communities are learning ways to cope through a CRS-led project working with the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat in Oromia State. It’s funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In the following posts, six people living under these harsh conditions discuss their hopes and expectations for the future. They represent millions of people around the world whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by climate change.

Akuri Worku: “We have to teach the next generation—my child—the knowledge of how we can address climate change.”
 
 
Fatuma Ali Sali: “We’ve seen the impact of climate change harm our lives time and time again. The problem of drought has been getting more and more serious over the last 20 years.” Alemayehn Ayele: “I hope the project will result in greater awareness of climate change, and that there will be no more dependency on external support.”
Serif Lulseged: “Climate change has changed the way we’re cultivating our crops. It’s different now. For example, this month we’re going to plant because of the early rain. But it suddenly stopped, so our crop may fail.” Martha Simon: “We lack productivity because of the shortage of rainfall.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Idris Tuna: “We depend on a single source of water: rain. If there’s no rain, there’s no hope. I’m very worried. It worries me more than anything else.”
 
 
 

All photos by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Kim Pozniak is a CRS communications officer covering sub-Saharan Africa and global emergencies. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.


Climate Change in Ethopia: Martha Simon

Martha Simon, 25, a small-scale coffee farmer in Ethiopia, is one of hundreds of thousands of people faced with the effects of climate change.

Martha Simon, 25, a small-scale coffee farmer in Ethiopia, is one of hundreds of thousands of people faced with the effects of climate change. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Martha Simon, a small-scale farmer who grows coffee and chat, a plant used as a stimulant and cultivated as a cash crop in Ethiopia’s Oromia State, is optimistic about the future. The mother of a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl has seen the benefits of long-term development support in the region but is adamant that people have to be able to stand on their own two feet.

“I don’t believe that as part of the community, the external support should continue.,” she says. “I want to be self-reliant. I would like to build a home in a bigger town. If I save enough money, I can buy land and a home there.”

She’s been able to accumulate some savings through a CRS microfinance program called SILC, which also allows her to borrow money. The program is part of a safety net that also provides emergency assistance like food, but it emphasizes self-sufficiency through better farming techniques and business ownership.

Read the rest of this entry »


Climate Change in Ethiopia: Fatuma Ali Sali

Fatuma Ali Sali, 50, and her eight children, who live in Belina Arba, Ethiopia, are some of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians faced with the effects of climate change.

Fatuma Ali Sali, 50, and her eight children, who live in Belina Arba, Ethiopia, are some of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians faced with the effects of climate change. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Hoisting a large yellow canister onto her head, Fatuma Ali Sali, who estimates she’s about 50 years old, demonstrates how she transports drinking water for her family on days when her donkey is put to work in the field.

Fatuma’s bright yellow scarf glows in the late afternoon sun. Her silver bracelets jingle as she points toward her village’s water point—a large, blue tank several hours away by foot—where dozens of women and girls gather every day to fill their water cans, then load them onto their donkeys to make the hours-long trek back home.

Fatuma and her eight children live in Belina Arba, a district of 20 small villages where most raise small livestock and farm sorghum, maize, groundnuts or chat, a plant commonly used as a stimulant and farmed as a cash crop.

Her small plot of sorghum has been taken over by a persistent weed. “The weed is one problem leading to low productivity, and the long droughts are a big challenge that we’re facing,” she says. “By the time the rain comes, the weed overgrows our sorghum and results in low productivity.”

The problem of drought has intensified in the past 20 years, Fatima says. And she’s seen the impact of climate change. “In 2010 we were better off. We continuously got good rain, and we didn’t have any weeds on our land. We produced much more during that time,” she says.
“Even last year, we could [collect] water. But this year, we don’t know when it will rain or if we can collect water. Read the rest of this entry »


Climate Change in Ethiopia: Serif Lulseged

Serif Lulseged, 37, a father of four and a small scale farmer who cultivates sorghum, is also the Chairman for of the Hake village cluster, a community of 7 villages where most people depend on subsistence farming.

Serif Lulseged, 37, a father of four and a small scale farmer who cultivates sorghum, is also the Chairman for of the Hake village cluster, a community of 7 villages where most people depend on subsistence farming. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

“We got rain a week ago, but before then, it’s been a long time. That’s why our crops are failing and our productivity is low.”

Serif Lulseged, a father of four and a small-scale farmer, cultivates sorghum, soybeans and maize on a small plot in Metta district in eastern Ethiopia. He also chairs the Hake village cluster, a community of 7 villages where most people depend on subsistence farming. He represents his community—about 900 families,—advocating for them with local government. Recurring drought, and shortages of drinking water and food are among their challenges.

“There is climate change,” he says. “Earlier in our lives, especially during the dry season, there was no rain [in May] but these days, after planting trees, we unexpectedly received rain. Our weather predictions aren’t as good as our forefathers’. It’s difficult to predict.”

To help address these issues, Serif’s community was selected to benefit from a CRS project called REAAP—which stands for Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnershi pproject and is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The project will help nearly half a million people mitigate the devastating effects of climate change, adapt new farming techniques, like using hillside terraces, and create action plans to decrease the risk of climate-related disaster.

Read the rest of this entry »


Climate Change in Ethiopia: Alemayehn Ayele

Alemayehn is one of 50 facilitators hired locally by CRS and its partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, to be trained on climate change mitigation strategies for their communities.

Alemayehn is one of 50 facilitators hired locally by CRS and its partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, to be trained on climate change mitigation strategies for their communities. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Alemayehn Ayele’s hand quickly glides over his notebook, the white paper glowing in the relentless midday sun. He has to move quickly as the instructor changes positions to point out the different markers and lines drawn in the sand, all part of a village mapping exercise.
Alemayehn moves around the village taking shape in the sand while about two dozen other students vie to get a good look at the map, constructed with white chalk, rocks and sticks. All the while, his hand never stops taking notes.

Alemayehn is one of 50 facilitators hired locally by CRS and its partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, to be trained on climate change mitigation strategies for their communities. They’ve all experienced the dramatic consequences of changing weather patterns in eastern Ethiopia. The training is part of a 3-year CRS project called REAAP—or Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnership—funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to reduce the effects of climate change.

On the second day of the weeklong training, Alemayehn has learned how to be a liaison for his community, and about its resources and ability to cope with climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »


Climate Change in Ethiopia: Akuri Worku

Akuri Worku, 20, participates in a training by CRS and its partners to learn about climate change adaptation.

Akuri Worku, 20, participates in a training by CRS and its partners to learn about climate change adaptation. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Akuri Worku listens intently to the instructor while carefully taking notes on the paper in her lap. It’s day 2 of a week of training, where community members learn about promoting agriculture practices, like keyhole gardens; nutrition; and better food preparation, preservation and storage techniques.

Akuri and a couple of dozen other young men and women at the training were hired based on specific qualifications: a 10th-grade education and membership in one of the communities selected to benefit from a CRS-led climate change project.

“I was born and raised in the community and I have acceptance,” the 20-year-old mother says, her face beaming with excitement and confidence. “They know what I can do. It won’t be difficult. The job ad said the candidate had to be from the community. I’m very happy to be working in my own community.”

The training is part of REAAP—or Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnership—a CRS program to mitigate the severe impact of changing weather patterns caused by climate change in eastern Ethiopia. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, it includes a partnership with the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat. REAAP will help 475,000 people of Ethiopia’s Oromia State adapt new farming techniques and practices to better withstand climate change. Read the rest of this entry »


Climate Change in Ethiopia: Idris Tuna

Idris Tuna, a subsistence farmer from the Ethiopia district of Kirakufis who attributes the recurring droughts and devastating water shortages to climate change, worries about his children’s future.

Idris Tuna, a subsistence farmer from the Ethiopia district of Kirakufis who attributes the recurring droughts and devastating water shortages to climate change, worries about his children’s future. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Sitting in the shade of a big tree, Idris Tuna squints when the sun suddenly peaks through some of the branches. He’s chewing chat, a local plant used as a stimulant, like almost everyone does in this region of eastern Ethiopia. When he leans back on his hands to avoid the sun and stretches his legs, his socks reveal large holes on the bottom.

“I’m very worried. It worries me more than anything else,” he says.

Gesturing with rugged hands—from decades of hard labor in the field—the 48-year-old farmer and father of 7 grows agitated.

“I suspect the problem will continue. I don’t have any hope that things will get better. I’m afraid things will get worse and worse.”

Idris, like most people in the district of Kirakufis, attributes the recurring droughts and devastating water shortages to climate change. A lifelong subsistence farmer who grows maize, sorghum, chickpeas and soybeans, he worries about his children’s future.

“The kind of produce we had last year, we may not get this year because of the erratic rainfall,” he says. “From the time the climate has changed, I can’t tell if rain comes this month or next month. Fifteen years ago, I could tell if it would come.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Remembering Romero

By Rick Jones

“I may be an atheist, but Monseñor Romero was a saint.”

Why do you say that, Don Chepe?

“He defended us, the poor Salvadorans, when no one else was willing to risk it. He gave us a voice, a place in the world, dignity. And they killed him for it.”

Don Chepe, a Salvadoran peasant farmer, shared that with me in 1994. It was the eve of the first democratic elections since the end of the bloody 12-year civil war, and hope filled the air. The peace accords had been signed just two years earlier. I was speaking with him and several other Salvadoran men and women who had been inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero to struggle for a more just society. Monseñor Romero said he would rise in the Salvadoran people, and I felt I was witnessing that resurrection among these humble men and women.

Read the rest of this entry »


Special Olympics, CRS Prep for World Games

Young athletes and CRS staff celebrate the new partnership between CRS and Special Olympics International.

Young athletes and CRS staff celebrate the new partnership between CRS and Special Olympics International. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

On May 26, a group of Catholic Relief Services staff and family members will join in the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America. The event celebrates the Special Olympics World Summer Games coming in July to Los Angeles. Team CRS will help carry the Flame of Hope through Baltimore on its way from Athens, Greece, to the World Games opening ceremony.

 CRS, Special Olympics partnership

Some 200 million people worldwide live with cognitive disabilities—the largest group of people with disabilities. Yet in many communities, they are forgotten and often neglected. In developing countries in particular, people with disabilities may be misunderstood or even feared.

The work of Special Olympics goes far beyond athletics. In fact, it is the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with cognitive disabilities. The mission of Special Olympics is perfectly aligned with our work at CRS.

Through our new strategic partnership with Special Olympics, we will be working together in several innovative ways to:

  • Identify children with cognitive disabilities and their families, and devise sustainable solutions to the challenges they face
  • Strengthen health systems in specific countries to identify and care for the needs of children with cognitive disabilities
  • Engage communities to fight stigma, advocate for services and mobilize people with cognitive disabilities.

Pilot Program in Kenya

The Young Athletes project, an innovative new addition to CRS’ THRIVE project, aims to expand services to 100 children with cognitive disabilities and their caregivers, and provide specialized training for teachers and community volunteers. Many of these children have never been to school, do not have birth certificates, have not received critical health services like immunizations and don’t know that there are services available to address their developmental needs. The CRS and Special Olympics partnership will help families and service providers share information so vulnerable children will have the resources they need to thrive.

CRS’ mission calls us to serve the poorest and most vulnerable. This strategic partnership is an important response to that calling. It will help us reach more children living with disabilities so they can achieve their full potential.