Tag Archives: Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

Hitching aid flight to worst hit areas of Philippines

Mark Mitchell, coordinator of the international Caritas emergency team with some Caritas. tarps. Credit: Ryan Worms/Caritas

Mark Mitchell, coordinator of the international Caritas emergency team with some Caritas. tarps. Credit: Ryan Worms/Caritas

“We’re bringing 500 tarpaulins sent by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand to Tacloban,” said Mark Mitchell, coordinator of the international Caritas emergency team responding to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The Australian Air Force took the Caritas cargo on a C-130 Hercules from Cebu, the main hub of relief efforts.“We saw the ceaseless activity of international aid and the challenges that come with it,” he said.

On the military airbase of Cebu, the action is ceaseless. Military cargo planes from the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan take materials to the areas hit by the storm and return with survivors fleeing from the devastated cities.

The Caritas team traveled with their cargo to Tacloban, one the worst hit cities. “The damage to Tacloban is incredible,” said Mark Mitchell. “The tarps that we’re bringing are greatly needed by survivors for temporary shelter.”

At the airport in Tacloban, Fr Rick from Palo, a town further south down the coast, has come with a truck to get the tarps. They will be distributed in the next few days. They are among many thousands of tarpaulins and other items en route to the affected areas for the construction of emergency shelters.

In the airport, there is a long line of survivors waiting to be evacuated. Unlike in other areas we’ve visited, the children we meet waiting to board the Herucules don’t smile. Their faces are marked instead by fatigue and trauma.

The survivors of the typhoon are people who the need the basic necessities that planes carry. But we also know that the internal wounds of the victims, especially among the children, will need counseling to recover.

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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Philippines, Philippines

Pacific welcome for Caritas Internationalis President in Aotearoa New Zealand


By Martin De Jong

From the moment he received a Samoan lei (garland) at morning Mass, Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga knew he was in for a special experience. He was on a brief visit to Aotearoa New Zealand at the bottom of the South Pacific this week, before travelling onto Australia.

In a homily on Friday’s Gospel (Luke ‪11:15-26)‬, where Jesus casts out devils, Cardinal Maradiaga reflected on the ‘modern devils’ – such as the greed behind the 2007 global financial crisis – that we are called to expel today. Reflecting on the work of Caritas, and Christ’s word to us today, he said we are called not to promote a globalisation of greed, but ‘instead a globalisation of solidarity and love’.

Shortly after the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington, Cardinal Maradiaga was formally welcomed in a whakatau – a Maori welcome acknowledging the sacred dignity of visitor and host alike. Maori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, represented by 12 per cent of the population, which now includes many descended from more recent European, Pacific, Asian and other arrivals.

‘I can’t describe what I have in my heart,’ said Cardinal Maradiaga. ‘It’s beautiful to come to another culture that you don’t know, and be greeted by a different language – but it’s the same language: love,’ said Cardinal Maradiaga.

Later, In a meeting with staff and representatives of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and the Caritas Oceania regional organisation, he encouraged them in facing their challenges, highlighting the importance of education and formation of the Catholic laity, of love and mercy, and Pope Francis’ message to go to the margins. He appreciated the staff’s important work in advocacy and education, and addressing the needs of poor and vulnerable people in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad.

Responding to a staff member’s question, ‘How do you show God’s love in a practical way when writing a report?’, Cardinal Maradiaga quoted the Spanish: Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente, which he expressed in English as ‘It is necessary to see, in order to share.’

In a discussion on the impact of climate change on low-lying Pacific islands, Cardinal Maridiaga expressed concern for the plight of Kiribati, whose President Anote Tong has sought opportunities for his country’s people to migrate elsewhere if rising seas make some islands in his widely dispersed nation uninhabitable. The Cardinal said Caritas Internationalis was lobbying on climate justice, despite the ‘indifference’ often found at international fora and among nations such as China and the United States.

Talking to Catholic media at the end of the day, during discussion on a lack of named Saints orginating from Oceania, the Cardinal said, ‘There is a lot of holiness in the Church, more than people think. There are quiet and simple, beautiful Christians going about their work.’

Today (Saturday), Cardinal Maradiaga is meeting New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops whose biannual meeting in Wellington coincided with his visit. He is also being interviewed live on New Zealand’s National Radio at 8.15am NZT (Friday 9.15pm Rome time):  http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday  (available by podcast shortly after the interview).

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Filed under New Zealand, Oceania

World Refugee Day: In their faces is the face of Christ

Caritas Burkina Faso helps new arrivals from the conflict in Mali. Photo by Simone Stefanelli/Mali

Caritas Burkina Faso helps new arrivals from the conflict in Mali. Photo by Simone Stefanelli/Mali

Today is World Refugee Day: honoring the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes. It is our chance to let the 45.2 million people forced from their homes around the world know that we walk with them.

Pope Francis called attention to refugee families “often forced to flee their homes and countries in a hurry and losing all their belongings and their security to escape violence, persecution or serious discrimination because of their religion, ethnic identity or political ideas.”

“We cannot be insensitive toward families and all our brothers and sisters who are refugees,” the pope said. “We are called to help them, opening ourselves to understanding them and offering hospitality.”

“In their faces is the face of Christ,” the pope said.

 3.8 million Colombians have been forced from their homes. Credit: Caritas Colombia

3.8 million Colombians have been forced from their homes. Credit: Caritas Colombia

In 2004, Caritas Venezuela started to work for refugees, most of the victims of the internal conflict in Colombia which has produced more than 3.8 million. internally displaced persons. In Venezuela there about 3000 refugees seeking protection, but there might be more who live under irregular conditions in the country. Those who do not speak to refugees do not know their suffering”, says Migdalia Carrasquel, a lawyer in charge of the refugee programme at Caritas Venezuela.

Catholic Relief Services  (a Caritas member based in the USA) began 70 years ago helping refugees in Europe during and after World War II. Today, CRS says the Church’s concern for the poorest and most vulnerable people compels them to continue that work wherever refugees and internally displaced people are at grave risk. Today, they bring comfort and aid to Syrian, Malian and Somali refugees in places like Niger, Kenya, Jordan, Lebanon and Burkina Faso, where natural or manmade disasters force people from their homes and homelands.

From the trauma of flight, to the anxiety about family that you have been separated from, to the depression of watching your homeland in chaos, to the stress of making ends meet in a foreign country, the psychological pressure but on refugees is immense. In Jordan, Caritas says one in five of the refugees its surveyed need some form of counselling. Providing that care is key to our work throughout the region with Syrian refugees.

While numbers are important in illustrating the extent and gravity of the situation, Caritas Australia says is easy to lose the true picture amongst statistics – the human faces involved in this tragedy. The reality is that these numbers are made up of individuals who have feelings, aspirations, and like every human being, fundamental human needs.

Gisèle, a refugee in Belgium, has been separated from her children for 3 years. Thanks to the support of Caritas Belgium, Gisèle’s youngest son was recently granted a visa to come to live with his mother.

Current family reunification procedures are diffcult, expensive and long. They are creating unnecessary human suffering for thousands of people separated from their loved ones. Caritas organisations in Europe are helping many of them to go through the procedures. Caritas Europa is calling on the EU and its member states to make the right to family a reality.

Please pray for those who have fled Syria, or been displaced by the conflict there. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has prepared resources. And finally Caritas Ecuador asks us to dedicate 1 minute of our lives for refugee families. 

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Filed under Advocacy, Australia, Belgium, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Europe, Migration, New Zealand, Oceania, Refugees

International Women’s Day: Tapa in Tonga

Lisa Vehikite (in green) discusses the Tapa prject with Caritas Tonga staff. Credit: Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

Lisa Vehikite (in green) talks about the Tapa prject with Caritas Tonga staff. Credit: Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

By Martin de Jong, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

Lisa Vehikite is the leader of a tapa-making (cloth-making) group that is finding new life through a Caritas programme in Tonga. Lisa’s group is one of 43 micro-enterprises benefiting from small loans provided through Caritas Tonga in partnership with Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand. The scheme has been made possible by the New Zealand Aid programme and our New Zealand donors.

Lisa’s husband works in Australia picking fruit for seven months each year. She has five children at home in Utulau Village on the main island of Tongatapu. Income she earns through the tapa making group helps pay her children’s school fees. She heard about the scheme at a community meeting where Caritas Tonga’s Amelia Ma’afu spoke. ‘This project makes me feel like I am a real mother … someone else is helping us to do our work at home,’ says Lisa. Her dream is to one day have her own handicraft shop.

In all, groups involved in the three-year Caritas programme will reach 425 households in 21 villages across Tongatapu and Vava’u to the north. Groups consisting of 8 to 15 people are given a loan of up to 5,000 Tongan pa’anga (NZ$3,516) at a low interest rate of three percent (standard Tonga interest rates are as high as 25 percent). Monthly repayments are made over a 12-month term. Once the loan is repaid, the funds are available for other groups to use – or the same group for a new project.

Most projects involve traditional activities such as tapa making, mat weaving, pig and chicken farming, sewing, fishing, and crop growing. Crops include peanuts, yams, kava and cassava. Products are sold at local markets.

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Filed under Advocacy, New Zealand, Oceania, Tonga, Women