Tag Archives: Caritas Australia

“Expect the unexpected” – World Youth Day with Pope Francis

Lilian Chan. Credit: Caritas Australia

Lilian Chan. Credit: Caritas Australia

What inspires young people to cross continents for a celebration of faith with Pope Francis? Lilian Chan, on line editor for Caritas Australia, tells us about the energy, diversity and unity to be found at World Youth Day.

One of the phrases I’ve most heard during my preparations for WYD is “to expect the unexpected”!

I am definitely looking forward to seeing Pope Francis. I’ve read a few of his addresses, and they have been so amazing and inspiring – he is simple to understand, but has such insight into the world and how we as Catholics fit in. He also shows such love and understanding of humanity when he speaks, which is so different to what we often hear in our world today.

The chance to see a pope from Latin America in Latin America will be really amazing. Most importantly, I’ve decided to go to WYD this year because I want to grow in my faith and have a stronger relationship with Christ.

I’ve had friends who have attended WYD overseas, and they’ve all come back with a renewed passion for their faith, so attending an overseas WYD has always been something I’ve thought about doing. I think one of the things which particularly attracted me to WYD in Brazil is that it’s such a predominately Catholic country, so I’m keen to experience the passion and dedication that people have for our faith.

As I’m going with my diocese group, I’ve been attending the formation sessions that they’ve run over the past few months. I’ve also been trying to do practical things to prepare, like finding out more about places, and trying to learn a tiny bit of Portuguese. In terms of preparing spiritually, we’ve had catecheses at the formation sessions, and I’ve also been trying to read the Bible a bit more often over the past few weeks.

We will be spending 4 days in Peru before WYD. The first day will be a pilgrimage to visit significant sites of St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres. Then we will be spending 3 days with the Houses of Hope – one of the Caritas programmes in Lima. For me, this was definitely one of the things which swayed me to sign up to WYD this year. Being relatively new at Caritas, I’m keen to see a Caritas programme in action. But even more so, I think the few days spending time with the poor will be a really important part of the pilgrimage experience.

I went to WYD in Sydney in 2008. It was a great experience – the thing that struck me most was the energy and passion of young people for our faith – it’s not something you see every day, especially in Sydney! I was also struck by the diversity of our faith – the different cultures, and different ways of expressing our faith; but yet also the universality – the one united faith which was really demonstrated in the final mass.

But I’ve been told that attending a WYD in your home city is nothing like attending one overseas, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what WYD in Rio will be like!

If you work for or volunteer for Caritas, we want to hear your World Youth Day stories from before and during the event. Write to hough@caritas.va or follow.

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Filed under Brazil, Catholic Teaching, Latin America, Meetings & Events

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

Five years on from Cyclone Nargis

Children learn there roles in emergency response and preparation. During the event, the children’s groups shared their newly gained understanding of emergency preparedness. They spoke about monitoring the emergency kits in their homes to ensure the proper items are in each kit, planting trees around the emergency centrw, and cleaning around the rice storage facility which was set up after Cyclone Nargis.

Children learn what to do if disaster strikes as part of Caritas efforts to prepare communities for future emergencies.  

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Burma/Myanmar. The category 4 cyclone devastated communities, killed more than 138,000 people and left over two million people homeless. International and local organisations, including Caritas, provided assistance to the emergency response.

The vast majority of people who engaged in the response were local survivors of Cyclone Nargis; demonstrating the resilience of the human spirit and the solidarity of communities in the face of adversity.

Rosemary is the Emergency Coordinator of Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS), the Church body organisation Caritas works through in Burma/Myanmar.  Rosemary talks about some of the Disaster Risk Reduction activities the communities have participated in since Cyclone Nargis, and their preparation for any future disasters.

To commemorate

As part of the five year anniversary of Cyclone Nargis, 600 people from 10 villages came together on the 28th and 29th of April, 2013. The two-day event led by KMSS was held in Tayoke Kone village, in Labutta township, a fishing village on the coast in Irrawaddy Delta, and one of the hardest hit areas of the disaster. The event included a review of the progress of the Village Disaster Management Committees and Emergency Response Task Force Groups.

The event provided opportunities for coordination and networking among local authorities and NGOs for early warning and Disaster Risk Reduction activities. To emphasise the planning already done, a mock drill was also practiced. The event was capped-off with an inter-faith Memorial Service.

Reflecting on key learnings

One common theme shared by the various groups assembled was that Cyclone Nargis caught everyone unprepared. But today all feel that their communities are more aware of the need for Disaster Risk Reduction and believe that their communities are better prepared compared to pre-Cyclone Nargis times.

The Task Force Groups have many functions, including early warning systems, first aid, rescue and evacuation, water and sanitation, and distribution of supplies. The groups said their key learning has been on how to mobilize people for evacuation. They also recognised the difficulty of this task, and identified the need for further training and practice.

Preparing families and children

As individual families now practice for emergencies in their daily routine, many said that they feel better prepared.

Through the KMSS Child-Focused Disaster Risk Reduction program, children have also learned that they have a role in emergency response and preparation. During the event, the children’s groups shared their newly gained understanding of emergency preparedness. They spoke about monitoring the emergency kits in their homes to ensure the proper items are in each kit, planting trees around the emergency centrw, and cleaning around the rice storage facility which was set up after Cyclone Nargis.

Drawing on experience and training

At the event, KMSS also reported on the establishment of Emergency Response and Support Teams at diocesan and national levels. These rapid response teams were developed after Cyclone Nargis, and have received training in rapid assessment, logistics, first aid, emergency distribution, finance management, and other related early response skills.

Since Cyclone Nargis, they have combined their efforts to assist in the Giri Cylone (2010), the Kengtung Earthquake (2011), and Mandalay Floods (2012), and the Mandalay Earthquake (2012).

This blog first appeared on Caritas Australia’s website

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Filed under Aid Success Story, Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Disaster Preparedness, Emergencies, Myanmar

Caritas prepares for emergency response as Samoa hit by Cyclone Evan

By Angela Ford

Caritas emergency response teams in the Pacific are preparing for emergency relief as one of the most powerful cyclones to hit Samoa in 20 years devastates Apia.

Cyclone Evan made landfall on Thursday 13 December, with winds up to 160 km per hour. At least two people have died, and many are missing.

Samoa has declared a state of disaster with widespread structural damage to outlying buildings, homes and critical infrastructure. Locals have been left without power and food shortages are possible.

Caritas Samoa report that flooding in Apia is widespread, powerlines and trees are down and many homes are destroyed. Flooding is the major cause for concern in the short-term, with water levels up to 8ft in areas. Continue reading

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Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Oceania, Samoa

Hola España!

World Youth Day 2011 kicks off in Madrid on 16th August. Elizabeth Pappalardo and Krystie Tham from Caritas Australia are just two of the hundreds of thousands of young people who will travel to the Spanish capital to celebrate their faith and join in the celebrations.

From our experiences at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, we will never forget the pride we felt in being young Australian Catholics. Being witnesses of love and peace through smiles, laughter, singing and dancing as the diversity of cultures and nations came together, was a week we will never forget.

World Youth Day is a significant event for young Catholics as the diversity of nations and countries joined under the Catholic Church unite to share their faith. The experience rejuvenates us to spread the gospel of Jesus in our home lands.

We are looking forward to being a part of the love and joy shared during World Youth Day in Madrid from 16- 21 August. We are excited to share our spiritual journey with passionate young Catholics from around the world. We feel privileged to be able to take this journey and represent Caritas Australia.  For those who will be taking part in the event and manage to spot us amongst the exuberant crowds in our red Caritas shirts, make sure you come and say HOLA!😀
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Filed under Catholic Teaching, Español, Meetings & Events