28 November 2018
Among the skills children learn at the Assisi School is how to create jewelry with beads.
This week, we received a report from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, updating us on a program CNEWA is supporting:
Kaleketty is a remote forest village in the diocese of Kanjirappally in Kerala. CNEWA stretched its hands to help 50 visually impaired children at a school for the blind run by the Congregation of Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
To help these children develop skills, the sisters conduct academic classes, and also give them training in music, dance, and physical education. They are also trained in rehab programs—making umbrellas, working with rattan and bamboo, or creating jewelry with beads.
CNEWA’s support bought musical instruments, along with mosquito nets, mats, mattresses, medicine and day-to-day living items.
The Assisi Sisters of Mary immaculate (ASMI) which is a Franciscan Congregation of the Syro-Malabar Church, was established in 1949. The congregation was founded to radiate God’s compassionate love to the most rejected of the society — including leprosy patients, the blind, and the mentally handicapped.
The Assisi School for the Blind is a residential school. They have 50 blind children this year studying in 10 grades. Up to grade 7, the students are taught in state syllabus with the help of Braille books. For higher secondary studies, the students stay in the school’s hostel and go to another nearby facility. Proper training, knowledge and encouragement enable them to overcome their disabilities and exceed in life.
We sincerely thank our generous donors for supporting this project. You have not seen these young people, and they cannot see you, but they do visualize you with their hearts. Be assured, they pray for you!
6 November 2018
Entertainers captivate children of all ages at Marie Doty Park in Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)
We were pleased to receive this update today on a project CNEWA has long supported in Bethlehem. Laura Schau-Tarazi in our Jerusalem office writes:
Marie Doty Park continues to be a beautiful green space for Bethlehem children and families. Our project coordinator, Gabi Kando, made a recent visit to the park to follow up on our work where two local area schools were holding activities.
Thanks to the Doty Foundation, work has been conducted during the year on various sections of the park including installing an alarm system and safety fence around the parameter of the park, new ventilators and new door for the multipurpose hall, games, rehabilitation of the water cistern and the procurement of new agricultural equipment. During this year, there has also been 16 children’s activities conducted so far, reaching 4,600 children. Additionally, the park hosted 38 different governmental and private schools and NGOs benefiting 2,500 children, as well as four summer camps for 500 children.
Some background on Marie Doty, from our magazine:
Over the years, Mrs. Doty, her husband, George, and their children have selflessly and generously supported CNEWA’s mission with their time, energy and financial resources.
Mrs. Doty played an active role in many agency works, including the restoration of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the development of the first recreational parks in Palestine. On a visit there more than a decade ago, she quietly observed, “The children have no place to play.”
Determined to remedy the situation, Marie and George Doty provided CNEWA with the funds to build and equip playgrounds and related facilities in Bethlehem, Gaza and Ramallah. In addition to swings and slides, handball and basketball courts, the parks feature fountains and green lawns, “luxuries” Palestinian children once associated with Israeli settlements.
Marie Doty entered eternal life in 2008 — but clearly, she left the children of Palestine a legacy of joy that endures to this day.
Marie Doty Park remains a peaceful oasis for children in Bethelehem. (photo: CNEWA)
30 October 2018
Tags: Donors Bethlehem
Students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia sing and pray together after breakfast. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
CNEWA’s regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu, forwarded us a report from the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia — a CNEWA-supported facility that is working wonders with young people.
Some highlights of the report:
Entrusting ourselves in the hands of God, we began the new scholastic year (2017-18). In spite of the political disturbances, we carried on our good work. Regular and fulltime teaching started by the end of September, as it took time to reach all our students, perhaps because of the political unrest throughout the country.
This year the teachers had the opportunity to attend a workshop held in our Catholic mission school. Though it was difficult for only two sisters to see to the running of the residential school—with the political unrest every now and then and other problems—nevertheless, with God’s grace, everything became possible. May God bless those we are privileged to serve!
As soon as all the children arrived we had an opening ceremony with the Holy Eucharist. Abba Tesfaye, our parish priest, offered the Mass, invoking God’s blessing on the school. This was followed by Bunna (coffee) ceremony.
We were happy to have the visit of our Bishop Abraham Desta along with Abba Gobezayehu, Abba Tesfaye and some visitors from abroad. They took time to go around the school and interact with the children. At the end, we met together to share some concerns of the school.
There were several visitors during the year — students from different universities and friends. All expressed appreciation for the work being done.
Ex-students: Most of our former students are well-settled in life. One of our ex-students who is married and is working for a government organization was happy to give a talk to the students on causes and prevention of HIV. Another two students doing their research on the foundation and development of the school had a lot to share as a part of their research. It was also a joy to meet five of our ex-students from Hawassa Universitym, who visited the school along with their colleagues. These five have completed their graduation this year and hope to be employed in the near future.
Volunteers: We thank a couple from Poland who occasionally gave their services by teaching the children music. They also gave a short training to the teachers on how to operate the braille printer. Another group of youngsters from Shashemane spent time with the children every Saturday. They taught them hymns and games.
Christmas Celebrations: This year, the celebrations, were extra colorful with a beautiful decorated tent. New dance costumes added flavor to the show. Many friends, some ex-students, and relatives of children who are not too far away attended. Our children are always happy and excited when they get an occasion to exhibit their talents such as acting, music, dance, acrobatics, reciting poems,etc. Thanks to the efforts of the music teacher, some of the boys were able to handle the key board and perform well, to the delight of the audience.
Day of the Differently Abled: This is what the children are — talented and intelligent. On this special day, we created an atmosphere to make them feel that they are indeed able and not disabled. Through a short program, they showed that they are gifted and on a par with any sighted person.
Maintenance: The school is 37-years-old. No doubt the buildings and furniture need maintenance and replacements. With the help of our benefactors, we were able to purchase some furniture, water tanks, mattresses, blankets, two sets of sweaters and other necessary items. A lot of maintenance was also done. Here I need to mention Luigi, a volunteer from Italy, who worked hard to get our electrical system in order. We look forward to re-arranging our water system by replacing the old rusted iron pipes with fiber pipes. We hope this will solve our perennial water shortage problem.
Tree Planting: Bunna (coffee) is the specialty of Ethiopia. Our teachers were very eager to plant coffee saplings in our school garden. They continue to water and nurture their respective coffee plants. All praise to you, God, for our beautiful green garden!
Outings: What a joy to go out for a picnic! We went often with our children to a beautiful park. They looked extra-smart this year in their new school T- Shirts, which had this printed on the front: “Disability is Not Inability.” May they continue to enjoy their childhood and their dignity.
Our staff too had a great day at Hawassa Lake. IThey cooked their lunch and had a sumptuous meal. All felt a bond of togetherness as they sang, ate and had a boat ride together. Let us keep up the joy of togetherness!
Graduation: This year, we bade farewell to 12 students who completed their elementary education in the residential setting. On the day of their farewell, for the first time, to the amazement of the parents and staff our 12 children dressed in blue graduation gowns and walked elegantly in the midst of the audience. All were filled with joy to see these students in their new attire. All the best, dear students, God bless you!
For the first time, students donned gowns for their graduation.
(photo: Shashemene School for the Blind
A Word of Thanks: We — the students, staff and sisters — owe a deep debt of gratitude to our many kind and generous benefactors, both individuals and groups, without whom our work would not have been possible.
My heart-felt thanks to all those who helped us economically and morally, encouraging and strengthening us during the past year.
May God bless you!
Sister Ashrita Mendes, Shashemane School for the Blind
CNEWA remains grateful to all who have helped so many of the young people at Shashemane — truly bringing light to their darkness. What a difference you are making in so many lives.
On behalf of all of them, and the people who serve them in Ethiopia, we can only echo this heartfelt sentiment from Sister Ashrita: "Thank you! May God bless you!"
9 October 2018
The September edition of our award-winning magazine ONE is on its way to your mailbox, but you can get a first look online right here.
In this edition, follow a young man’s journey to the priesthood in Egypt; learn how the church is continuing her mission to children in India; hear from a mother rebuilding her family’s life in Iraq; and share the hope and promise of at-risk mothers and young children in Georgia. All that, plus important news from the world we serve, along with journalism that was recently hailed for its “breath-taking photography, innovative design and (above all) textbook storytelling.”
The theme of this ONE is proclaimed proudly on the cover: “Sharing Hope.” And in the video below, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar offers a more detailed preview of just what that means.
We’re pleased to be able to share our hope with you — and grateful for all that our readers and donors have made possible. Thank you!
Check out more.
25 September 2018
Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine
A donor sent us this note and shared his story. (photo: CNEWA)
Recently, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from one of our donors. You don’t get letters like this every day.
The author wrote from a prison in the United States, where he receives our magazine, ONE. He scribbled a few sentences on lined notebook paper:
Enclosed is $25 to help out your ministry. Glad I can help a little. Enclosed is my testimony.
Attached was a single sheet of paper titled “Journey of Faith.” Msgr. Kozar was so moved, he wanted to share some of this man’s witness with you. It reads, in part:
When I was 14 years old, I already was asking myself what is the meaning and purpose of life? Why are we here on earth? God wasn’t a part of my life at 14. I spent my first 5 years of school going to a Catholic parochial school and attending Catholic Mass, but I never connected with God. I couldn’t make heads or tails of my life at 14 and it bothered me. Eventually, I drifted to a group of kids in my San Francisco Marina neighborhood who were dealing with the same identity crisis. They were juvenile delinquents and I became one. I stole cars to joy ride, shoplifted, burglarized businesses, cut school, ran away from home and got into alcohol and drugs. I became a criminal going to jail. Eventually, I went for a big score that went sour and ended up with a life sentence in Florida.
…Once I was back in prison, finding myself stripped of everything, I was forced to reflect. In the depths of my abjection, God gave me the grace to recall his goodness. I acknowledged my sins, repented and asked for his forgiveness. God forgave me. Today I’m reconciled with God, myself and the Catholic Church. Since then I’ve been living a sacramental life of weekly Mass, weekly communion, frequent confession, daily prayer and scripture readings...
…Being at peace with God has a future. This world is passing away. Many people sadly believe this world is all there is to life, that this is our final destiny. They’re wrong. Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds true happiness. St. Augustine said it so well. “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
If you have been away from God and the Church, come back. Jesus is waiting for you. No matter what you have done, God forgives all sin. God is a very merciful and forgiving God.
We remain forever grateful to donors like this man — people who give what they can, however they can, to help those who have even less. These quiet acts of love are bringing hope and dignity to those who are otherwise forgotten.
As Msgr. Kozar writes so poignantly in the upcoming edition of ONE:
Many of the good works supported by CNEWA reach out to all and proudly proclaim that God loves all his children. There is no “pecking order” with our God—we are all embraced by his love. We do not exclude and only offer help to “our own”—Jesus makes it clear that we love all.
All of our CNEWA family thank you for your support—and, better yet, they promise to remember you in their prayers. God bless you.
God bless all our donors who give so generously and share so selflessly!
21 September 2018
Over the last several weeks, thousands of Ethiopians have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed by interethnic violence. CNEWA has rushed emergency aid to help them recover.
In August we reported on the crisis facing thousands of people in Ethiopia, who were forced to flee interethnic violence. Many found shelter and sanctuary in a Catholic parish. Yesterday, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, sent us this update:
Last week, I met with Matewos Dangiso [the social development director of the Hawassa Vicariate, the Catholic jurisdiction where much of this violence in south central Ethiopia has taken place] to get an update on the current status of the displaced people in Gedeo and West Guji. He also gave me an overview of the Catholic Church’s efforts to help these people.
Currently, most of the displaced have returned to their home areas. The government and international humanitarian agencies have played the main role in this process. Since their displacement occurred at the beginning of the school year, officials urged families to return in order for their children to resume classes in their home areas — despite not having anything to return to.
The return of people to their homes has not been a smooth process. It was very difficult to distribute emergency food and non-food items. The area is poverty stricken, so those not displaced also tried to obtain emergency support — further complicating an already challenging process.
The returnees are now sheltered in seven districts in Gedeo and West Guji. They are without clothing, shelter, tools — in short, they are penniless — which is making serious demands on the church and aid agencies in their efforts to help. In addition to providing food and water, aid efforts include the provision of non-food essentials, such as cooking utensils, blankets, hygienic and medical items.
There is also reconstruction underway— building shelters, rebuilding schools, then furnishing them and providing basic farm needs so that people can try and make a living. At the same time, efforts are underway to support the peace-building process.
The government is developing a coordinated year-long plan that will require substantial funding. The Catholic Church is designated to serve in three shelter areas: Gedeb and Kochore in Gedeo for people displaced from West Guji and Garba, and in West Guji for people displaced from Gedeo area.These areas are where the church — with funding from CNEWA —previously served people through schools and health facilities. There are efforts underway to determine how many people are still in need, but the number is expected to total about 4,500 individuals.
CNEWA was among the first organizations to rush emergency aid, as well as Caritas Austria and Caritas Bolzana-Italy, which enabled the vicariate to purchase food items, medicines, hygienic supplies and household utensils to distribute to those affected.
Catholic Relief Services has also gotten involved and recently provided $25,000 for reconstruction work. Caritas Austria has also contributed additional €50,000.00 for the same purpose.
As we noted in our news roundup yesterday, this crisis is far from over. To help those in need in Ethiopia during this challenging and dangerous time, please visit this page. Thank you!
11 September 2018
Women religious and other residents walk in floodwaters in Kerala, in India. (photo: CNS/courtesy Father Jolly Vadakken via Global Sisters Report)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, just sent us this update on the aftermath of flooding in Kerala:
As a native of Kerala, it was terrible to see such devastating flooding. I thank God that my family somehow escaped.
It was really a catastrophic situation. This was the worst monsoon disaster in Kerala since 1924. More than 450 people died; many were missing for days.
Flood waters submerged houses, shops and destroyed crops. Tens of thousands of people had to be moved to relief camps. The situation was very scary in my own village, which was severely affected. Hundreds of families, including my own, had to take shelter in relief camps. More than 5,000 such camps were opened to accommodate flood victims.
There was no electricity in many villages for weeks; thousands of power connections were disrupted. Rivers changed course, dams overflowed and bridges collapsed.
Almost all the districts of Kerala were affected—more severely, in the districts of Idukki, Wayanad, Allepy, Trichur, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Kannur. Hundreds of landslides occurred in several parts of the state. People were trapped atop houses surrounded by water. They were not able to move due to flooding.
People were evacuated by military helicopters, assisted by the great work done by members of the fishing community. They came with their fishing boats, risking their lives and rescuing those who were trapped. Their experience in the violent sea helped them to face this challenge and save lives.
The flood swept through hundreds of villages, destroying about 6,200 miles of roads. In Kannur district alone, 48 landslides occurred and 2,000 houses were damaged; out of this, 196 houses were totally destroyed, 122 open wells were inundated with dirty flood water, 941 animals were killed, and 95 cattle sheds were washed away.
In Wayanad district, 3,747 families were affected and 14,134 people fled to relief camps; 226 houses were fully destroyed, 1,893 houses partially damaged, and 2,650 acres of agriculture were destroyed.
Idukki was one of the worst hit places, due to landslides and heavy rain. Some 325 landslides occurred in this district. More than 6,175 families were severely affected by the landslides; 60 people died and more than 50 were seriously injured. More than 1,200 houses were fully washed away by the flood, mudflow and landslides. About 6,000 people have become homeless; 2,266 houses were partially damaged, 180 shops totally damaged. Many livestock were lost.
In North Parur region and Aluva in Ernakulam, 117 schools were hit. In North Parur Taluk, almost all the villages were submerged and people were evacuated. Chalakudy in Trichur district was heavily affected, as the water level rose very high due to the Peringalkuthu dam overflowing.
In Kuttanad region, situated at the tail end of four major rivers, the area looked like a festering swamp after four days of torrential rain. Some 125,000 people from this region were in relief camps; about 50,000 chose to move to the houses of their relatives.
Hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, banks, government offices, shops, cattle, crops, food materials, household items — everything was destroyed and people had to depend on relief supplies.
For the first few days, there were no supplies coming in, as the flooding was so heavy that no one could move from one place to another and the people in relief camps had to struggle without food and water. Then, the helicopters dropped food materials and the military vehicles tried their best to bring necessary items to the people in camps.
All the belongings and household items — kitchen utensils, beds, furniture, chairs, tables, medicines, food items, dress materials — almost everything was lost. The most affected are the poor and the daily wage workers who now have to rebuild from almost nothing.
Please give what you can to help support our brothers and sisters in Kerala. Visit this page for more information.
4 September 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Many homes and businesses have been wiped out from the catastrophic flooding in Kerala, and recovery efforts are ongoing. (photo: CNEWA)
Over the weekend, we received an extensive report from Syro-Malabar Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, of the Archdiocese of Trichur, describing in great detail what his people have been facing in flood-ravaged Kerala:
Many bridges collapsed and houses were sunk or destroyed due to heavy water flow. The flood affected some churches also to the extent that we could not celebrate Mass even till today (30 August).
Most of our parish halls, schools and some presbyteries became relief camps. Auxiliary Bishop Tony Neelankavil and myself personally visited several relief camps. I am happy to report that priests, sisters, seminarians, lay church leaders and especially our youth were in the forefront in the rescue work and relief activities. People, irrespective of caste and creed, are helping us. Many parishes and religious houses distributed relief kits with food, clothes, cleaning materials and other essentials. Under the leadership of the Archdiocesan team, more than 5,000 family relief kits (each kit costing about Rs. 4000) were distributed to the neediest families.
The Archbishop’s house in Trichur became a store house of food and other essentials where many volunteers including Rev. Sisters, youth and seminarians were working day and night preparing and dispatching family kits. We are happy to report that some dioceses like Tellicherry, Ramanathapuram and some voluntary organizations sent in trucks materials for family kits with great generosity.
CNEWA, you will recall, has rushed emergency aid to those affected by this crisis. But the story is far from over:
The aftermath is very grave. Although schools opened on 29 August, many are still in relief camps, since their houses were destroyed or seriously damaged. Many cannot enter into their houses because of mud. Many have also lost their livelihood. As snakes and venomous reptiles have inhabited the houses during the flood, people are in a panic. The greatest challenge for us is to provide facilities for people as they go back to their own houses and rebuild. The government, NGOs and the church are preparing short-term and long-term plans for rehabilitation with the help of the local and international agencies.
A persistent threat right now is illness. CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, writes that many residents are battling the risk of leptospirosis, or rat fever:
The recent excessive rainfall and uncontrolled release of water from various dams in Kerala virtually paralyzed and flooded the state; the people had no option but to struggle through the water-logged areas and pump out the contaminated water at their house. Animals—rats, cattle, dogs, pigs, and many birds and reptiles—carry the infectious bacteria. These animals for hours and days in the flood before they died, which ended up contaminating the water.
There are high risks of infection from leptospirosis, especially to those involved in the rescue operations, along with agricultural workers, shop workers, sewer workers, daily wage workers and many survivors of this disaster.
The health department of the government of Kerala is making all efforts to raise awareness and offer vaccinations throughout the flood-affected areas. But, still more and more people are being admitted to hospitals daily with fever and symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Latin rite Archbishop of Verapoly, Joseph Kalathiparambil, has decided to raise funds by putting his car up for sale. Local news reports explain that proceeds from the sale of the car — a Toyota Innova Crysta — will be used to construct houses for flood victims.
Finally, we can’t overlook the exceptional faith and perseverance of the people. Archbishop Andrews Thazhath concluded his report on this dire situation with a note of prayerful hope:
God has His plans for us. Therefore, even in the worst of calamities, we have hope, since God is faithful and we trust in His Providence. “We know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom.8:28) With the help of God and with the support of all people of good will, we hope and pray that we will be able to rebuild Kerala, “God’s Own Country.”
To help our brothers and sisters in need in India, please visit this page. And please remember them all in your prayers! Thank you.
29 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Children in Kerala finally returned to school on 29 August after days of devastating floods. Many lost everything, including books, clothes and school supplies. (photo: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, sent us this update from Kerala today:
After a long spell of forced holidays due to floods and vacations surrounding the Hindu Onam festival, millions of children in Kerala started back to school today, 29 August.
While most schools reopened, there is much more work to do. About 250 schools are still closed while the cleanup work continues; in some places, the toilet facilities have to be rebuilt. For some, the buildings remain unsafe. In a few places, they are still waiting for the water to recede. At one school that was turned into a relief shelter, helicopters dropped food packets, damaging some of the roof tiles, resulting in leaks in some of the classrooms; that school is still not open.
Volunteers and school teachers have pitched in to clean class rooms, benches and tables. But in many places, furniture and equipment are still lying outdoors.
The main task of the teachers now is to help the children recover from the terrifying shock of seeing their homes and schools swept away by floodwaters.
The children came through a terrific emotional trauma. Most of the students lost their books and study materials. They are worried about their belongings and how to continue their studies without books. We have to make arrangements to supply books and other materials, with the help of book suppliers and publishers. Most children also lost their uniforms and clothing.
Many church organizations and voluntary agencies are trying to minimize the trauma for children. The teachers will mainly focus on helping students to relax and regain confidence.
To help those in Kerala in need during this difficult time, please visit this page.
28 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Residents of Kerala sort through the extensive damage from the floods that swept through the region last week. (photo: CNEWA)
Early Tuesday, we received this update on the crisis in Kerala from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA's regional director in India.
As you know, the flood has devastated many districts in Kerala. Millions of people had to flee to the rescue camps. This has been the most frightening and dangerous situation the people of Kerala have had to face in recent decades.
But now, with the flood waters receding, the Catholic Church — along with many volunteers from social services organizations, along with individuals and local governments — has taken up the challenge of the clean up.
The house owners who are healthy are doing much of the cleaning work—pushing out the dirty mud and stinking water from their homes.
The Kuttanad region, where the flood waters reached last, now has the worst flooding in the state. Around 200,000 people from the region have been evacuated and are waiting in camps. The government plans to begin cleaning operations there on 29 August. Many homes are still overwhelmed by water.
Some who have returned home are working to clean mud and filthy water from their homes, trying to salvage whatever they can. (photo: CNEWA)
There is an acute shortage of clean water; drinking water is being supplied through water tanks loaded on trucks.
The toilet facilities have been washed away. Most families lost everything— including clothing, food, household utilities, school books and even official documents, including deeds and property titles. Many also lost their domestic animals, such as goats and poultry.
The Catholic dioceses in many parts of the state have taken immediate steps to help the families in the relief camps, ensuring they receive food, medicine and clothing. The government alone is not able to meet all the demands of the flooded areas and the needs of the victims. Medical camps have also been set up to help the sick.
The need remains great. CNEWA is rushing aid to the people of Kerala, but more help is needed. Visit this page to learn more. And please: keep our brothers and sisters in India in your prayers!
Tags: India Kerala