30 July 2018
These young women and their children recently took part in a community health program supported by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Recently, we got an update on a project CNEWA has been supporting in India: a community health program for better mother and child care. To date, it has benefitted 587 families in 10 villages. Our regional director for India, M.L. Thomas, offered additional details:
This project was to support tribal women, to help them understand how to care for themselves and their children, through low cost nutrition and immunizations. It was done in the Darbha block at Bastar District.
Many health issues were identified, particularly anemia and malnutrition. Eight staff members, including a qualified nurse, were engaged in this project.
It was noted that the major problem in this area was malnutrition among children and among pregnant and lactating mothers.
A major concern is a lack of knowledge about diet. Many families have very limited diets with low nutritional content. Mothers are anemic, children are malnourished and the general health of the family is poor. Awareness classes were given to the families on the positive effects of dietary supplements to improve overall health.
About 260 mothers benefitted from this program. A total of 10 training sessions were conducted.
In addition, health camps were conducted in 10 villages. About 800 people took part. We were able to detect anemia in pregnant women, along with some skin diseases, high blood pressure, pneumonia, malaria and tuberculosis. A doctor from the government’s medical college came to assist and give classes.
Most of the families, we learned, were following the wrong customs and beliefs about the kinds of foods pregnant women should eat. (An example: due to some local customs, pregnant women are often not allowed to appear before others and are often forced to eat less.) The awareness programs helped them to understand the importance of eating well, especially when pregnant or lactating.
In villages, mothers often will decline to nurse their newborn children, because of a mistaken belief it is unhealthy. Classes were organized to correct that misunderstanding and promote correct feeding practices from the first day of birth.
We remain grateful to all who have supported our important efforts in India and elsewhere, as we work to help some of the poorest in our world live healthier and happier lives — giving dignity and hope to so many who have only known hardship.
Thank you and God bless you!
28 June 2018
Hundreds of elderly Armenians who cannot afford to heat their homes during the harsh winters are being helped, thanks to CNEWA’s donors and Caritas Armenia. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
With the summer months bringing warmer weather, we were reminded recently of how some of those we serve struggle to survive the coldest of winters—and how CNEWA’s donors are making a dramatic difference in their lives.
We received a report from Gagik Tarasyan, executive director of Caritas Armenia, who wrote about one project that is literally saving lives among the most vulnerable, the poor and elderly. It is a winterization project, helping to provide shelter, warmth and health care. The needs are basic but urgent—the kind of things most of us take for granted—but the impact has been significant:
With this project we could assist the most vulnerable families ( 630 families, about 2,800 people) through paying their gas or electric bills; urgent provision of firewood to families who cannot afford electric or gas heating; provision of medication to sick people; emergency assistance in basic food and hygienic items for the most vulnerable families living in temporary shelters.
And he shared this profile of one elderly woman this project has helped:
Arevhat Oustjan was born in 1935 in Kirovakan. She was 20 years old when she married and moved to Russia with her husband. They were happy together but they didn’t have children. She was only 39 when her husband died. And she again moved to her native town after that. For 44 years, she has lived alone in her one room apartment. She grew old and developed a number of illnesses that don’t permit her to go outdoors. She has poor eyesight and her limbs are aching and swollen.
Her meager pension and welfare amount to just over $100 a month jointly. But she has many financial obligations. Her niece was battling breast cancer and she had taken a loan from the bank for the operation. Sadly, her niece died, but Arevhat must continue to pay off the debt and very little remains for her daily bread. She is so thankful to the project that supports her to make ends meet. She relies only on Caritas’ support for her daily living.
That includes keeping her home warm. Arevhat heats her house with gas heater. ”I suffered terrible winter colds at home,” she told us. ”Nothing was helpful against colds except heating. Especially in old age, heating is so necessary.”
The windows of the apartment are in poor condition, and the wind blows through them. Arevhat has to cover them with cotton cloths to keep the house warm. It was never enough. But the Warm Winter Project is now to heat her house. “Never mind that I can’t buy new windows,” she said. ”The main thing is that I don’t need to pay for heating. It’s a great help for me. The frosty and horrible winter is already in the past; I do not even want to remember the situation I had endured before. I was always jealous of the elderly who lived in warm houses in winter time, surrounded by the warmth and companionship of their children and their relatives. I am quite alone and I don’t have any of them. Now I have at least a warm apartment, for which I am very grateful to Caritas and the supporters who treat us with all their care,” she said.
Thank you to all who are making it possible for us to spread light and warmth to so many like Arevhat who have known only darkness and cold.
To learn more about CNEWA’s efforts to help the elderly and poor in Armenia, read ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
27 June 2018
To continue their formation, the faithful gather for Saturday Mass in Gilgel Beles, Ethiopia.(photo: CNEWA)
Recently, we received the following update from Argaw Fantu, CNEWA's regional director in Addis Ababa:
The northwestern corner of Ethiopia bordering with Sudan is a vast low land area with very high temperature up to 50 degree Celsius (122 Fahrenheit!). This vast land surface is occupied by a tribe, the Gumuz people, one of the more than 85 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. These people are traditional worshipers of nature and very honest with their own strong ethical values — they don’t tolerate lies or stealing — but most of them have never encountered the Gospel or Christian teaching.
Now, that is beginning to change.
The area where they live is part of the vast pastoral territory of the new Bahir Dar-Dessie Eparchy. It a new area for evangelization, with very tough and challenging environment. It was the courageous Comboni Missionary Sisters who first set foot in the area called Mandura in 2000. They rented a house from an Orthodox priest and started visiting people — teaching reading and writing for kids under the shade of a large tree. They also taught hygiene to women and offered some simple advice on agriculture and farming. Slowly, they built rooms for kindergarten lessons. The Gumuz people at that time had no clue about the value of education. When the sisters started school for kids, they had to walk around in the villages to speak to parents and urge them to send their children to school.
A typical tukul, or mud hut home, of the Gumuz people. (photo: CNEWA)
Following in the footsteps of the sisters, the Comboni Missionary Fathers of the Heart of Jesus started a small mission station in Gilgel Beles in 2003; in 2011, they established an outstation of Gilgel Beles in Gublak.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Gilgel Beles and Gublak, part of an initiative supported by CNEWA. The Comboni Missionary Fathers are engaged in the pastoral activities in the areas. Most of the growing faithful are young people and women.
To support and encourage evangelization in the area, the missionaries have launched a strategy of ongoing training for catechists and coordinators. More than 100 catechists and coordinators were gathered recently in Gilgel Beles for a weekend of ongoing formation. They came from the chapels of Gilgel Beles and Gublak. The training involves a variety of participatory programs. They began the day with a rosary recited while walking around the church compound.
The weekend began by praying the rosary. (photo: CNEWA)
Lectures and classes filled the day Saturday, along with the celebration of the Eucharist. People took a break to escape the heat in the afternoon. Sunday included Mass, singing, teaching and a fraternal lunch. What a nice and creatively organized training program had it been!
The weekend of faith formation included classes taught by catechists. (photo: CNEWA)
I asked a group of young people to explain to me the difference between a catechist and a coordinator and what each does. They told me that a coordinator is the one who is able to convince people of the village to gather together for catechetical teaching, prayer and spiritual sharing. Once the coordinator does his job of gathering the community, the catechist comes in to teach catechumens — preparing them to receive sacraments — and leading the community in prayer and Bible sharing. I was amazed by how well the priests coordinated these activities.
Catechists and coordinators led discussions and shared insights with those who attended. (photo: CNEWA)
Father Isaiah, a Comboni Missionary from Kenya and a dynamic parish priest of Gublak, told me that villagers appreciate the regular visits of priests and sisters. Whenever a priest visits them in the villages and chats with them, they believe that he brings them good luck. What an amazing belief!
As a result of such enthusiastic and committed engagements of the missionaries — and their collaborative catechists and coordinators — Christian communities in the area are growing slowly but steadily. According to the recent figures, there are about 1,500 Catholics in Pawe, 1,500 in Gilgel Beles and Mandura, 1,000 in Gublak, 500 in Dibati. This makes a total of about 4,500 Catholic faithful in the area. The number of new catechumens is increasing, thanks to committed catechists and coordinators who accompany the dedicated missionary priests.
CNEWA, through its generous donors, participates in this precious evangelization mission of the church in this remote part of Ethiopia. In 2018, CNEWA committed to support formation training for youth leaders and catechists in Gilgel Beles and Gublak. How wonderful and rewarding it is to see the light of the Gospel being shared with these marginalized people!
With your support, we are able to make this happen. Thank you!
The faithful leave Mass at the close of the weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
16 May 2018
Little Mariam visited CNEWA’s office in Amman just two months after she was born. (photo: CNEWA)
The CNEWA team in Amman, Jordan, was happily surprised recently by a small visitor — one who owes her life, in no small part, to CNEWA’s donors. We’d like you to meet one of our success stories, 2-month-old Mariam.
Before Mariam was born, her parents came to CNEWA, looking for help. The mother was older, and it was clear she needed a Caesarean delivery. The CNEWA staff directed the family to the Italian Hospital, supported by CNEWA in Amman, and helped pay for the surgery.
The delivery went well, but the doctors discovered that Mariam has a small hole in her heart. She is being treated with drugs and, in time, it is hoped the hole will close and Mariam will have a long life.
What a blessing to see Mariam alive and well — and to see the joy on her parents’ faces.
So often, we at CNEWA start to feel a bond with those we serve, especially refugees in need of help. It’s not just a matter of providing food or milk or health care. It is a matter of love — as Jesus commanded us, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Mariam and her parents stopped by CNEWA’s Amman office to express their gratitude. (photo: CNEWA)
18 April 2018
Tags: CNEWA Jordan Amman
Part of the program in Sagar, India, taught young women basic sewing skills, to help them find better-paying jobs. (photo: CNEWA)
We recently received this update on a wonderful program CNEWA support from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas:
The project aimed to educate poor and destitute children living in low-income urban areas of Sagar, India, helping them to learn basic skills — such as tailoring and dressmaking — to generate income for poor women and widows.
The program took place in seven urban neighborhoods and one village, benefiting some 200 children. Seven lay teachers were given the task to instruct the children and others, and did so with great talent and commitment.
Each class consisted of four hours of training in the morning.
A religious sister meets with some of the women. (photo: CNEWA)
The program, supported by CNEWA, has provided a platform for the sisters and priests of the diocese to meet the parents personally and provide counseling. The parents and teachers also met together in groups, which has helped them understand the value of education for their children and encourage them to go to school.
We could see that 83 children living in poverty were mainstreamed to government schools. Their attitude toward life will be better once they leave the slums, with a greater sense of responsibility toward their families and the community. Most of the teachers involved in the project were women; some came from poor families but were immensely dedicated.
The children showed great interest and enthusiasm to learn. The project not only helped the children to learn, but also reduced their stress and depression.
The results have been very promising! It was observed that these children see possibility and hope in their lives. They are not among those who go out begging or pursuing child labor, and they are not involved in drug abuse or addiction. Government authorities and the general public all appreciated the efforts through this project.
20 March 2018
Tags: India CNEWA Education Poor/Poverty Women
A refugee and her daughter walk to their makeshift home in Bechouat, Lebanon.
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
Our regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, recently sent us this uplifting note, describing how CNEWA’s donors are making a difference in the lives of refugees:
In Lebanon, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary is a small congregation, with just 30 sisters. They are engaged in aiding the poor and needy — as well as helping Syrian and Iraqi refugee families.
For the fifth consecutive year, through CNEWA funding the sisters run a program that aims at reaching and making a difference in the lives of displaced and refugee communities of children, youth and adults who have and still are suffering from the fallout of the wars in their countries, as well as the hard conditions they face living in Lebanon.
Through their social center, the sisters — assisted by a team of psychologists and specialists provide moral, social and spiritual support by organizing retreats, trips and camps for the most affected members of the family. This helps them overcome their trauma and anxiety about their future — giving them hope.
To date, more than 700 families have been screened, guided and given support by the sisters and social workers, benefiting somehow from the various programs and activities that are offered.
This is the story of one such family.
Mariam and Mirna are Chaldean Iraqi sisters, ages 20 and 18, who found refuge among the Lebanese community with their mother and younger sister, Mina. After being deserted by the father, they had no support system when they arrived in Lebanon.
Related: Sister Wardeh’s World
Welcoming the Stranger
The Franciscan Missionaries, through their social work, reached out to this family and followed-up closely to help them get settled, find jobs and schools, and most importantly, help them cope with their new environment. The mother and three daughters attended various retreats and summer camp, which helped boost their spirits and sustain their faith.
At the age of 18, Mariam suffered a dislocated jaw, causing difficulty with eating and speaking and also causing frequent headaches. The social workers’ intervention and the devotion of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary gave her a chance at a normal life; following several months of research and treatment, Mariam was able to undergo surgery to fix her jaw.
Mirna, to support her family, worked at a restaurant for less than a minimum wage salary, as she had no experience. The sisters guided her to pursue a learning program in food preparation and catering skills. Today, the family is settled in a small rented house in Jounieh, in the Kesrouan region; the mother works as a cashier at a grocery store, Mariam works at a bakery and Mirna still works at a restaurant — but with a much better salary. The youngest sister Mina attends the Syriac Catholic Angel of Peace School.
Social workers are following up with the family. The mother and her daughters continue to attend various activities and retreats sponsored by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Thanks to the sisters — and the generosity of CNEWA’s donors — these women have a new start and a new life.
14 March 2018
A young peoples’ choir sings during a liturgy during the “Vocation and Mission Day for Youth” in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
We received this report and some pictures this week from our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu:
Emdibir Eparchy was erected in 2003 with territories detached from the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa. Since the early 1920s, Catholic faith in the area stayed strong, due to the few devoted lay faithful, like “Abbabba” (means father in Amharic) Antoinios, Abbabba Ruphael and Abbabba Estiphanos. Their devotion was extraordinary: they used to walk for 15 days across the country, following the French Capuchin missionaries, so they could receive the sacraments. Returning home after another 15 days’ walk, they were seen to be especially graced and full of blessings. Family members and neighbors would even welcome having these travelers spit on their faces; they saw it as a blessing, for it came from mouths that had received Holy Communion.
At that time, foreign missionaries were very few in number, unable to speak the different local languages and incapable of traveling long distances on foot, horse or mule.
But missionary zeal and a deep faith persist in Emdibir.
One person eager to pass that on to the youth is the young local priest, the Rev. Misrak Tiyu, Pastoral Coordinator of the eparchy. He designed a pastoral project entitled Strengthen Youth Ministry and Revitalize Christian Communities. In this project, he creatively planned to engage catechists, youth leaders, members of the small Christian communities and young Catholic professionals.
Children take part in the youth festival. (photo: CNEWA)
Though his dreams are big and resources are limited, Father Misrak didn’t hesitate to knock at the door of CNEWA for financial support in early 2016. CNEWA secured $25,600 for his work in 2017 and 2018. With this plan, a great pastoral outreach was observed in the eparchy in 2017. I had the opportunity to visit two events: a training day for catechists and a youth festival.
The three-day youth festival was very creatively organized with the theme “Vocation and Mission Day for Youth.” In the program more than 1,000 dynamic, enthusiastic and lively youth and children participated.
More than 1,000 young people participated in the youth festival. (photo: CNEWA)
This event has really helped strengthen the faith of the young people, exciting them to engage actively and to focus on reviving the zeal of their great grandparents.
In a real sense, CNEWA is not only responding to immediate needs of the local church, but it also accompanying the revival of faith in the younger generation.
We want to send a big THANK YOU with prayerful remembrance to all CNEWA supporters and people of good will. May the Good Lord, who sustained faith through his passion, death and resurrection, reward all!
6 March 2018
Father Jeevan is finding creative ways of preaching the Gospel to his flock in India. (photo: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, recently had a chance to visit a mission, in the Diocese of Chanda, where he saw some of the work of a young priest — a convert from Buddhism named Father Jeevan K D.
Mr. Thomas writes:
The priest, on the right, lives a simple life among the people in his village. (photo: CNEWA)
Khurkheda is a village mission in the diocese of Chanda where Father Jeevan works. He is an ordained priest from Maharashtra. He has been developing this mission for 20 months.
Father Jeeven, looks like a ‘Sanyasi’ [a Hindu religious] and he is staying in a small rented room along with the people in the village.
“With CNEWA’s support we had a good beginning,” said Father Jeevan, who lives with few comforts and simple facilities. “I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you and to the CNEWA organization.”
Father Jeevan travels from village to village on motorcycle. (photo: CNEWA)
He is now working in 55 villages and preaches the Gospel.
“Every day, we visit a village with our catechists. We travel village to village by motorcycle or by bicycles. Sometimes we rent a jeep for the village visit —
especially when there are awareness programs, retreats or Bible conventions in the village. In the village, we visit the families; we listen to their problems and give them the Word of God and the Gospel values. And we teach them to pray every day. Also, we tell them the importance of education for their children and about the cleanliness.”
He explained how he has adopted some Hindu traditions to help catechize the peopl — including “Bhajan,” or singing devotional songs before an image of God [Christ]; keeping a fast as a kind of worship for a whole day; and wearing particular colors of saris for worship.
But he also emphasizes the importance of Catholic devotions in his mission.
“I started my mission with prayers and adoration,” he said. “With the power of the prayers and the adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, people started coming to the church. Many of the people were coming for the prayers and the adoration. And they used to share their problems and difficulties with me. I used to give enough time and listen to their problems and used to pray for them and they were happy and at peace. They used to invite me to their villages and to their families. I was very happy to visit them. I went to many villages visiting poor and sick and the afflicted. I preached the Good News to them.”
M.L. Thomas sent along some video, below, showing the creative ways that Father Jeevan has introduced Hindus to the Catholic faith, by incorporating some of their traditions in the liturgies.
28 February 2018
The new Day Care Center run by Caritas Georgia, and supported by CNEWA, is teeming with activity.
(photo: Caritas Georgia)
Last week we received a brief update from our friends at Caritas Georgia, describing activities at their recently dedicated Day Care Center. (You may remember we posted about this event last year.) The winter has brought snow to Eshtia, Georgia, but in many other ways, it feels like a new springtime. Read on.
Greetings from Caritas Georgia!
After equipping the Center with all the necessary equipment, furniture and computers, in February 2018 we hired the Center staff.
Freshly fallen snow covers the ground around the new Day Care Center at Caritas Georgia, in the village of Eshtia. (photo: Caritas Georgia)
Currently we have 116 children registered in the Center, with seven project staff supervising them. Total number of project staff is 7. We also have a vocational workshop of weaving and felt. The girls from the village attend the Caritas Georgia Art Therapy Studio project, developing important job skills.
The children attend various classes:
- Drama and Dance — 62 children
- Georgian and English Language — 116
- Computer class — 24
- Music and singing — 25
On Sundays the children attend the catechism class led by Father Anton Antonyan.
We invite you to read more Caritas Georgia in A Letter From Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE.
Learning the Lord’s Prayer at the Day Care Center. (photo: Caritas Georgia)
21 February 2018
The video above, from 2017, offers a look at some of the young residents of the Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Lebanon. (video: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, passed along this update on the Dbayeh Refugee Camp, which was established in the early 1950’s to shelter Palestinian refugees expelled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. CNEWA has been supporting an educational program at the camp, which is now helping Syrian children whose educational level is very low and who may need remedial studies and therapy in order to adapt and fit it.
Sometimes, the challenges can be quite daunting. Without help, the children could be doomed to become drop-outs. That could have been the fate for one young girl in particular — but Michel wanted us to know her story and how CNEWA’s support for this program had made a profound difference:
Sajida el Saleh is a 9-year-old Muslim Syrian girl from Aleppo who fled the war zone and found refuge in a small rented house on the edge of Dbayeh Camp. She lives with her parents and two brothers.
Following her admission in the second-grade remedial program for Syrian students in October 2016, Sajida was referred for a speech therapy assessment; the assessment showed written language difficulties. She had a weak ability to read and write, due to a variety of problems, including an inability to make the connection between certain letters and certain sounds.
Throughout the academic year 2016-2017, Sajida followed speech therapy sessions to help her improve her pre-reading and writing skills. Through follow-ups, it was discovered that Sajida also had hearing difficulties. Her parents were advised to consult a specialist. The diagnosis showed hearing malfunction that required a hearing aid.
By the end of the school year, Sajida, started hearing properly. With the assistance of a speech therapist, she showed major improvements. She is now able to read syllables and words and form simple sentences easily.
The specialist follow-up, along with the skills improvement in reading and writing, enabled her to take the end-of-year exams and pass her class. Sajida was admitted to public school in the third grade.
The remedial program, with the psycho-social support, gave Sajida the opportunity to grow on many levels — physically, intellectually and socially.
There are now about 520 families living in the Dbayeh Refugee Camp, a growing number are Syrians with young children.