CTF – SOS DRS Wajir Mission Accomplished

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Mary, CTF volunteer nurse bade goodbye to a Somalian elder.

KENYA – On the 4th of July, the Camillians in Wajir, Northeast Kenya packed their bags and came home to Nairobi after they have accomplished their humanitarian mission of bringing relief and initiating recovery to the Somalian populace of the said region. They were there since August 2011 as the core team of the Camillian Task Force (CTF) – Kenya, a humanitarian mission office of the Order, headed by Bro. Joseph Khiyaniri, MI together with the Camillian Sisters and five other volunteers under the guidance of CTF – Rome.

In 2011, the Horn of Africa particularly Kenya had faced a severe food crisis due to long dry spell and mass evacuations of Somalians to Kenya due to civil war. A combination of drought-induced crop failure, poor livestock conditions, rising food and non-food prices and eroded coping capacities were some of the key factors contributing to the food crisis, which has made 3.75 million people in Kenya food insecure. An estimated of 385,000 children under 5 years old and 90,000 pregnant and lactating women were suffering from acute malnutrition.

Responding to the call of the Church to bring relief to the victims, the Camillian Task Force (CTF), Rome sent a team to the diocese of Garissa on August 2011, to conduct assessment and implement programs of intervention. Programs were implemented immediately until June 2013 in Wajir. The project was funded by CEI – Comitato per gli Interventi Caritativi  a favore del Terzo Mondo, Caritas Italiana, PROSA, ISOLANA, SOS DRS, and the Camillians (men and women communities).

The project was divided into two phases: relief (6 months) and rehabilitation (1 year). The first phase had focused on health and nutrition program through mobile clinics and food distribution, and water access provision. The second phase had focused on building capacities of people and community resilience through food security (greenhouse farming), community-based health care (training of health care workers and mobile clinics), and public sanitation programs (building of ecological sanitary – ECOSAN toilets). All these programs have benefited 9 villages and thousands of muslim families (Somalian refugees) in Wajir.

The said project has terminated on June 30. It was able to achieve its primary objective which is bridging muslim and Christian communities in Wajir to achieve peace, self-reliance and resiliency. Most of the village chiefs and local government representatives had given high regard and recommendation to the project. A village chief of Hodan, Wajir said: “I have never seen a group like the CTF in Wajir who really helped us so much not simply by giving more dole outs but really working, caring and listening to us. CTF, we are with you and don’t leave us.” CTF has applied pastoral care in emergency approach and worked closely with the diocese. It uses the strategy of grassroot participation in planning, decision-making and implementation of programs. This method has made a deep impact on the Somalian beneficiaries and communities, and it also challenges other humanitarian organizations to engage in programs that overcome and transform the culture of dependency to a culture of self-reliance and resiliency. These communities have been depending on food aid for the past ten years, and now they were able to prove that they can produce food in the desert as an alternative source to pasturing.

Mons. Paul Darmanin had expressed his deep gratitude and commendation of what the CTF has done to his diocese and at the same time has pleaded the CTF to continue its efforts. The CTF has promised to follow up what has been started in Wajir in order to assure sustainability of the programs in the next two years.

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CTF India’s Mission

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On June 16, 2013, the heaviest rainfall on record lashed India’s Himalayan region of Uttarakhand forcing glacier lakes and rivers to overflow and inundate towns and villages in 168 districts at about 37,000 square kilometer area. The state of Uttarakhand has been experiencing heavy rains continuously for 2 days and the downpour has caused flash floods and landslides in various places like Srinagar, Joshimath, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Govindghat, Kedarnath, Gaurikund and Uttarkashi, etc. and caused the destruction of houses, roads, communication and transportation. According to unofficial reports damaged to life has reached around 14,000 deaths and recently, authorities say that the 5,748 people registered as missing are now “presumed dead” – making the disaster the deadliest ever in the Himalayas. Some of them were Hindu pilgrims as they celebrated Chardam Yatra (Hindu feast). Hundreds of buildings including 40 hotels situated along the bank river Alakananda, more than 100 roads and 40 bridges are swept away by the flood waters.

In the field of disaster management it is only through a collective responsibility and effort of the public, voluntary organizations and local government agencies that we can attain our expected outcome in our relief activities. Recognizing this reality, the new administration of the Camillian Indian Province has decided to become a consoling hands among the victims of flood-ravaged Uttarakhand. Last July, the Camillian Task Force (CTF) of India lead by  Fr. Siby Kaitharan, MI and two other Camillian religious (Fr. Jaison and Fr. Sojan) together with some members of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) went to Uttarakhand, distributed relief goods and conducted a rapid assessments of needs for about two weeks in preparation for a long term intervention plan.  This August 3, the first batch (13 volunteers) of the CTF team lead by three Camillians (Bro. Madhu, Fr. Teji, Fr. Jofree) pushed back to Uttarakhand to begin the relief and rehabilitation program. They are ready with eager minds to render services to the flood victims in some districts of Uttarakhand. The relief and rehabilitation programs will be executed in two phases: 1] to meet the immediate needs of the victims such as food, temporary shelter and clothing within 3 months; 2] to respond to the social needs, strengthen psychosocial support and build permanent shelter of survivors.

Program Objectives

  1. To supply food and water in the relief camps;       
  2. To provide medical services to affected people; and
  3. To provide temporary shelter to those who are stranded and permanent shelter to resident survivors whose house were completely damaged.

Priorities 

Potable Water

Streams and rivers have been contaminated and turbid and not safe for human consumption. Primary water source facilities were damaged and people has to walk for long distances to get water. The survivors have no dry wood to boil the water. Thus potable water, water treatment facility and repair of water sources are urgent needs.

Medical care service and sanitation facilities

Many people are at risk with various illnesses and contaminations. Most of the families have no or lost their sanitation facilities. In some villages, only the upper caste families have latrines whereas the lower caste (poor people) practice open defecation near the water sources which brings the risk of oral-fecal contamination. Thus, medical service and prevention of transmission of diseases are badly needed.

Shelter

Affected populace are living in temporary makeshifts that exposed them to harsh weather conditions. People living along the rivers has moved up to higher grounds or lived with their relatives whose houses are small and pose a danger of disease transmission due to congestion. Majority have lost their sources of income and have nothing to rebuild their houses or to rent temporarily. CTF India team has identified Simlakala (village) where 107 families have lost all their properties and shelters but not all received help. At present, they are staying along the roads using plastic tents. They are planning to find a safe place in order to build permanent houses (50) for underserved families.

Appeal for Help

 The disaster of Uttarakhand is a national tragedy affecting a large number of people. The religious along with the rest of the Church are deeply moved by this tragedy and responds with prayer and action to support the victims. The most affected area is the diocese of Bijnor. Fr. Siby, CTF India coordinator said: “We are closely collaborating with the Diocesan authorities and getting involve in their intervention activities. Thousands have died, lost their houses and livelihood; thousands of unidentified dead bodies are found and thousands are still missing. It takes a long time to build their life back to normalcy. We appeal to everybody to support this cause with their prayers and financial contributions according to their means and possibilities. We shall ensure that whatever financial aid you may like to provide through the CTF-India reaches to the people for whom it is intended to.”

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Pakistan 21 – Medical Camp – Day 4

Dear Confreres,

Today, Dec 11, 2010, is the 4th day we have been working at the medical camps; the fatigued medical personnel and volunteers are beginning to feel the effects of long hours of hard work, exposure to dust,  and harsh weather conditions.

When we first arrived in the area, we were guided to a village in the heart of the barren wilderness.  The surrounding land is infertile and inhospitable, empty  other than a few rocks scattered here and there. The people in the nearby public building have lost their homes to the floods. Surprisingly, the community is well-populated, despite the inhumane living conditions.

We met with Mr. Mamtaz, the President of the Roshni Development Organization (RDO), who explained to us how the people in the area had been abandoned by the NGOs and political parties. Under the direction of Mr. Stanley David, member of the RDO and our collaborator, we set up a medical camp.  Our efforts were received with gratitude by Mr. Mamtaz, Mr. Stanley, and the approximately two hundred patients who were treated. Many people notice the banner on our van advertising free medical care, which gives them  somewhat of an idea of who we are and of the services we provide.

Shortly after our arrival, we were greeted by a woman who told us that she was not producing milk for her infant child.  It dawned on us that we had neglected to bring Lactogin with us. We noticed that several of the other newborns appeared malnourished, weak and fragile; the nursing mothers, too, appeared to be emaciated. We realized the necessity of stocking the requested item. We made arrangements to acquire Lactogin immediately in a quantity sufficient to supply all the needs of children under six months of age.

The population appears satisfied with the quality of our supplies.  The people particularly appreciated our stock of medications such as Panadol (acetaminophen) for pain, Lactogin for the infants and their mothers, and other medicines such as  cough syrup, tablets for fever, etc. The inhabitants of the village compare the quality of our services with those of the other NGOs and Government health facilities. They like our work and appreciate our genuine desire to serve, which flows from the heart of St. Camillus. Our presence has been a source of hope and joy for these people, who have been experiencing abandonment.

The mothers were delighted when we photographed their children.  Many mothers approached me and requested that I take the pictures of their children. They were very glad for this simple joy. It brought smiles to their faces, which were once withered, seemingly hopeless. The spirit of St. Camillus continues touching the lives of  many through the people of good will who bring the “Good News” of health and salvation!

Our presence in the desolate area, the availability of medications and sustenance, has brought new hope to the desolate situation.  The people have seemed to gain new life.  Their apathy has  been replaced by faith and positive energy.  They rejoice although they are surrounded by desolate wilderness.

Perhaps Isaiah includes these people when he said: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom…” (Is 35:1).

Bro. Mushtaq Anjum, MI Ministers of the Infirm (CAMILLIANS) Philippine Province http://www.camilliansphil.org

Pakistan 10 – Sindh – One Place Where CTF-SOS DRS is working

Mushtaq, a Camillian from Pakistan who is the mission coordinator of our efforts in the wake of the floods, sends us an article on the situation in Sindh, a desperate one that led us to help construct houses and provide other relief in the area.

PAKISTAN: Sindh flood victims “forgotten”

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DADU, 16 November 2010 (IRIN) – Like tens of thousands of others in the southern province of Sindh, Ghulam Uddin and his family of eight are all but marooned more than 100 days after floodwater started swamping huge chunks of Pakistan in late July.

Chest-deep water surrounds their house in a village in Dadu district, which has turned fields into lakes and destroyed all of Uddin’s carefully cultivated crops, and though it is possible to wade through the water, it is not easy.

“I cannot see how we are going to get back to anything resembling normal,” Uddin told IRIN. “My elderly mother insisted we come back because she hated life in the camps [set up to provide emergency shelter].” His house has been badly damaged, and the family is living in the open, dependent on hand-outs of food. Most of the other villagers have not yet returned.

“There are around one and a half million people in Sindh who are still primarily displaced and have not been able to return home, and about another one and a half million who have managed to get close to their houses, but not move back,” Thomas Gurtner, the UN Principal Humanitarian Advisor for Sindh, told IRIN.

In Dadu district there were still a “few thousand people” marooned, but it was “very hard to know exactly how many,” he said. Most people whose homes were surrounded by water had been “reached at least once if not twice by tractors, trolleys and so on for the delivery of humanitarian aid.”

Life is not easy for those who have returned home. “Things here are tough. Our house is badly damaged and we have lost all our livestock,” said Saleem Ahmed, 50, who lives in the town of Khairpur Nathan Shah in Sukkur district. “We are being forgotten, and will just have to manage on our own.”

Donations down

Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman for the charitable Edhi Foundation, told IRIN: “We are focusing on providing seed and fertilizer to flood victims who have returned home.” Many other organizations are also providing what assistance they can, but media attention has swung away from flood victims and donations are thinner.

“In August, at the height of the floods, most people who came to my [shoe] shop put in a few coins or currency notes for flood victims [in a collection box on the counter]. Now hardly anyone does,” said Muhamad Inayat, a trader in the Saddar area of Karachi, capital of Sindh Province.

Claire Seaward, Advocacy, Media and Communication Manager for the UK-based charity, Oxfam, told IRIN: “There is a real danger that this crisis will be forgotten, and we need to do everything we can to prevent that from happening. While recovery work is underway in many areas as people have moved back home, large areas of . Sindh are still under water, around 1 million remain displaced, and only a tiny percentage of people have received any shelter – the emergency is not over.”

She added: “The world has been hit hard by crises in 2010, and funds are running low, but with nearly seven million Pakistanis living without shelter and winter fast approaching, aid is needed now more than ever.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “The revised Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan (FERP) envisages activities costing US$1.93 billion over a one-year timeframe.”

So far, around $867.4 million (44.8 percent of requirements) has been contributed, and a further $5.9 million has been pledged, leaving a considerable gap.

 
Bro. Mushtaq Anjum, MI
Ministers of the Infirm (CAMILLIANS)
Philippine Province
www.camilliansphil.org

20 million people were displaced by the floods in Pakistan. CTF-SOS DRS is providing many of them with medical care, shelter, pastoral care and humanitarian support. Please help us help those affected by the floods in  Pakistan

Relevant News – Pakistani Christians Complain of bias

Pakistani Christians complain of bias

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Published Date: October 18, 2010

By ucanews.com reporter, Khushpur
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Houses destroyed by floods in Khushpur village

Christian groups are alleging discrimination against Christian flood victims receiving  relief aid .

“Government as well as other NGOs are giving priority to Muslim flood victims. We condemn this attitude,” said Ashir Dean, assistant Director of the Development and Relief programs of the Church of Pakistan in Peshawar diocese, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Similarly, Khushpur village in Punjab province was not included in a government scheme for the disbursement of a flood relief cash grant of 20,000 rupees (US$ 235) per family.

The locals in this biggest Catholic village in country recently started reconstruction of their destroyed house after Caritas Pakistan handed over building material last month.

“The authorities are favoring their own people. The federal minister for minorities is also from our village but still we did not receive any help from the government,” said Stephen Rufin, a retired Catechist.

As of Oct. 15, Caritas Pakistan, the Catholic Church’s social service agency in the country has distributed relief items among 25,710 families since floods hit the country in late July. About 2,000 people died and another some 20 million affected by the floods that covered almost one-fifth of the country. Caritas’ beneficiaries include only 1678 families from religious minority communities.

Media reports say the flood affected

• About 200,000 Christians in Punjab province

• About 600,000 Christians and Hindus in Sindh province

• 1,210 Christian and 220 Hindu families in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

“We have heard of Christians being denied flood relief aid in interior Sindh province. This is discouraging news as most of our beneficiaries are Muslims,” said Shamas Shamaun, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan in the southern Hyderabad diocese.

Office and Community Manager – Haiti

Volunteer Opportunity

Office and Community Manager  Project Perpetual Help Haiti

Help significantly those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Contribute to the development and implementation of Project Perpetual Help Haiti. Become a member of the newly established CTF-SOS DRS community in Port au Prince where we live, work and worship together.

CTF-SOS DRS is an international, Catholic, non-profit disaster relief organization based in both Rome, Italy and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (www.sosdrs.org). The organization seeks a person who is people-oriented, reliable, hardworking, and eager-to-learn who will serve as the office and community manager.  

CTF-SOS DRS is presently planning and implementing several relief programs in Haiti. The presence of a likeable, trustworthy and skilled person who wants to be part of the community in Port au Prince will play an essential role in the success of the Project. 

Required is an ability to use the English language very well (written and verbal); good typing skills, some management experience, computer software skills (MS Word and Excel at a minimum); a minimum stay in Haiti of 2 months; a willingness to live the mission of CTF-SOS DRS as attested to by reading and signing the volunteer contract and the document outlining the rights and responsibilities of a community member.

Very helpful would be a knowledge of Quickbooks and bookkeeping skills; French and/or the Kreyol language; previous missionary experience.

The office and community manager will maintain the office in Port au Prince under the supervision of the Project Coordinator, Fr. Scott Binet, or his vicar. He/she will also manage the community in coordination with the community leader. This will involve primarily supervising ancillary personnel and facilitating the activities of the community.       

An initial interview will be conducted by telephone or in person if possible. The volunteer applicant will be expected to submit a CV (curriculum vitae) prior to the interview.

Once accepted, the applicant will undergo a brief period of orientation/preparation and then fly to Port au Prince, Haiti to reside in the community. Expenses related to travel,  room and board will be covered by CTF-SOS DRS. Personal expenses will be the responsibility of the volunteer.   

With time the position may involve financial compensation. If there are any questions about the position, please e-mail Fr. Scott at fatherscott@ctfmercy.org or call him on SKYPE – fr.scottbinet.

July 8 – Haiti – Eternal Weight

Haiti’s Eternal Weight

“According to our research and conversations with aid groups in Haiti, less than 5 percent of this [debris] has been removed since January, and even less has been properly disposed of.  Based on our calculations … we estimate that it could take 20 years or more.” 

Fr. Scott

Comment: Eternal Weight. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the article upon reading the title. All things eternal interest me though so it caught my eye. The eternal weight referred to ostensibly has little to do with the heavens, however, and everything to do with the pun that is intended: the amount of debris clogging the streets of Port au Prince and elsewhere from the earthquake  seems like an eternal weight – heavy and one that will be around for a very long time – eternally if you will. At least there is no end in sight. Thus, in my opinion,  the real meaning of the title and the sad reality that we face here in Haiti: the amount of time that we will have to wait until the debris to be cleaned up is likely to seem like an eternal weight a very long wait.

 “The quake left an astonishing amount of debris, including concrete and rebar from collapsed buildings, destroyed belongings and human remains. According to our research and conversations with aid groups in Haiti, less than 5 percent of this has been removed since January, and even less has been properly disposed of.  Based on our calculations, partially from the United States Agency for International Development’s reports on debris removal programs, we estimate that it could take 20 years or more.” 

“Some streets with especially large piles of refuse are impassable. As a result, it can take hours to travel just a few miles. Meanwhile, schools, hospitals, businesses and homes remain blocked.”

Permit me an analogy: the human body is a bit like Haiti. The former with time and a lack of appropriate maintenance given its increasing fragility and finite nature is susceptible to catastrophic illness – stroke or myocardial infarction for example. And the body becomes even more vulnerable to floating debris, cholesterol plaques and atheroma formation without adequate treatment -surgical and/or medical.

Well, such is the case with Haiti as well. Given its fragility and other factors, Haiti deteriorated over time. Then it was the victim of a catastrophic illness – an earthquake. And its capital – the heart and the brain of the country – Port au Prince – was hit the worst. It was an infarct that has crippled much of the rest of the country and greatly decreased the flow of goods. And like with the human heart after a myocardial infarction that remains vulnerable to chemicals, etc. floating in the blood stream that build up on vessel walls and then cause a lethal or debilitating obstruction, so also is Port au Prince suffering from a great buildup of debris in its roads and byways – the vessels that allow people, goods and vehicles to move effectively. And the debris that includes rubble, garbage, metal and all sorts of material has caused significant obstruction in many places. The city is in need of prompt medical or surgical treatment or its inhabitants and others are sure to suffer more than they already are.

It seems that we should hope that an eternal weight does not await us as the present obstruction could prove even more threatening if not deadly. “The debris is also an environmental and health hazard. The daily downpours of the rainy season leach toxic chemicals and carcinogens into the storm water system — and ultimately into the drinking water. Debris has been dumped into the sea, turning the blue water brown.”

Eternal weight – the words ostensibly have a negative connotation – either indicating a weight of rubble and debris that will be around for a long time or a very long wait before it is actually removed. However, let me suggest a more positive – indeed hope-filled – way of looking at the two words Eternal weight. And for this I draw from one of my favorite Fathers of the Church – St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), the saintly bishop who is  also one of the greatest and most prolific writers of all time. He wrote Confessions and City of God among others.

First, though, it is appropriate to ask – Quo vadis Haiti? Where are you going? Many of your streets are blocked with debris – garbage, rubble, rebar, remains, etc. And your way forward in the wake of the earthquake seems to be filled with many obstacles. Quo vadis Haiti? Maybe St. Augustine can help you and others as they assist you in moving forward.

How? “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Peter Kreeft, a Catholic philosopher and prolific writer, notes that this is arguably the greatest sentence ever written outside Scripture because it tells us the secret of our destiny, our happiness—and our unhappiness. It is, however, not only unfashionable but terribly threatening.”

“Where are you going? That’s the most important question for a traveler. And we the living are all travelers.” You also Haiti. You are  traveling. Death has called and is calling us all and moves us on. Stability is illusion. “Where are you going Haiti?

Amor meus, pondus meum, said Augustine: “My love is my weight.” In other words, that which I love will pull on me like a weight is influenced by gravity.  And if  my primary love is God, then my love is an eternal weight. Quo vadis? If God is my eternal weight – my love, Heaven is my destination.

“The truth is that man has a heaven-sized hole in his heart, and nothing else can fill it. We pass our lives trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles.” Everyone longs for “something no eye has seen, no ear has heard, something that has not entered into the imagination of man, something God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

“Home—that’s what heaven is. It won’t appear strange and faraway and “supernatural”, but utterly natural. Heaven is what we were designed for. People think heaven is escapist because they fear that thinking about heaven will distract us from living well here and now. It is exactly the opposite, and the lives of the saints and our Lord himself prove it. Those who truly love heaven will do the most for earth. [emphasis mine] It’s easy to see why. Those who love the homeland best work the hardest in the colonies to make them resemble the homeland. “Thy kingdom come. .. on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Quo vadis Haiti? Your path may be blocked with much debris. And it is a threat that is obstructing the vessels of your heart – Port au Prince. The garbage, rebar, concrete and remains are an obstacle that seems to be an eternal weight – too much to remove in a period that is too long. But if you and those who are helping you understand, focus on and seek the true eternal weight  – your true destination, then nothing will stand in your way. There is no debris, no weight, that you cannot lift. Those who truly love heaven will do the most for earth, including Haiti.