Catholic Relief Services: Small changes, big results Print
Respect Life
Thursday, Mar. 19, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

What do fish, coffee, and apples have in common besides being an interesting Lenten meal?

Each of these foods has a story that highlights how Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has worked with local people to find a new way to create economic success.

CRS is the major international outreach to 100 countries in Central and Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East. Programs are designed to work with people of a community in helping lift their poverty.

These three examples of fish, coffee, and apples show how small changes lead to big results.

Fisherman off the coast of Africa never knew what market might be better for their catch.  Often they would find they could have made much more at a different port.

With the addition of cell phones, purchased through micro-lending, their entire lives changed. What seems simple to us was nearly miraculous for them. A fisherman can now call several markets and head into the port with better prices for his catch that day. This has increased the average income of these fishermen and allows them to provide for their families.

Coffee farmers in Guatemala were growing good crops, but after processing and roasting, they were not able to get their beans graded at very high levels. Looking into it, CRS and the local farmers found that if they used scientific methods to process their beans, they would be able to achieve the higher-grade levels and greatly increase their income. After the farmers attended classes and learned better techniques, the beans are getting high grades. Farmers have been able to build sturdier homes and purchase additional land. Their children are now regularly attending school.

An effort in Mexico has reaped both financial and human rewards. Apple growers were getting smaller and smaller harvests in their orchards. Because the crops were not enough to sustain their families, the men were leaving home to seek additional work. CRS brought in experts who taught good pruning and maintenance techniques. Harvests improved in both quantity and quality. With the increased profits, families have started cottage industries so families can stay together and thrive.

Catholic Relief Services models Catholic social teaching in respecting human life and dignity, valuing the family, and working with people to find solutions.

People of all nations have the universal desire to provide for their families. The CRS collection, the weekend of March 21 and 22 provides the funds for the tools, seed, technology, and training to make these positive changes in people's lives and help families thrive.

The Catholics of the United States generate the funds for achieving huge results in reducing poverty around the world. Use the envelope to support Catholic Relief Services and give "the least of your brothers" a helping hand.

Susanna Herro is the director of the Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach for the Diocese of Madison.