Ethiopia is one of the many countries where Catholic Relief Services sponsors Savings and Internal Lending Communities. SILC groups are savings clubs: Members make regular deposits, then loan what they have accumulated among themselves and split the profits. Overall, three out of four members are women.
These groups often bring together people whose backgrounds might put them in conflict, but as they work together, they learn that they really have much in common.
One group in Ethiopia helps people with HIV and AIDS. Although the members save money and start businesses, they also talk about their problems without the stigmatization they might experience elsewhere. It’s a SILC group, as well as a health club and group therapy session.
This SILC group met in the home of a woman who was a member. Her husband had died of AIDS, leaving her with their seven children. She had borrowed from the SILC account to buy a cow. She fattened it up and sold it for a profit. She then bought another one and did the same thing. She was on her third, and showed it off in her enclosed garden.
The money she made from these transactions allowed her to set up her oldest child, a daughter, with a hair salon in a small building at the front of her property. She was first and foremost a mother, now a widow, who knew that her primary task was to care for her children. You could just imagine her buying and selling those cattle, providing for her fatherless children one by one.
I thought of this because, as Mothers’ Day approaches, I realize how much of the CRS programming that you make possible is designed to support and help mothers. This support starts at conception, with programs offering prenatal care and proper nutrition for pregnant mothers and their unborn children. In India, one program allows expectant mothers to consult with doctors over cell phones, getting advice and automatic reminders about each stage of pregnancy.
Working through local partners, CRS provides programs that get expectant mothers to proper medical facilities for the birth, reducing the risk of complication. We support clinics, many of them run by dedicated religious. In the months after delivery, through many of our food aid programs, CRS helps mothers ensure that their smallest children get proper nutrition.
Wherever CRS works, we have come to understand that timeless wisdom: Mothers are the most important people in any community, anywhere around the world. It is through mothers, it is in partnership with mothers, that the lives of all people can be improved.
“God is love,” John tells us in his first epistle—not once, but twice in the fourth chapter. And there are few higher expressions of that than maternal love—the bond between mother and child, between Mary and Jesus. It is so tragic when material want, no matter its cause, keeps that love from its proper expression.
Wherever we work at CRS, we recognize and are humbled by the power of that love, by the power of mothers. We put ourselves at their disposal, knowing that they are the ones who can bring about the change we all want to see: children growing up healthy and happy, equipped with all they need to lead lives of fulfillment and dignity.
This month in particular, let us humbly put ourselves in service to mothers around the world. We share with them the love that has touched us all.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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