Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

Sierra Leone Lives Shattered by Violence

Monday, December 29th, 2008

CRS regional information officer for West Africa, Lane Hartill, filed this profile that sheds light on life in Sierra Leone.

When rebels beat his father within an inch of his life, Junisah knew he had to join them.

The rebels were a nasty bunch whose goal was to overthrow the government. They were known for cutting off the arms, hands, legs and lips of Sierra Leoneans. Junisah knew that. And he also knew to survive, he needed be one of them.

Liberian refugee

Junisah Kamara, a volunteer vaccinator in Kailahun district in southeast Sierra Leone, sits near the grave of his father. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

I met Junisah Kamara on a trip to Sierra Leone not long ago. He’s a tiny, wiry man who, for a few years in the early 1990s, silently patched up and sent back into combat some of West Africa’s most brutal young men.

I met him in the tiny village of Siama in Kailahun district. Things are tough for him these days. Same with everyone else around the world. But when I hear people talk about how difficult their lives are—how expensive things are, the uncertain job market—I think about Junisah. No, I’m sorry, I say. Your lives aren’t that bad. Sit down. Let me tell you what Junisah went through.
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Microfinance Can Provide Insurance, Loss Recovery

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Ben Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs.

Imagine that a fire destroys your home or a family member suffers a crippling injury or debilitating illness. If you have insurance, you would expect your plan to take effect, thereby reducing your expenses. Insurance can mitigate your risks by minimizing the economic impact of a potentially catastrophic event. To obtain personal insurance, you pay a small premium in return for coverage in the event of an emergency. Premiums vary based on the probability and costs of risks.

What happens to an uninsured family when fires, illnesses, and other disasters strike? For extremely poor Guatemalan families—who almost never have health coverage, home insurance, or workers’ compensation—the consequences can be devastating.
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In Lebanon, Building Peace and Hoping for Prosperity

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Sahar Frangieh, Project Officer for CRS Lebanon, writes from Beirut about how our work helps young people in troubled Lebanese villages:

The global economic crisis is affecting everyone around the world; families are suffering from unemployment and social instability. Inequity among people is increasing. The high price of food and fuel is threatening families’ sustainability, especially in rural areas. However, change can happen.

Rima Sleiman is a young woman whose life was touched by CRS. This law graduate, born and still living with her family in Qsaibe, a rural village in South Lebanon, had been searching for a job opportunity close to her home. She wanted an opportunity to improve her life, contribute financially to her family’s rising costs of living, and at the same time fulfill her dreams.
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Microfinance Survey Reveals Investor Satisfaction

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Ben Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs.

CRS recently commissioned a survey of the communities in San Marcos where the women’s savings groups are operating. The survey was carried out by teenage girls who have received scholarships from CRS that enable them to attend school and purchase materials. Although we have not tabulated the complete results, I wanted to share some of the comments from the participants in the savings groups. The response from them was overwhelmingly positive—out of more than 50 participants, only a couple felt that the experience had not brought any benefits. (Note: We also interviewed community members who are not currently participating in the groups to measure whether they are aware of the groups and interested in joining one.)
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Fair Trade: What You Can Do

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Fair Trade is a easy way to give gifts to loved ones and help working poor families around the world. If you’re looking for gifts you won’t find on department store shelves, check out the CRS Fair Trade web site and blog.

You can promote justice for small-scale farmers and artisans overseas when you:

– Educate yourself and people in your parish, school, office and community to understand how their decision to buy Fair Trade items can help.

– Join the CRS Fair Trade network. You will receive your quarterly copy of The CRS Fair Trader, an electronic newsletter that provides updates on new program developments and new opportunities to promote trade justice.

– Serve and Sell Fair Trade coffee, chocolate and crafts after Mass and at special events in your parish, school, office, community and home. It is a great way to begin a conversation with your fellow parishioners, classmates, colleagues and neighbors about Fair Trade and the hope it offers to small-scale producers overseas.

– Buy Fair Trade for your home, parish, school or office.

– Donate to the CRS Fair Trade Fund.

– Advocate for fairer terms of trade.

Fair Trade: What Happens When You Buy

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Fair Trade is a easy way to give gifts to loved ones and help working poor families around the world. If you’re looking for gifts you won’t find on department store shelves, check out the CRS Fair Trade web site and blog.

When you buy Fair Trade, you:

– Celebrate the human dignity of the farmers who grew it;
– Demonstrate a special concern for the poor;
– Act in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need overseas;
– Ensure that farmers earn a just wage;
– Contribute to a more just distribution of wealth;
– Practice responsible stewardship of Creation; and
– Promote the principle of subsidiarity.

But buying Fair Trade is not entirely selfless. After all, you get great products that are unique and received a lot of care in their production.

Fair Trade: The Catholic Market

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Fair Trade is a easy way to give gifts to loved ones and help working poor families around the world. If you’re looking for gifts you won’t find on department store shelves, check out the CRS Fair Trade web site and blog.

As Americans, we collectively spend $19 billion a year to feed our coffee habit. (That is, incidentally, nearly twice the Gross Domestic Product of Nicaragua.)

If there are 250-300 million people in the United States and about 60 million Catholics, then we Catholics are just over one-fifth of the national population. And if the national coffee expenditure is about $20 billion, and if Catholics drink about as much coffee as everyone else, then Catholics in the United States spend about $5 billion each year on coffee.

Clearly, this is not a scientific figure. But it is probably safe to say that each year Catholics in the United States spend billions on coffee. And that’s just coffee—the chocolate industry brings in $14 billion a year in the US alone meaning Catholics spend about $3 billion on chocolate.

Microfinance: Training Should Extend Beyond Savings Groups

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Ben Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs.

The 2007/2008 Human Development Report’s statistics on Guatemala are pretty depressing. Approximately 54 percent of Guatemalan children under age five are under their height for age (a sign of malnourishment), almost one in three individuals over age 15 cannot read or write, 32 percent of Guatemalans survive on less than $2 per day, and 56 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. CRS addresses these issues through a variety of projects, including nutritional and health monitoring of mothers and young children, technical assistance to small farmers, and educational scholarships for poor students.

Nevertheless, CRS has observed that even when these projects are successful and families improve their economic situations, many Guatemalans do not access formal financial institutions—including banks and microfinance agencies—due to unfamiliarity with the services they offer, fears of being manipulated, or high barriers to entry.
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Fair Trade: A Growing Presence

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Fair Trade is a easy way to give gifts to loved ones and help working poor families around the world. If you’re looking for gifts you won’t find on department store shelves, check out the CRS Fair Trade web site and blog.

The Fair Trade Federation estimates that fair trade accounts for just .01 percent of the $3.6 trillion in goods exchanged around the world.

The GLOBAL Fair Trade marketplace doubled from 2005 to 2006 to $2.6 billion dollars.

Here in the States Fair Trade Certified product imports into the U.S. have grown at an average annual rate of 76 percent over the last five years (source: TransFair USA).

Fair Trade: Mmmmm … Coffee

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Fair Trade is a easy way to give gifts to loved ones and help working poor families around the world. If you’re looking for gifts you won’t find on department store shelves, check out the CRS Fair Trade web site and blog. Below, a look at the beginnings of an overseas CRS Fair Trade coffee project.

In 2002, the international price of coffee had dropped to an all time low. Nicaragua, where an estimated one-third of the country’s 5.1 million residents depend in some measure on coffee revenues, has been hit particularly hard by the coffee crisis.

Nicaraguan coffee farmers took to the streets in protest, the low prices for coffee made it impossible for farmers to recoup their production costs. The fragile income that supported their families had collapsed. With their families going hungry, many farmers abandoned their land in search of work in the cities.

CRS/Nicaragua recognized the need for longer-term assistance to help small-scale coffee farmers survive in an unusually competitive international market. This led to a longer-term commitment to provide technical assistance to struggling coffee farmers. CRS and our partner, Caritas Matagalpa, offered to help coffee farmers form a cooperative through which they could work to improve the quality of their coffee, receive access to credit and gain access to the fair trade market.