Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Gaza: Thanks for Answered Prayers for End to Violence

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Thank you for praying for an end to the violence between Israel and Gaza. The November 22 ceasefire announcement is a huge relief for the civilian populations on both sides — the primary victims of the conflict. CRS Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza country representative Matthew McGarry visited Gaza this weekend with good news about our staff, their families and the CRS office.

“There’s no question that our staff and their families were shaken by the intensity of the airstrikes, but we’re grateful that they all emerged unscathed. A few of our staff’s homes suffered minor damage, but nothing significant. Our Gaza office was not damaged, and we’re now back to normal operations.”

“Our staff are in good spirits and immensely grateful for the outpouring of prayers and support. Having lost a week of important work in Gaza, we are all back at work and keeping busy.”

Praying for an End to the Violence between Gaza and Israel

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We ask you to please join us in praying for the safety of our staff, partners and brothers and sisters in the Middle East as the violence escalates between Gaza and Israel. Catholic Relief Services has staff on the ground and can assure you we are monitoring the situation closely and will respond with a compassionate humanitarian response if needed.

If the situation continues to deteriorate, we know from past experience that there may be delays getting emergency supplies to the people who will immediately need it. Currently, we are praying that cooler heads will prevail, while making initial preparations for an eventual response.

Given the instability of the current situation, CRS may need to respond as quickly as possibly. Therefore, we invite you to go here to help with our response to emergencies like this. As always, thanks for your support. We could not perform this lifesaving work in so many places around the world without your generous gifts.

Gaining a Global Perspective for Life

Friday, November 11th, 2011
Middle East

Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, speaks at Cabrini College about CRS’ work in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Cabrini College

By Alyssa Mentzer

Three and a half years ago I left home to go college. I can honestly say I knew very little about what was going on in the world. As far as I was concerned, my world revolved around the town I came from and the campus I lived on.

It’s not that I didn’t care about the rest of the world. I really had no idea what was going on around me. The depths of my knowledge remained within the borders of the United States.

Fast forward.

Last week I sat down with Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, who lives in Beruit. Just back from trips to Iraq and Egypt, Mark was on the campus of Cabrini College to talk to students about the situation in Egypt after the recent revolution and the potential consequences of pulling American troops out of Iraq.

While chatting with Mark, my mind was full of thoughts about the struggle of the Egyptians after the Arab Spring and the upcoming struggle Iraqi refugees will face.

Southern Hospitality, Egyptian Style

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Egypt tea

CRS staff members Kathryn Kraft, left, and Mahitab Mohamed enjoy some tea at the end of a long day. Photo by Rosalie Haughton/CRS

“What will you drink?”

It’s the first question asked at almost every meeting since we arrived in southern Egypt for a one-week tour to learn about the needs of rural Egyptian women. Two colleagues and I are meeting with local non-government organizations, businesswomen and businessmen, government officials and, of course, rural Egyptian women.

Our very first lesson in the Egyptian version of Southern hospitality was that no one can enter a home or an office without being served a drink. So, after introductions have been made but before we start talking about how CRS can help provide economic opportunities to poor women in rural areas, a decision must be made about drinks: “Do you prefer tea, Turkish coffee, Nescafe, or Pepsi?”

Counter-Trafficking in Egypt

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Safe shelter in Egypt

Through the work of CRS and our partner Al Horreya in Alexandria, these beds are now available at a shelter for female victims of trafficking and forced labor. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

“I worked every single day of the week begging for money and selling tissues on the streets near our house,” says Layla, a six- year-old Egyptian girl in Alexandria. “When I didn’t make enough money during the day, they would beat me as punishment, to get me to work harder. I was always so tired.”

Layla comes from a poor family. She is one of ten children who grew up with their mother in a two-room apartment in one of the slums of Alexandria. Her father left after she was born and her family lived in extreme poverty. Her brothers and sisters who could find work did, but those who were too young to work instead begged on the streets to help the family survive. Neither Layla nor any of her nine brothers and sisters had ever attended school.

“We worked from sunrise to sunset, and sometimes even later,” Layla explains. “Often people on the street would kick us or push us aside because they thought we were thieves. Almost no one would look us in the eye.” Layla points to the multiple scars on her face to show the physical abuse she has suffered both at the hands of her own family members as well as strangers.

Egyptian Youth Take Action

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Youth in Egypt

Noha Samy stands proudly next to a tree she and her fellow volunteers planted along the road. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

It looks just like any other road in Egypt, at least to the naked eye. It’s dry and dusty, littered with a few bits of garbage and hosting a lone donkey cart pulling a trailer of sun-scorched watermelons. But 24-year-old Noha Samy beams proudly as she shares the story of this road and why it is so important to her.

Noha participates in the Egyptian Youth Take Action Project (EYTAP) being implemented by Catholic Relief Services and its partners the Egyptian Red Crescent Society and the YMCA, working with more than 1,000 youth in nine of the poorest regions in Egypt. These young people identify key issues in their communities and develop small projects to help solve these problems. Young people take charge of designing and implementing each project, and in the process become leaders for positive change in their communities. The idea is very simple, but the impact is truly awe-inspiring.

“This road used to be like a dump,” Noha says. “There were mountains of garbage because people didn’t know where else to leave it. It smelled horrible. There were no streetlights and people who had to travel on this road were being assaulted all the time.”

A Second Chance in Egypt

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Refugees in Egypt

Through projects, CRS and our partner, St. Andrews Refugee Services, reach beneficiaries throughout the city through targeted outreach in neighborhoods such as this one with high concentrations of refugees. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

The air conditioners dripped onto the dusty concrete as I made my way through the short maze of hallways underneath the tall apartment building to the elevator. Arriving on the 13th floor, I stepped out and was greeted with a big smile from Mais, and a giant bear hug. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “We are so happy you’re here.” It was clear by the look in her large, expressive eyes that she meant it.

I stepped into their small apartment and was greeted by Mais’ family: her husband Belal, their 20- year-old daughter Hanan and their 17-year-old son Eunice. Mais and her family are among the estimated 30,000 refugees now living in Egypt after escaping continuing violence in Iraq. As a result of the assistance her family and thousands of other Iraqi refugees in Cairo have received from CRS and its partner organizations, Mais agreed to meet with me, an American, to share the story of how they became refugees.

I sat down and on the sofa and Mais and her family sat around me on wooden chairs. “So tell me your story,” I said to Mais, somewhat unsure of how to start this conversation. There was a long pause while she looked up at the ceiling and I realized just how absurd my request must have seemed. But to my relief, Mais was not the least bit shy. Once she began telling her story, there was no holding her back.

This extraordinary woman started at the beginning, explaining that she and her husband had worked as professionals in Iraq in the fields of transportation and engineering. Their life there, although complicated at times, was one they loved dearly – one that was rich with family and community.

Legal Help in Jordan

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Eva Mendoza, with the help of CRS and our partners was able to get legal help to retrieve her passport after being trafficked in Jordan. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Freelance photographer David Snyder is traveling throughout the Middle East to see the many CRS projects helping people throughout the region. David is blogging about what he sees along the way.

I arrived here in Jordan two days ago to visit some Catholic Relief Services projects here, on my way from the West Bank before visiting some more programs in Lebanon later this week. I spent the day today with migrants, drawn to Jordan by promises of work, whose experiences here as domestic workers were amazing to hear.

For most, the problems started almost immediately. Upon arrival, usually organized by unscrupulous recruitment agencies, their passports were taken, rendering them unable to leave the country. Once that measure of control of has been reached, these young women – most of them from the Philippines or Indonesia and all of them alone and vulnerable – were at the mercy of their new employers. The women I met with today told stories of overwork, months and years without a single day off, no pay and even physical and sexual abuse.

Hope in Jerusalem

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Freelance photographer David Snyder is traveling throughout the Middle East to see the many CRS projects helping people throughout the region. David is blogging about what he sees along the way.

Just finishing up four days here in the West Bank with Catholic Relief Services. As always it’s been a fascinating trip. I’ve been to Jerusalem three or four times now and each time I come back I’m reminded of how complex this place is – a complexity layered with centuries of ancient history and decades of modern history.

One of the most interesting projects I’ve seen in awhile was the one we started our week with here. Through what is called the Visual Impact Project, CRS provides support to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization documenting human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza by Israeli settlers and security forces. By providing video cameras to 200 volunteers, B’Tselem has gathered more than 3,000 hours of video footage, which it provides free of charge to Israeli and international media to try to bring about accountability for abuses that occur in the Occupied Territories.

Hill Visits Urge Support for Peace in Lebanon

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I recently accompanied CRS-Lebanon Country Representative, Mindy Burrell, on a number of visits to Members of Congress to discuss the political and humanitarian situation in Lebanon. These Capitol Hill visits are an important part of CRS’ advocacy strategy because they allow us to share our on-the-ground perspective with policymakers who are driving our foreign policy.

Mindy described how she first arrived in Lebanon on a transport plane in the midst of the 2006 conflict with Israel because it was the only one that could land on the damaged runway. In response to the conflict, CRS used $12 million in aid provided by the U.S. government and other donors to assist 250,000 Lebanese victims from all faiths in 200 villages throughout the country. Working with local partners including Caritas-Lebanon, CRS organized vouchers for crops and livestock to restore lost incomes, construction projects for buildings damaged in the war, and summer camps for children traumatized by violence.