Monday, February 07, 2005

CRS Raises Commitment to $80 Million to Assist Tsunami-Devastated Areas

BALTIMORE, Feb. 3, 2005—Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is increasing its initial target of $25 million to $80 million over five to seven years to help survivors of the tsunami in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia rebuild their lives, livelihoods and communities.
“Enough time has passed to allow us to more clearly see the expanse of work that will be necessary to help people get back on their feet,” said CRS President Ken Hackett. “While we continue to provide emergency aid to those in need, we are already moving into a longer-term recovery phase that will require millions more than originally estimated.”
More than a month has passed since the tsunami struck South and Southeast Asia on Dec. 26. In that time, CRS has been able to conduct more thorough assessments of how best to help people not only in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, but also over the long-term. Based on field analyses, the agency is raising its relief and recovery programming target to $80 million from the $25 million set in the early days of the tsunami. The $80 million will support a variety of programs to reestablish livelihoods, rebuild roads, bridges, public facilities and homes, and improve self-sufficiency. Programs will expand as needs change or become better defined in the coming months.
CRS has raised more than $65.9 million since the emergency began. Because of this generous response from the U.S. Catholic community and other supporters, CRS is no longer actively soliciting additional funds. Caritas Internationalis, the international federation of Catholic humanitarian agencies that includes CRS, collectively has raised nearly $320 million to help tsunami-affected communities. Such support has given CRS the ability to rapidly respond to the emergency and provided the resources to lay the groundwork for long-term rehabilitation.
“We are mindful of our responsibility to ensure funds are used for the purpose they were given – to help survivors recover and regain their way of life,” Hackett added.
In India, for example, CRS is working with both church partners and other humanitarian agencies to implement a multi-pronged program to bring clean water systems and medical help to more than 350,000 people; purchase boats, fishing nets and other tools to help people resume their livelihoods; and rebuild schools so children can resume their education.
In Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the tsunami’s power, CRS and partners will help some 240,000 people in the Meulaboh and Banda Aceh areas move out of tarpaulin tents into new homes constructed by local workers, infusing the communities with both meaningful work and hope for a new life. The agency will help survivors cope with their losses through professional counseling and by providing opportunities to learn new job skills or reestablish their trade.
In Sri Lanka, more than 170,000 people will receive help in reconstructing their homes. They will be assured adequate food and healthcare as well as compassionate care and support they need to build a future for themselves and their children.
CRS has worked in South and Southeast Asia for more than 60 years, providing both emergency and long-term development assistance. The agency is the official international humanitarian organization of the U.S. Catholic community and provides assistance to people in 99 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, creed or nationality.

In appreciation of the support that CRS has received for victims of the tsunami, free silicon bracelets with the words "One Human Family" are available. For information, visit

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A Generation of Lenten Tradition - Operation Rice Bowl Celebrates its 30th Anniversary

Operation Rice Bowl, Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten program, kicks-off today, Ash Wednesday, for millions of Catholics in the U.S. Through the support of 170 dioceses, Operation Rice Bowl has become a Lenten tradition in the Church in the United States.

Operation Rice Bowl began as a program of the Diocese of Allentown, PA in 1975, and was adopted nationally by Catholic Relief Services in 1976. Today, millions of Catholics in parishes, schools, and faith communities in every state in the United States participate in Operation Rice Bowl as a way to make a positive difference in the lives of the people around the world who struggle with hunger and poverty.

Operation Rice Bowl provides Catholics with an opportunity to live out the central themes of Lent by praying with their families and faith communities, fasting in solidarity with those who don’t have enough food, learning about the joys and challenges in the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world, and giving sacrificial contributions to assist the poor.

Annually, Operation Rice Bowl raises approximately $8 million. 75% of these proceeds come to Catholic Relief Services to help fund development projects that contribute to food security in 40 countries around the world. 25% of Operation Rice Bowl funds remain in local dioceses in the United States to fund local hunger and poverty alleviation projects.

In the Diocese of San Jose last year, $9,000 was granted to four hunger alleviation projects: The Cathedral of St. Joseph Social Ministry, Martha's Kitchen, St. Joseph's Family Center, the Lord's Table, and Loaves and Fishes.

By participating in Operation Rice Bowl in this 30th Anniversary year, Catholics in the United States join in a rich tradition, and put their faith into action by reaching out in solidarity to all members of the human family.

For more information on Operation Rice Bowl, please visit or contact Linda Batton at (408) 983-0158 or

Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian relief and development agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The Baltimore-based agency provides assistance to people in 99 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed, or nationality.