Megan Gilbert: Hello everyone and welcome to “Vision 2030: How Do We Build a More Resilient World?” My name is Megan Gilbert. We want to show you today our bold, transformative vision for the next 10 years. That vision, that strategy, that 10-year strategy, Vision 2030, is rooted in our Catholic faith and it is with your support that we are able to live out our Gospel mission to serve the poor all over the world.
I would like to introduce you to the guests that we have for today. Dorrett Byrd is the Southern Africa regional director. She is based in Lusaka, Zambia. We also have Tom Dart, vice president for Leadership Giving, who will also be presenting with us today.
Dorrett, when I think about the work that CRS is doing, the work CRS has done, and the work that we’re planning to do over the next 10 years, it’s really, really exciting—2020 has just been a tough year. And so I’m curious, for you, who’s done this work for so long, how do you stay motivated? How do you and your staff keep going?
Dorrett Byrd: For myself and my colleagues, what really motivates us and guides us are the principles of Catholic social teaching. In CRS, we call it the guiding principles, but they’re the Catholic social teaching principles. So, for example, the sacredness and dignity of the human person, the common good, the option for the poor.
One example, this happened more than 15 years ago, but it’s very vivid in my mind, and that was the December 26, 2004, tsunami in Indonesia. Many of our colleagues that very night, the day after Christmas, they packed their bags and the next day they boarded planes to go and help the people who were in need. That was Christmastime. You know, time for family, for gathering, for celebration.
Yet our colleagues did leave their families to go and serve the larger human family, because they believed so strongly in the sacredness and dignity of the human person, the common good and the option for the poor. And the latter principle, the option for the poor, states that the poor and vulnerable have a special claim on us, and this is what my colleagues and myself, that’s what we respond to, that special claim.
Megan Gilbert: It’s more than just a job for the people who work here. It really is a vocation. And Dorrett, you talked about that special claim that the poor has on us. And it really is about our responsibility as Catholics to uphold the human dignity of everyone. And one of the ways that CRS does that is we take a holistic approach to our work.
In Catholic social teaching, that’s called integral human development. And really what that means is that we just consider all aspects of a person. CRS isn’t just looking at someone’s economic needs. We consider their cultural or their social needs, or even their spiritual needs. So, Dorrett, when you look at the work that CRS is doing, how do you see integral human development as part of that?
Dorrett Byrd: CRS has these goals, and one of them is reintegrating children into safe and nurturing families, and that really exemplifies integral human development. For example, there’s an early childhood development project that cares for the whole child. So, in this early childhood development project, we work with the National Associations of Sisterhoods in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, to strengthen the capacity of Catholic nuns to ensure children under two years old, that they thrive.
So, the sisters work with children, their families and communities, to provide services focused on early child stimulation, nutrition, protection, water, sanitation, hygiene, health. And so Sister Ruth in Zambia, she said there has been a lot of changes since we started the project. With the kitchen gardens, children eat better, the fathers are supporting their families, most of the children are now in school. Families now store water more hygienically, and even the staff at the hospital appreciate the work we are doing and tell us that they see fewer sick mothers and children come into the hospital.
Sister Ruth also added that saving one child will go a long way, but I really believe we can save many more, as the parents and communities are educated about what to do. That’s an example of integral human development.
Megan Gilbert: Dorrett, we talk about this holistic approach, and that really is what it means to build resilience, and resilience is really about making sure that when those shocks and those stresses that happen to all of us, that the people who are in our programs are just better able to manage those. They can bounce back faster.
We can’t control when there’s a typhoon, or an earthquake, or anything like that. But what we can do is make sure that people have the tools they need to respond when those types of things happen. But it’s not just about building resilience during an emergency, we try to do that in all of the work that we do. So Dorrett, when you look at the Vision 2030 strategy that we have, you can see that resilience is really a big part of that.
Dorrett Byrd: Yes, yes. But let me start by saying that CRS’s mission is to save lives and alleviate human suffering, accelerate the end of poverty, hunger, preventable diseases, and cultivate a just and peaceful society. And at the center of that is the human person. And so, our Vision 2030 strategy helps to make these lofty goals very concrete.
So, for example, Vision 2030 includes goals such as all people live in just and peaceful societies, all people survive and thrive in the face of disasters, all people achieve dignified and resilient livelihoods in flourishing landscapes. That all children reach their full health and human potential, in safe and nurturing families, and all youth are empowered to thrive.
So, I’ll just give one example on achieving resilient livelihoods. So, there’s a program in Southern Madagascar and that’s a region where water is very scarce. Even now, as I speak, the rains are not coming. And so, there’s a lady who lives in a village, her name is Masintsoa, and she used to walk two hours to a neighboring village to get water for her family. The water in her household was rationed, because it took so much time to get the water. So, several years ago, CRS repaired 24 pumps across Southern Madagascar and so, for Masintsoa, everything changed. Now, she walks less than five minutes to get clean water.
And let me just stop here and say, imagine if every time you wanted water you had to walk five minutes. I mean, we would get aggravated pretty soon, right? But for her, it was this huge improvement. So hygiene was easier to maintain. She even started a vegetable garden, that she waters using a drip irrigation system, because she has to conserve the water. And she, in addition to having food for her family, she sells some of her produce so she gets some income from her village.
Megan Gilbert: I think that’s so amazing when you talk about that because I don’t think that’s something that we really think about a lot, because like once you have access to clean water it means so many other things are easier.
Dorrett, I do want to talk a little bit about emergencies and one thing that’s so critical for us to do, in an emergency, is to respond quickly. And what makes us able to respond so quickly are the donations and the support from Catholics in the United States. It’s absolutely critical. Can you talk about how some of that funding, some of those donations, how you use that in the work that you do?
Dorrett Byrd: So, in most of Zimbabwe, right now at least 20% of households are not able to meet their food needs and some regions of the country are experiencing extreme hunger levels, meaning that they have to sell off assets to afford food, reduce the amount of food at each meal and reduce the number of meals that they have each day. And drought, economic hardship and emergencies like COVID have made very poor people even more vulnerable. But, thanks to funding from Catholic supporters, we have the flexibility to answer the call whenever it comes.
So, in this case, we are providing feed for the animals. We provide seeds and irrigation, so that these households can do some subsistence farming and produce food for themselves. So what we are doing is helping the most desperate families to survive in these very difficult times. And this is thanks to the support that you give us. CRS staff and the people we serve are very grateful for your act of solidarity in supporting CRS and supporting them.
You know, you may not know these people but they are sending their blessings to you. When I was in Senegal years ago, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, wherever I go, and I go out into the villages, the villagers, they always thank CRS, and they call out blessings on CRS staff and on the supporters of CRS.
Megan Gilbert: Dorrett, I think that is so true, because I have experienced that as well, when I have traveled to visit the work that CRS is doing. So, Dorrett talked to you about all of the wonderful things that we are doing, but we can do more. We are going to need to do more. We need to build a more resilient world.
So we want to take that next step, and Tom Dart, our vice president of Leadership Giving, is here to tell us what that next step is. But first, Tom, 20 years ago, you worked for CRS in the field, and I’m sure listening to Dorrett describe the work that she does probably brought back some memories for you.
Tom Dart: Thank you, Megan. My memories about my work overseas starts with expressions of gratitude. Gratitude to be able to witness firsthand the impact of our donors’ support on the lives that CRS serves. Also, gratitude for the tremendous trust that our donors place in CRS to be their expression of the Gospel imperative. And so, those are the things that inspire us, not only overseas but among our colleagues here in the United States.
Megan Gilbert: And Tom you talked about our Gospel mission, and for a lot of people I know who give to CRS, this really is about putting their faith in action. It’s an expression of their faith. So, this next step that we have for people is another way for them to do that. We have a campaign underway, so can you talk about that campaign?
Tom Dart: The Go FAR campaign is CRS’ first campaign ever. We’ve never done one before. And people ask, “So why now?” My colleagues and I answer in two very simple ways. We say, “Because we should,” and “Because we can.”
We know that problems are more complex now than ever before. Storms are bigger, more prevalent. Conflicts are raging across the world, disrupting lives and livelihoods and forcing an unprecedented number of people to flee their homes. So, the needs of those we serve are greater now than ever before. And so it gets back to, we should because we are obligated by our Gospel mission to go further. We can because we’ve done this before.
CRS has a 76-year history of tackling these problems of poverty worldwide. And it’s this expertise and this experience that we now want to take, as Dorrett explained, take to the next level. And so, we have strong partnerships with the Catholic Church and other partners throughout the world who will be assisting us and working with us to make this strategy successful.
And so, we have confidence that the ambitious goals that we’ve laid out for the next 10 years, we will be able to accomplish. But we won’t be able to accomplish it without the support of our partners in the United States.
Megan Gilbert: We do have some goals for this campaign, so can you outline what are the things that we’re planning to do?
Tom Dart: This Go FAR campaign will be a five-year fundraising initiative. We seek to raise $275 million in support of each one of these priorities. Building homes, transforming livelihoods, empowering youth, strengthening families and driving mission agility. It is also an opportunity for us to engage our partners in the United States, U.S. Catholics, in continuing on this journey, with us to put their faith into action, so that we can go further and cast out deeper in terms of our impact.
Megan Gilbert: Tom, you talked about the partnerships that we have with our donors. How can they be part of this campaign?
Tom Dart: We can talk about the partnership in terms of the great impact that we’re having across the world in many different ways. This is Girlita Ascalona. She has six kids. She lives in Anibong, which is a neighborhood in the Philippines. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan came through and devastated her neighborhood. She and her neighbors lost their homes, they lost many of their personal belongings, and they were without shelter and also without any place to go.
And so, CRS, through the support of our donors in the United States, was able to work with Girlita and her neighbors to help relocate to a more permanent place for them to live. To help build permanent housing that would be safe for them to live, where they could have access to important utilities like running water and electricity. And also for their children to go to school. CRS helped support a school for Girlita’s children and her neighbors. And so this is now a home for Girlita and her neighbors where they can feel safe and they can continue to lead a dignified life.
Megan Gilbert: I really think that that reflects the bold vision that we have. We know we can make these changes, and we know we can provide … you know, what these families really need, what we all need just to make sure that our children are safe, that we all can thrive.
So, Dorrett, I do have a question for you. We talked about resilience being something about responding to that unexpected. And, of course the big unexpected this year was COVID. We all are going through that experience. So how did you adapt to what you were doing because of COVID?
Dorrett Byrd: Oh, thanks Megan. So, we had to change around all our programs, to address the issue of COVID. And so, in Madagascar, we work with a lot of young people. But let me just back up a little bit and say that so Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with about 70% of the population living on less than $1.90 a day. And so with a largely poor population, coupled with a very weak health system, there was a lot of concern when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Madagascar. The other is that the situation of young people in Madagascar is very difficult, so we integrate youth into all of the work, agriculture, savings and lending programs, health programs and so on, and we train youth in entrepreneurship, leadership and financial literacy.
So, with the spread of COVID, the youth trained by CRS quickly set up a process for making reusable cloth masks. The young people sell the masks at about 30 cents each, which is affordable for most community members. And these young people also help their community to practice the most important preventive measures, such as how to properly use the mask, physical distancing, hand-washing with soap and accessing the right information. And so, this is really very inspiring, that young people are looking to the future, wanting to serve their community, wanting to engage in a positive way, and they were able to adapt to COVID to help serve their community.
Megan Gilbert: I love that story, because you know so much of what we do is just giving people that opportunity, and especially when you’re talking about young people. Tom, I have a question for you. What do you hope donors will experience by participating in this Go FAR campaign?
Tom Dart: Our hope is that the Go FAR campaign will continue the journey that we’ve started with our donors for over 76 years. Needs are greater. The importance of support from the Catholic Church is needed now more than ever. Our desire is for our supporters to continue the partnership, to pray for those that we serve and to help us on this journey—this very ambitious strategy and campaign.
Megan Gilbert: Thank you so much, Tom. I want to thank Dorrett and I want to thank Tom so much for joining us today, for giving us all that inside look at all of the things that we’re doing in Southern Africa as well as this campaign that everyone can be a part of. But, of course, my big thanks goes to all of you for spending part of your day with us. We’re so grateful for you to do that.
If you’d like to learn more about the campaign that we have going on right now, the Go FAR campaign, go to gofar.crs.org. You can learn more about the priorities that we have and all the things that we’re doing and read about some of the people who you are helping with your support for CRS.
I know sometimes you think, “Is my support really making a difference? What can I really do?” And I hope, after hearing from Dorrett and Tom, that you can see that you are making such huge changes in the lives of people all over the world. They’re so grateful for it and you’re such a critical part of the work that we do. Thank you for all of the support that you give us. and thank you for your prayers. Until next time.