Kevin Fitzpatrick, Office of Justice and Peace Program Director, recently visited Ethiopia to view Catholic Relief Services (CRS)’ collaborative work that uplifts local communities. Kevin met with a farmer coop of about 95 families that had independently organized for symbiotic crop development, identifying their own needs and assets before allowing outside organizations like CRS into their community. This community already had several strengths – they were skilled farmers, they united and peacefully self-selected their leaders, females were involved in leadership, and most of the leaders were Ethiopians with doctorates in agricultural economy or engineering degrees. For 95 families to willingly collaborate and share resources is a huge feat of trust and harmony, demonstrating strong familial and community bonds.
Kevin also visited an area of Ethiopia to view the Saving Investment Lending Coop (SILC) system in action. SILC is operated completely by women who invest in self-directed micro loans, contributing a certain amount of money so that others in the coop can take out loans and then repay them with a small interest fee. CRS dug a well in this area and ensured that locals kept the technology needed to run the well. The women participating in SILC who live near this well have seen vast improvements in their lives. One woman shared that before the well was nearby, she would spend hours each day walking to a water source. She used to seclude herself from social engagement because she felt dirty from the trek to get water. Now, she frequents the local market and interacts with women from other tribal groups, trading goods and casually conversing with them, which builds the groundwork for larger peacemaking and regional stability.
In the remote village of Dogosoto, Kevin spoke with one woman who was able to buy two goats and a small plot of land livelihood for her family’s livelihood. During this visit, the Country Director, John, received feedback that locals needed urgent healthcare and made a few calls resulting with the local Franciscan Sisters stopping 20 childhood cases of acute diarrhea within 24 hours. This was all made possible by unrestricted funds available to CRS in Ethiopia.
Kevin was thrilled to represent CRS, which has left a lasting impression in Ethiopia through empowering locals by sharing technology and agricultural knowledge. CRS also assists with emergency aid, specifically in Ethiopia after the famine in the late 80’s and more recently from displacement due to internal fighting among different ethnic groups. CRS provided roof tarps, housing construction kits, food, and cash assistance. Your help with the annual Rice Bowl and other unrestricted donations allow CRS to provide a rapid response to those in need where the government and other organizations are not able to do so because of bureaucracy and red tape.