Partnering for What Can Be

Real change begins with resilience and self-reliance

It’s a challenging time in our world. Our vulnerable sisters and brothers face disease, disaster, violence and extreme poverty every day. We’ve connected them with a global network of partners, donors and advocates to create solutions that build resilience and self-reliance. With your support, we’re unleashing the grit and determination of 136 million people on today’s biggest challenges. And we’re proving a better world is possible.

For more than 75 years, we’ve been responding to some of the world’s worst natural and man-made disasters to save lives and protect human dignity. While providing lifesaving support is our priority, we’re equally committed to helping people rebuild and reclaim their lives.

CRS is working with Church and local partners to assist those displaced from their homes by violence, persecution and poverty. In addition to providing safe and dignified shelter, we’re helping migrants and refugees integrate into host communities with education and counseling, employment opportunities, access to health care and legal services.

In collaboration with eight local partners, the SAFERR project—which stands for Shelter and Access for Empowerment and Risk Reduction—provides comprehensive support to refugee women and children in Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. The program nurtures their independence with housing, work, financial support and language classes. In Athens, the CRS shelter team identifies buildings to rent and upgrade for some 60,000 refugees stranded in Greece. Thirty percent of Athens’ commercial and residential buildings are vacant due to the country’s economic crisis. With overcrowded camps, apartments offer a safer and more dignified alternative while supporting the local economy.

“Solidarity can change the world when given the opportunity. The SAFERR project is our opportunity to show that in the work we do every day.”

-Josh Kyler, CRS Country Manager, Greece and Southeast Europe

Resilience and self-reliance are also prioritized in our work to support the livelihoods of smallholder farming families. In Malawi, CRS led a nine-member consortium recognized in a recent study for increasing food security and resilience. The 5-year WALA program—Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement—featured community-led watershed restoration as the foundation for success. Other community-led activities, including marketing and community savings and loan services, are all at the core of CRS’ Pathway to Prosperity, our approach to promoting food and livelihood security. The study found that—in addition to increasing soil fertility, reducing erosion and revitalizing the watershed—participating families consistently increased agricultural production and household income.

But the real test of community resilience came during the 2016-2017 growing season, when severe drought affected the area requiring a major emergency food aid response. Despite the severity of the drought, 19 out of 24 communities implementing WALA did not require food assistance during the crisis. In fact, while the World Food Program estimated the cost of typical emergency feeding programs at $390 per household per month for 9 months, the total cost for the complete WALA program was $376 per household over 5 years—an astounding 10 percent of the estimated cost of emergency assistance.

Sustainability is built into every solution

CRS Ethical Trade is another way we are engaging Catholics in the United States to help their global brothers and sisters build resilience and self-reliance. The program provides access to ethically produced products, education and advocacy opportunities. Through our retail partners, we’re ensuring fair prices, safer working conditions and environmentally sustainable practices to poor and disadvantaged communities. With every purchase, a donation is made to the CRS Fair Trade Fund, which invests in CRS projects around the world.

For example, the fund supported Trade Aid, an organization that helps the rural poor of northern Ghana find employment opportunities. Ghana’s economy, which relies heavily on agriculture, has been devastated due to drastic changes in its climate. The CRS Fair Trade Fund helped local women procure straw to make bolga baskets when extreme weather wiped out their crops. CRS Ethical Trade partner Serrv International brings these beautiful baskets to conscientious consumers all over the world. Working together, we’re creating more sustainable livelihoods.

CRS is also helping families in East Timor build a safety net against disaster. This young nation is recovering from years of violence, which destroyed entire villages. With the help of our partner Fraterna, the REACT project teaches people how to establish climate resilient gardens so they have enough food for their families and some left over to sell. Vegetable and seed varieties are selected based on their nutritional value, how quickly they grow and their drought resilience. These simple techniques strengthen families’ ability to build sustainable livelihoods—no matter what the future brings.

Our best chance for a better future: children and youth

Fifteen years ago, malaria was the leading cause of death in children. It has dropped to the fifth leading cause, and an end to this deadly disease is in sight. With 98 percent of malaria cases occurring in Africa and Asia, CRS is focusing its efforts—prevention, testing, treatment and community outreach—where the need is greatest. CRS has distributed more than 22 million insecticide-treated bed nets in The Gambia, Guinea and Niger. We’ve trained more than 5,500 people to share prevention messages, and we’re working with our partners to deliver preventive malaria medication to more than 2.8 million children under age 5 in the Sahel.

Through our network of Church and other partners, our malaria prevention efforts reach every community in The Gambia. Our efforts have helped reduce the country’s malaria cases by 50 percent—putting us on track to eliminate malaria in The Gambia by 2020.

CRS and our partners are also changing the way the world cares for vulnerable children. The reality is that more than 8 million children around the world live in orphanages. While 80 to 90 percent of them have a living parent, poverty is driving these families apart. Not surprisingly, research shows that children in loving, nurturing families have better outcomes than those in residential care.

As part of the MacArthur Foundation 100&Change competition, CRS partnered with Lumos and Maestral International to give every child the chance to grow up with the love and support of a family. The Changing the Way We Care project aims to prevent children from entering residential care by providing families the support they need to care for their children. For those already in residential care, our solution seeks to reintegrate children with their own or other supportive families. We’ve seen this solution work in CRS programs around the world. Thanks to an investment in family-based care, the number of children in orphanages has been reduced by 71 percent in Moldova and 78 percent in Bulgaria. As one of four finalists in the 100&Change competition, the project was awarded $15 million to bring our solution to scale, and end the institutionalization of children for good.

Whether growing up in institutions or families, children around the world with disabilities are at higher risk for malnutrition, violence and abuse. They are also more likely to receive sub-standard health care. Through our humanitarian work, CRS realized we needed more technical capacity in working with people with intellectual disabilities. Partnering with Special Olympics International, we set out to create a health care system that doesn’t discriminate against anyone. The Intellectual Disability Empowerment Agenda, known as the IDEA project, trains community health care workers, mentors caregivers, provides disability-friendly spaces, and reduces the stigma of intellectual disabilities. We’re seizing every opportunity to create more for people with disabilities.

Your generous support has made these and many other transformational partnerships and programs possible. Whether you’re a first-time donor or a lifelong partner in our journey, we look forward to your continued support as we take our proven successes to scale. With your help, our best world is yet to come.