For over 50 years, Caritas has, through the generosity of Australians, been able to sponsor aid and development and emergency relief programs in over 35 countries. In 2018, as Caritas Diocesan Director Deacon Jim Curtain shares, the focus is on young people.
For a Just Future
Caritas Australia (a member of the Catholic Church’s international aid organisation Caritas Internationalis) works out of a passionate belief in human dignity. This belief comes from our Catholic faith, and it is shared with millions of people around the world, regardless of faith, nation, or ethnicity. We believe that every person is created in God’s image, that all human life is sacred, and that each person on earth has a unique dignity that doesn’t depend on their abilities or disabilities, wealth or poverty, social status, citizenship or religious faith. Working from this basic principle Caritas Australia (known as Australian Catholic Relief until 1996) has since 1965 been supporting people in need around the world. We believe that every human being has a God-given right to live with dignity and to be able to contribute to the building of a just society wherever they live, whatever their abilities.
To enable people to do this needs support. Effective support needs:
- skills and material resources, and the people to provide them;
- awareness of need throughout the community, and the willingness to advocate to community and government; and
- the spiritual strength, through prayer, to keep hope strong.
As Australian Catholics would know Project Compassion
has, since 1966, been the major annual campaign by which Caritas Australia has raised awareness of need through the community. Through the generosity of millions of Australians, Caritas has been able to sponsor programs in over 35 countries that have provided aid and development projects and emergency relief.
In 2018 Caritas hopes to continue this proud tradition, with a particular emphasis on development projects that will assist young people in need to be self-supporting, and to give hope to their own families and communities. Many of these young people have come from situations of injustice – injustice caused by poverty, war, disability, or disease. Caritas works with them that they may have a just future.
Below are the stories of six young people who by their own hard work and with Caritas Australia’s support have made a better life for themselves, and brought hope to those around them.
Janaki from NepalA Just Future Starts with Empowerment
Janaki is a young entrepreneur from Nepal, who has turned her life around. Growing up in a world of poverty and disadvantage, coupled with a forced marriage at the age of twelve, she was in a very vulnerable position. Even more so when her husband died just two years into their marriage. She’s now running her own successful sewing business and has become an inspirational community leader.
In 2015, Janaki joined a youth club formed by Caritas Australia partners, Caritas Nepal and the Ekata Foundation Surkhet, as part of the Children and Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) which provides youth with job skills and income-generating projects. She took a loan from the youth club to purchase her first sewing machine.
Two years on, Janaki has 11 sewing machines and is running her own business, teaching others and is considered a community role model.
“My confidence level has raised,” Janaki says. “I appreciate all those respected peoples of Australia who are supporting this wise cause. Through their help, women who experience domestic violence and who are financially vulnerable are getting new hope in their life. I thank them from bottom of my heart.”
Rattanak from CambodiaA Just Future Starts with Community
Rattanak is a skilled young barber, living an independent life in rural Cambodia. But it wasn’t always that way. As a child, he contracted polio and also became deaf. Like many people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Rattanak faced isolation at home, with a lack of opportunity to escape poverty.
His sister discovered the Deaf Development Program (DDP), run by Caritas Australia partner, Maryknoll Cambodia. It provides sign language, job training and interpreting services to people aged 16 and over who are deaf or hard of hearing and aims to raise awareness about deafness in the hearing community.
So far, it’s helped over 430 deaf or hard of hearing people with their education and more than 200 people to find jobs. It has also trained more than 300 people without deafness as sign language interpreters
Rattanak graduated from its education program in 2010, returning the following year to train as a barber. The DDP then helped him to set up his shop in his parent’s house in the village.
Having emerged from his isolated world at home, Rattanak is now running a successful business, supporting himself and his wife... and now a baby.
Bayan in JordanA Just Future Starts with a Safe Place to Learn
Bayan is a 12-year-old Syrian girl, living with her family in Jordan, a keen student, who has her sights set on a career as an ophthalmologist. She struggled to overcome the trauma of growing up in a conflict zone, facing the prospect of missing out on schooling. Now, Bayan is an academic high-achiever, flourishing in a stable school environment.
Bayan grew up in Syria’s capital, Damascus. The Syrian conflict turned their lives upside down and they were forced to flee. As their time in Jordan extended, Caritas Australia and our partners, Caritas Jordan and Catholic Relief Services stepped in to provide vital academic and psychosocial support. Bayan started attending one of Jordan’s Caritas Schools which operates on Saturdays, providing tuition to disadvantaged students.
“The school brings them back to a normal life, as they start to dream again,” says Abeer, Caritas Education and Protection Co-ordinator.
Caritas provides a broad range of other education services, including preparing pre-school children for school, supporting students who have missed out on schooling to return to the education system, as well as counselling and nutritious meals and snacks at school.
Evangeline from AustraliaA Just Future Starts with Culture
Evangeline is strengthening Aboriginal culture while making a living for herself and creating opportunities for her community. Featured in Project Compassion 2016, Evangeline was employed by the Caritas Australia supported Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation and quickly rose to the role of Senior Artsworker.
Her work at Djilpin Arts has supported the organisation’s growth from a multi-media project to a multi-level contemporary arts and culture centre. An example of excellence in Indigenous tourism, it’s now a key employer for young people in the remote Northern Territory community of Beswick (Wugularr).
This year, in 2018, Evangeline is busy guiding tourists, coordinating cultural activities and helping community members to practise and market their arts, such as weaving and jewellery-making.
“Now we have a new gallery up. And we have our new kitchens, we look after these and we now maintain this to make sure it’s running okay and in good condition. We’re also trying to open up another tour for tourists to go around the waterfall, we’re just planning that now.”
Evangeline’s career has flourished and she has become an inspirational youth leader.
Evangeline says that Caritas Australia’s support for Djilpin Arts, through Project Compassion, is vital for all Wugularr’s young people. Although their families do their best to pass on knowledge, Elders are dying and she is keen to spearhead the preservation of culture and lore for future generations.
“It’s good for them to learn and to keep their culture strong,” Evangeline says.
Ditosa from MozambiqueA Just Future Starts with Education
Ditosa is a young girl from Mozambique who hopes to go to university and become a police officer. Featured in Project Compassion
2013, Ditosa faced a challenging future with food scarcity, little education and few job prospects. Cared for by her grandmother and aunt, after her parents died of AIDS-related illnesses, they also lost their home and livelihoods in severe flooding.
Thanks to the support of Project Compassion, Caritas Australia and Caritas Regional Chokwe (CRC) helped Ditosa’s family to build a new house and assisted with transport fees, school materials and fees, to help Ditosa to stay at school.
Ditosa attended the Matuba Children’s Centre (set up by Caritas in 2007) which provides vulnerable children, like Ditosa, with lunch, study help, and computer and income-generating skills training.
In 2018, Ditosa has graduated from school and is ambitious for the future. “Without the support of the people from Australia and Caritas I would not have been given this opportunity to continue my schooling.”
Ditosa dreams of going to university to continue studying and secure an even brighter future.
Psyche Mae from the Philippines A Just Future Starts with Opportunity
When Psyche Mae featured in Project Compassion
2008, she was living in a squatter settlement, on the edge of a giant rubbish dump outside Manila in the Philippines. Her family was forced to pick through the rubbish to sell what they could to survive.
In 2018, Psyche Mae is now a young social worker, achieving her dream of helping others struggling to leave poverty behind them – with plans to study a Master’s degree.
Thanks to the support of individuals and Caritas Australia through Project Compassion, the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) program helps people like Psyche Mae to learn job and income-generating skills, encourages education, addresses health and runs programs that enable members to save money and take out small, low-interest loans. It’s estimated around 5000 people are assisted directly or indirectly by this program.
Psyche Mae’s mother is now a full-time seamstress at home and her father works with the House Repair program, run by FCJ. Her brother, Franklin has graduated from tertiary education and is working in IT, while her other two brothers and her sister are studying hard. With their jobs and the help of a community savings plan – Psyche Mae’s entire family managed to lift themselves out of poverty and build a just future.
Getting Involved in Project Compassion
Parish and school kits have been prepared to assist groups to get involved in this year's Project Compassion
. Visit the website
for a range of downloadable packs and videos.
Deacon Jim Curtain is the Diocesan Director for Caritas Australia. He has previously worked as Director of Mission to St John of God Accord, a ministry to people living with disability. Deacon Jim has worked extensively with Catholic Social Services Victoria and participated in many of their formation activities. He is also a part-time Deacon in a parish of the Archdiocese.