The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is an international humanitarian agency founded by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops in 1943. The agency provides assistance to 130 million people in more than 90 countries and territories in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The agency applies the gospel of Jesus Christ in its mandate to care and assist the needy. The CRS motto is: “Putting faith into action to help the world’s poorest to create lasting change.
CRS largely focuses on food security, poverty, health and conflicts around the world. In Africa it operates in more than 30 countries. CRS has a big impact in the Eastern Africa region where historically, largest amount of relief food supply has been delivered to those in need. Currently close to 2.9 million people in Ethiopia receive food aid every day. Ethiopia is struggling with drought leaving a huge population in need of humanitarian aid.
According to Laura Dills, Deputy Regional Director in charge of Quality program, East Africa Regional Office, CRS work in Africa started in 1965. CRS runs full programs in East African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda while the outreach program in Somalia is managed by the Kenyan Program. The programs are in Agriculture; health, nutrition and hygiene; water and sanitation; lending and savings microfinance, and peace building. We work closely with over 150 partners in the region to achieve our mandate. Another impact that has been witnessed in the community is through saving schemes which has seen over 70,000 beneficiaries working with household group’s access microfinance services.
CRS also works on child wellbeing where they promote a holistic approach to child health and wellbeing. Their goal is not only being to save lives but also to optimize children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. There exists 27 projects that are directly promoting child health and wellbeing while 1.74 million beneficiaries of Child Health and wellbeing projects benefited in the year 2014.
According to Sr. Pauline Silver Acayo the coordinator of SCORE ECD project, CRS, with support from Conrad Hilton Foundation, Catholic Relief Services is working through national associations of sisters’ congregations in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia to improve technical capacity of individual sisters, strengthen organizational sustainability, networking and learning for the purpose of expanding congregations’ quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) services. CRS is working with 48 congregations from the three countries to implement the Strengthening the Capacity of Women Religious in ECD (SCORE ECD) project.
The sisters participating in SCORE ECD project, serve the most vulnerable population, especially children aged between 0-5 with special focus on those aged between 0-2 some of whom are disabled and/or infected and affected with HIV/AIDs.
Sisters are providing programs in the community they serve with ECD component like nutrition, positive parenting, responsive feeding, early stimulation, rights and protection, economic strengthening, HIV/AIDs, physical, spiritual, language development and psychosocial.
So far the program has trained 2,700 sisters and over 10,000 caregivers and 85 ECD Master Trainers. It is not a matter of training; what matters is evidence of the trainings provided. Through this program, many sisters have changed their attitudes towards children aged 0-5 years. “They are now so dedicated to ECD activities and serving with great love. Pregnant mothers are tested and counseled in clinics run by sisters and then accompanied from conception to delivery. Men are encouraged to accompany their wives for ANC, through PMTCT, many women have given birth to HIV/AIDs free children, thanks to the dedication and efforts of sisters,” Sr. Pauline says.
In schools, sisters are using local play materials and learning corners for education and this has proved very successful.
To enhance networking and strengthen their advocacy activities, CRS and AOSK collaborates with government Ministries to conduct ECD trainings to sisters working in the sector. As a result, sisters are able to influence policy on ECD good practices at the County and the national levels.
Thanks to Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, AOSK, the congregations and CRS for making this happen. The little we do with love makes a different.
Daniel Oloo, Program Manager SCORE reveals how CRS works closely with Association of Sisterhood in Kenya (AOSK). “We work directly with 29 congregations in Kenya with our main funding coming from Conrad Hilton Foundation. Our objective exists around capacity building and technical skills development to sisters working around early childhood development. When we started working with AOSK we managed to sign an MOU between CRS and AOSK where the two organizations work together on the SCORE project. We have trained 32 Master trainers and we have witnessed improved systems of operations among the congregations and also HIV/AIDS education has improved,” says Mr. Oloo.
Mr. Oloo speaks about the lessons they have learned while working on the SCORE project with sisters. “Sisters are part of the capacity building process of the community. With their stewardship and pastoral commitment, trust has been built and leadership-focused project implementation has been achieved.” Sisters don’t work for money therefore any project with them has to factor in logistical support.