Board members of CHARIS and its affiliates meet for the Affiliate Board Connect 2016, reflecting on how the world cries out.
Article and photo by: Damien Teo
Over 40 participants of various Catholic groups and organisations in Singapore which are involved in overseas humanitarian work gathered for the Affiliates Board Connect (ABC) 2016, a biennial event organised by CHARIS to foster closer ties between its affiliates.
This year’s ABC, themed, “The World Cries Out - Achieving Sustainable Development”, was held at the Catholic Centre on 23 January 2016. It featured a special look into Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si — a subject which proved to be of meaningful and relevant for many participants.
In the encyclical, the Pope writes that he would like to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home”. ABC 2016 was a continuation of that dialogue with the guest speaker, Prof Michael Quah, a professor at National University of Singapore’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who presented the science behind Laudato Si.
Closer to home than we think
“Did you know that if everyone were to live like a Singaporean, we would require 4.1 Earths?” Prof Quah remarked at the start of his talk.
He highlighted that there is a harmful, throwaway culture in today’s society, even right here in Singapore, and stresses that Pope Francis’ encyclical is really a call to action.
Prof Quah’s talk affirmed the Pope’s writings with graphs and facts to reflect how the world truly cries out, citing evidence to show how these issues are also present in Southeast Asia and the region.
“When the planet deteriorates, it is always the poor who pays first,” Prof Quah cautioned.
Participants then broke into groups to share about their missionary work and to discuss how the Pope’s call to action can be applied to their mission.
Edwin Sim, a CHARIS board member concluded that “The most important goal we hope to achieve is to be able to harness all the different talents in our affiliates. If we can help pull our talents and resources together, I’m sure we can do even more for the many communities we are currently serving”.
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Cyclone Komen ploughed through the western parts of Myanmar on 30th July 2015.
By: Victoria Lim
Photos: Caritas Myanmar (KMSS)
The cyclone left 1.6 million displaced and at least 117 people killed. CHARIS responded to the disaster by pledging an initial sum of SGD 100,000 for aid and disaster relief supplies to Caritas Myanmar (KMSS). In October 2015 CHARIS granted SGD 86,000 to KMSS for their project to rehabilitate 4 ponds and wells, which had been contaminated by floodwaters and rendered unsuitable for drinking. This also included repairing gravity flow water systems in
7 villages in the Chin State. On a whole, both these projects would benefit at least 6,505 people living in the area.
In late February 2016, our partner Caritas Myanmar successfully completed 4 ponds, which not only provide a natural embankment for future floods but also a catchment and fresh water source for local villagers. This was a landmark achievement for them as they were faced with a variety of challenges such as language barriers, limited manpower and poor transportation routes.
In spite of the challenges, what was most inspiring was that these difficulties were overcome by hardworking KMSS project staff who encouraged and mobilised the local villagers to take ownership and contribute to the planning and construction phase of the project.
This encouraging update challenges us to ponder on what it means to have faith and hope in the Lord in the midst of seemingly unsurmountable struggles. Perhaps it is also demands us to have an attitude of joy and hope during this season of Easter. Are we too living a risen life, risen from our sins and shortcomings and trusting in God?
We also ask for your continued prayers as our partner continues its good work building the gravity flow water system in the Chin state of Myanmar.
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As part of a series of talks organised by CHARIS on "What is Christian mission?", Sister Leticia (FMVD) gave an insight to our affiliates and volunteers on what it means to be a missionary whether on the mission field, at home or at the workplace.
By: Damien Teo (CHARIS Volunteer)
Photos: Gabriel Lee (CHARIS Staff)
“In the ancient world, it is most often associated with people who were devoted followers of a religious leader or teacher of philosophy,” Sister Leticia described. She cites the example of the famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, who had many students who would follow him in hopes of becoming acquainted with his teaching.
With Jesus however, His disciples were very different from the rest of society. Sister Leticia gives three reasons; firstly because Jesus is not just a great teacher, but also God Himself. Secondly, disciples traditionally chose which teacher they wanted to follow and imitate, but Jesus chooses His disciples instead. Third, unlike the master-servant relationship other disciples had, Jesus refers to His disciples as “friends”.
“Being a disciple of Jesus is an initiative of God, not an initiative of ours,” Sister Leticia expresses. In understanding Christian discipleship, there is an importance to realise there is firstly a call to relationship from the teacher, and secondly it is an unconditional call.
Citing scripture readings, Sister Leticia goes on to illustrate, “we are called missionary disciples because in the call that Jesus has made to each one of us, there is also a mission. Jesus’ call has two dimensions, to be with him and to be sent out.” This is why Christians are also referred to as missionary disciples, who are not merely called to love God, but to also love others in that process.
Concluding her input, Sister Leticia emphasises that by virtue of the unconditional love God offers to every individual, everyone who has discovered this love has also received a mission to share what they have found with others.
By: Julie Lim (CHARIS Volunteer)
In her second talk, Sister Leticia enlightened the audience with the necessary qualities and values of a true missionary disciple. She began by first defining the meaning of ‘disposition’ and proceeded to explain that the mission of the Church is to evangelize. Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation of the Church, her deepest identity. “She exists in order to evangelize”, quoted Sister Leticia. We are part of the Church and as Disciples of Christ, our duty is to help evangelize. This means to spread the good news of Christ to all of humanity. Evangelizing can start from any place, whether at home, office or school and to anyone whom we cross paths with in our lives.
In addition, she also covered ‘Ministry of Charity’ as one of the very important three-fold responsibilities of the Church. The importance of going beyond collecting and distributing funds as acts of charity to others in need was highlighted. Evangelization, together as a missionary, is an answer to God’s call and must begin with pure intent of love of Christ in our hearts.
The session ended with a beautiful sharing amongst the participants on their mission trips experiences. The open dialogue was facilitated by Sister Leticia and many walked away with a deeper understanding on the disposition and role of a Christian Missionary.
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CHARIS together with the Caritas family, has helped the Nepalese people recover from the powerful earthquakes which struck on 25 April and 12 May 2015.
Article by: Gabriel Lee (CHARIS Staff)
Photo by: Gabriel Lee and Caritas Nepal
Thuli Maya Tamang, 73, was out in the fields working when the earthquake happened. Her house was levelled to the ground. With the help of her neighbour, Thuli managed to rebuild her home, albeit as a temporary shelter using materials provided for by Caritas Nepal. Today, one year after the disaster, Nepal is on a slow pace to recovery. Recently, the Nepalese government has announced that NGOs can now commence reconstruction programmes. The government has mandated that all new houses being built have to be earthquake resistant and in line with government design and standards.
Thuli Maya Tamang (center) standing in front of her temporary shelter that her neighbour (right) had helped to build using materials from Caritas Nepal.
From 25 - 27 April 2016, Caritas Internationalis organised a Solidarity Conference in Nepal to commemorate the strength of the Nepalese people and to remember those who have died. The conference also touched on understanding the achievements and lessons learnt from the recovery stage. Caritas partners also had the opportunity to find out how the Nepalese people are coping after the disaster. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, CHARIS pledged SGD 100,000 in grant aid to Caritas Nepal. Through partners, CHARIS was able to rapidly send tarpaulin sheets, water purification bottles, portable jerry cans and solar lamps. In September 2015, CHARIS granted another SGD 410,000 to reconstruct more than 70 houses in Balthali, a village which was badly devastated by the earthquakes.
Staff of Caritas Nepal receiving CHARIS's water filtration bottles in 2015 for distribution to those affected by the earthquakes.
The combined efforts of Caritas organisations provided temporary shelters and relief supplies to over 120,000 people in 168 Village District Communities. In spite of the many challenges faced by the Nepalese people, His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis, said that “Communities here in Nepal are resilient and are trying to rebuild their lives and revive their dreams but they cannot do it without our help. Caritas is “Love in action” and “Love without borders”. We are here in Nepal not just to help rebuild homes and schools, but to help people get back to work or to ensure their water supply is repaired. We are here to offer hope.
Donate: To find out how you can support our Caritas Network in Nepal and our other networks in the region, click here.
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CHARIS's spiritual director, Fr. Colin Tan SJ shares his reflections on the Year of Mercy and invites us to go beyond our comfort zones to become bearers of God's love and mercy.
Article by: Fr. Colin Tan SJ
Photo by: Jesuit Refugee Services, Singapore
Dear Friends of CHARIS,
The world of abundance is also a world of excesses. And unfortunately, the world of scarcity and poverty is also in abundance! There are still many children and families who wake up each morning with an empty stomach and remains empty throughout the day. Yes, hunger, thirst and a longing for food, security, love, and a better life is a reality.
Yet, there are many who have more than what we need to survive. How can we as Christians be moved by compassion, mercy, charity and desire to share what we have and have freely received from God, with others?
Fr. Colin, during his visit to a refugee camp in Nepal.
Some years back, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) had a road show in St Anthony’s Church, to inform the Catholic commnunity about the plight of refugees. An elderly woman, came up to our booth and said, “I do not have any money with me, but take this gold chain and use it to help the poor refugees.” Fr A. Amal SJ, who was there was moved to tears by her kind gestures.
Having been journeying with CHARIS since 2010, the organisation continues its good work in coordinating the Archdiocesan response to disaster and humanitarian needs overseas. The CHARIS Humanitarian Aid Fund (HAF) was set up to provide assistance for victims of disasters and humanitarian emergencies such as wars, civil strife and systemic poverty.
Since its inception and by your support, the HAF has distributed over $7 million in support of overseas humanitarian work through our affiliates and Caritas Partners in Asia, The Middle East and The Americas. More than 80% of the funds we receive from the Catholic community goes directly to providing help and hope to our brothers and sisters. The remaining amount goes to our operations and fundraising.
Thus, I invite each one of you to come forward to share God’s love, mercy and kindness to us with those who need our love--our resources of talents, time and blessings with our brothers and sisters most in need. No gift is too small. Be one with CHARIS in multiplying the five loaves and two fish so that the Mercy Received is the Mercy Shared.
Donate: To find out how you can support CHARIS and our work in the region, click here.
Volunteer: Want to go beyond giving and put your faith to action? Click here.
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Issue 7 (Sep - Dec 2019) Take a look at a summary of how CHARIS responded to key natural disasters and humanitarian initiatives in 2018. Epiphany shares about their TeachnLearn programme.
CHARIS Connect Issue 6
Issue 6 (Jun - Aug 2019) Discover what went down at HFF 2019 from our speakers, participants and exhibitors!
CHARIS Connect Issue 5
Issue 5 (Jul - Sep 2018) Read our sharing about our CHARIS Mission Friendship to Cebu! Volunteers of iCARE and Clare’s Missionary tell us what they have learnt.
Issue 4 (Apr - Jun 2017) Speakers of our HFF 2017 give us a preview of what they will be sharing at our biennale event.
Issue 3 (Jul - Sep 2016) View the reflection by our spiritual director, Fr. Colin Tan. Our affiliates, Canossian Daughters of Charity and ACTS, share with us what they do.
Issue 2 (Apr - Jun 2016) Read more about how CHARIS helped those affected by earthquakes in Nepal, and our mission trip to Sri Lanka!
CHARIS Connect Issue 1
Issue 1 (Jan – Mar 2016) Find out what CHARIS did for victims of Cyclone Komen in Myanmar, and hear more from our affiliates, Barre and Project Micah.