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Trip to Africa Reveals Importance of US Aid

October 10, 2011

By Sister Janet

On the long airplane ride returning to the States after a visit to Kenya with Catholic Relief Services, the best word I could come up with to describe the experience was “moving.” It moved my heart, mind, body and spirit, stretching them all to places they had never been.

I learned a lot about long-suffering, patience, love and hope in the midst of realities that overwhelm the human spirit. I learned that a young boy searching for some grass on which to graze his cows could live on a half of a bottle of water for days. I learned that small, poor communities can work together to dig wells to find water for themselves and their flocks, with the help of Catholic Relief Services. I learned that thousands of lives can be spared death due to HIV/AIDS when the United States agrees to spend what amounts to less than 1 percent of its budget on international aid. I learned that people don’t need a lot of “stuff” to be happy. I learned that the human family can truly work as one when one part of that family is suffering from famine and drought.

I was surprised to see the Christian and Muslim Communities living and working so well together and the tremendous effort of non-governmental agencies from around the world working as one to feed, house, heal and support the Somali people forced to leave their homes due to famine in their country. I was surprised, too, by the generosity of the host country, Kenya, which has provided a home for the over 400,000 refugees and is using some of its own scarce resources to support the people in the refugee camps.

The whole experience of Kenya spoke so deeply to the Sisters of Mercy’s fourth vow of service to people who are poor, sick and uneducated. It was a blessing to know that the Irish Sisters of Mercy have a large ministry to the Kenyan people, with 60 Kenyan Sisters and 17 from Ireland.

Catholic Relief Services is one of the agencies providing assistance during the current crisis, through the support of private donations and U.S. government funding. Workers in Kenya are skilled, professional, honest and grounded in their faith. They work exceptionally well with the communities living in the rural areas, developing agriculture, providing clean water and teaching good sanitation. They have saved lives through their HIV/AIDS programs and their peace-making initiatives.

If U.S. government funding is discontinued all the advances that have been made in reduction of HIV/AIDS, and in developing a sustainable infrastructure in the horn of Africa will be lost, rendering useless all the money that has been given in the past. All the people whose lives have depended on antiretroviral drugs for survival will die and sustainable farming will come to an end if no money is available to repair or replace water pumps and generators. We must tell our legislators that when making decisions about budget cuts please remember that humanitarian aid is the best way to develop positive international relationships and to create a sustainable world for all peoples. Please send a message to your legislators today.

Read an article about Sister Janet’s experience in the Catholic Courier.

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