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Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand will allocate at least 25 percent of its annual Lent Appeal towards assisting people hit by the Christchurch earthquake. The Lent Appeal runs for six weeks from Ash Wednesday on 9 March through to Easter, and is Caritas' most important fundraiser of the year.
Caritas Director Michael Smith says the decision, made in conjunction with New Zealand's Catholic Bishops, reflects Caritas' commitment to relieve suffering and work for justice both at home and abroad, and the exceptional need of some of Christchurch's most vulnerable people.
Lent is traditionally a time of prayer, fasting and sharing with those in need. The Lent Appeal is run by Caritas on behalf of the Bishops. It supports relief and development programmes overseas, as well as education and advocacy for social justice in Aotearoa New Zealand.
'It's highly unusual for us to be responding to an emergency within New Zealand,' says Mr Smith, 'given our infrastructure and government response mechanisms. But the Christchurch quake is exceptional.'
In a letter to parishes for Sunday 6 March, the Bishops say the Lent appeal “ is an opportunity for the people of the Church to pay special attention to the most vulnerable and impoverished people in our world, and to do what they can to help them through their prayers and donations.”
The Bishops say that while our hearts ache to see members of our Kiwi family suffering, they ask their congregations to also remember people 'who are much poorer than anyone in New Zealand, and who do not have the kind of infra-structure and government support which are available to the people of Christchurch to assist them back to normality.' The greater of 25% of the Lent Appeal or $200,000 will go towards helping the most vulnerable people of Christchurch.
Allocation of funds would be made in collaboration with the Catholic Bishop of Christchurch Barry Jones and his advisors. Projects would clearly be based on Caritas' mandate to support vulnerable and neglected people according to need, not on religious affiliation, race or ethnicity. “It will go towards rebuilding people's lives, not buildings,” said Mr Smith. “We're already supporting the St Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Social Services and other agencies working with people in greatest need in Christchurch.
The Vinnies are supplying people with essentials such as food, bedding, clothing, toiletries, and baby items. They're also working with Catholic youth to distribute food parcels door-to-door and check out how people are.'
Caritas is also supporting Catholic Social Services counselling and trauma support, especially for children. Mr Smith said “People can still choose to support our special appeal for Christchurch earthquake relief. But by giving generously to Lent, donors are supporting the whole spectrum of our work, from the immediate relief of suffering in Christchurch or Haiti, to the long-term, behind-the-headlines work of building a better and fairer world for all. We are optimistic that our supporters will continue to give generously to the Lent Appeal.”
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of the New Zealand NGO Disaster Relief Forum (NDRF), cooperating with the Government to respond to the Christchurch quake. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is also part of the Caritas Internationalis confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.
For more information contact Martin de Jong +64-4-496 1782 or +64-21-909 688.