Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl
March 7, 2017 // National

Working to end AIDS in Africa

Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl

Each week of Lent, this reflection series will provide ways to incorporate global solidarity and the struggles of our brothers and sisters throughout the world into your Lenten journey.

Nation Focus: Zambia

Catholic social teaching principle:  Dignity of the human person

Question: What role can we play in ensuring all of God’s family has access to healthy food?

Scripture quote: “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” — I John 3:17-18

Prayer intention: For mothers, grandmothers and all women who work to provide nutritious food for their children

Almsgiving challenge: Give $.25 to your CRS Rice Bowl for every new person you meet this week.

This week we hear about Catholic Relief Services’ work in Zambia. Zambia is a landlocked nation in Southeast Africa. While Zambia remains a peaceful country, it continues to suffer from the AIDS epidemic that has claimed the lives of so many and left so many young people orphaned across the African continent and indeed the world. In Around 74 percent of the people there live below the poverty line. Many families in Zambia are subsistence farmers. When the “hungry season” comes, many families go hungry hoping for at least one meal per day.

Catholic Relief Services works in Zambian communities for sustainable agricultural methods to help during this hungry time. Also, through an initiative called Savings and Internal Lending Communities, CRS Zambia helps families become more self-reliant through savings. There is also continued work to provide health care for those living with HIV and AIDS in Zambia.

This week we meet Evelina Banda, a young woman in Zambia who is working to provide nutritious food for her family. Traditionally, families have eaten a porridge-type food called nshima, to feed their families. Nshima does not hold much nutritional value. Banda and other women are learning how to prepare healthier meals and grow different crops to contribute to the health of their communities. These women also take time to build a sisterhood of support with one another, which helps to strengthen their community.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic that has affected Zambia has been a threat to the dignity of humanity. Those who are suffering need to be able to have access to basic health care and social services to realize their dignity and to contribute to their communities. CRS finds inspiration in this work through the life of St. Damien De Veuster of Molokai who has been called the unofficial patron saint for people living with HIV/AIDS. St. Damien De Veuster bravely made it his life’s work to live among and pastor those with leprosy. He provided basic medical care, organized schools and farms, dug graves and restored dignity to those suffering with leprosy. He eventually contracted leprosy himself and died from the disease. May his life and ministry continue to inspire all those working with marginalized people throughout the world.

Melissa Wheeler is the diocesan director for Catholic Relief Services.





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