Photo: Jay Cronan

Yesterday I was honoured to be invited to speak at St Clares College in Canberra at the launch of Project Compassion, Caritas Australia’s annual Lenten fundraising and awareness-raising appeal.   Over the next couple of weeks I will be represeting Caritas throughout ACT and NSW as an Ambassador for Project Compassion so it was a great way to kick off the campaign.

Caritas is part of one of the largest humanitarian networks in the world.  Last year alone it helped more than 2 million people directly through its long term humanitarian programs, in over 29 countries.  Last year while I was walking across Africa I was lucky enough to see first hand some of the fantastic work that Caritas has done it lifting people out of poverty.  Children are now attending schools, have access to clean water, better food security and also access to better medical facilities.

The world bank estimates that 90 million people live in extreme poverty in Australias neighboring countries and a further 300 million are vulnerable to falling back into poverty due to natural disasters, climate change and economic shocks. So this year Caritas is going with the theme help they neighbor and sharing stories from people in Philippines, Timor Leste, Indigenous Australia, Vietnam, and Fiji.

Listening to the stories of the people being helped by Caritas reminded me of a lady I met last year in Mozambique.  She was living in a tin shed not much bigger than 2 meters long and 2 meters wide. She had four children; the first had passed away from a preventable illness, her second child had HIV/Aids, her third child and only son had a mental illness and had to sleep under a tarpaulin next to her tin shed and her fourth child was the victim of a hit and run and was parlayised from the waist down. She received about $7 a month as support from the government to help provide for her children, and that was only when the government could afford to pay.

So next time you whinge about some of our first world problems here in Australia, I want you to think of her.

Attending the launch also gave me the opportunity to talk to students at St Clare’s College and attend Ash Wednesday Mass with them.  The bible is littered with examples of how we should be helping the poorest in the world and as Catholics we need to be setting an example for the rest of the world to follow so it was great to have the opportunity to be involved.

I believe it doesn’t matter where we are born or what color our skin is or what religion we follow that we should all have access to the four basics in life – water, food, education and basic healthcare. While people in the world are going without these four basics, none of us can truly rest.

We have come along way in eradicating extreme poverty, infact we have halved the amount of people living in extreme poverty since 1990 and that number continues to decrease. So I encourage you to support Project Compassion in a big way in 2017 as it is helping empower some of the worlds poorest to build a brighter future not only for themselves but also their communities.

Also consider taking the pledge to help alleviate poverty in the next generation by committing to donate a certain percent of your income to Caritas so they can continue to make the world a fairer place for all. My wife and I do it and since we started doing it have never been happier.