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CRS rep to share stories

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

Every year, members of Sioux City Blessed Sacrament's Peace and Justice Committee provide a peace activity for the parish. This year, they chose to heed Pope Paul VI's admonition, "If you want peace, work for justice," and are promoting Catholic Relief Services' Rice Bowl program.

To continue the CRS emphasis, the speaker following their Lenten Soup Supper on April 7 will be Teresa Dunbar, CRS Midwest Regional Coordinator, who will talk about her experiences in the field.

Hunger has been an issue that has always interested Dunbar, an Illinois native and Iowa State University graduate.

“Why and how in this world with so many resources and so much food are people starving? That question haunts me,” she said.

Dunbar felt others struggled with that question as well.

“I think many people wonder what they can do on these big complex issues like hunger and poverty,” she said. “When I speak in Sioux City, I will share some of what I have seen, learned and am still learning.”

Dunbar’s interest in fighting hunger first took her to Uganda with the Foods Resource Bank, which ultimately led her to Catholic Relief Services.

“For 75 years CRS has been the face of the U.S. Catholic Church overseas serving those who are most vulnerable and in need,” she said. “In most of the 91 countries where we work today, we are there at the invitation of their Catholic Bishops Conference and together we work within communities and with community leaders to solve problems caused by poverty, lack of health care, education and employment.”

Although CRS focuses on overseas opportunities, Dunbar emphasized there are also CRS operations in the United States.

“Part of our mission is to engage and educate Catholics in the U.S. about our Gospel call to serve the poor,” she said. “About 10 years ago, CRS formed U.S. operations to better serve and engage the dioceses and parishes in our work.”

However, name a world disaster and Dunbar pointed out, CRS was probably there.

“Last November, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Catholic Relief Services was already on the ground there,” she said. “In spite of the logistical nightmare, CRS started distribution of emergency services within a week of the disaster. Within two months of the storm, nearly 45,000 households had been served.”

One of the challenges Dunbar saw facing CRS was many people do not understand the scope of their services.

“Most Catholics do not realize what an amazing agency they have on the ground in over 90 of the poorest countries on earth,” she said. “We are responding to four major world emergencies right now: Syrian refugees, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Philippines. The human suffering in all those places is extreme and heartbreaking.”

During the 2011 drought in Eastern Africa, Dunbar was traveling with CRS to call on villages in the remote and barren dessert in Northeastern Kenya.

“As our vans pulled up, women – wrapped in bright flowing fabric – and children were dancing under a tree to greet us. We laughed and visited, and saw their water project that CRS had helped their village build several years before this drought,” she said. “When we went to leave, one woman thanked me for coming, and her words still ring in my ears: ‘Thank you, your visit brings us hope.’ Hope and knowledge that someone outside of their world cares about them.”

Plan to go?

Dunbar’s talk will begin at 7 p.m., April 7, in Blessed Sacrament's parish center. Those interested in coming for the supper at 6:30 p.m., must make a reservation, because space is limited. Contact Bernadette Rixner at (712) 258-7855.

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