Work with the poor

Work with the poor

The Daughters of Charity are dedicated to helping eradicate poverty, both by providing relief and skills and training to lift people out of poverty around the whole world. The Daughters in Ethiopia are no different. Vincent de Paul said “A sister will go and visit the poor ten times a day, and ten times a day she will find God there.” The Daughters mission with the poor is indelibly linked to their spirituality. For this reason, all the work they do seeks to help the most disadvantaged in society. Helping those in particular need of financial and social assistance is a difficult yet rewarding activity.

Despite relatively high levels of growth in Ethiopia, averaging around 10% during the past 13 years, poverty remains a significant issue in the country. Political turmoil, frequent droughts as well as an influx of refugees from South Sudan and Eritrea means that many still live below the poverty line. Ethiopia is still ranked among the low human development countries at 174th out of 188 countries in 2014 as noted in the 2015 UNDP Human Development Report. Average per capita incomes are less than the current sub-Saharan average. There are also concerns that as the adverse affects of climate change take hold, those living below the poverty line could increase, especially considering around 85% of people work in agriculture. Poverty can have an adverse affect on people’s happiness as well as cause suffering, illness and death. The causes of poverty are difficult to accurately define, but a number of general causes can be assumed. For the Daughters of Charity, dealing with the causes of poverty and attempting to lift Ethiopians out of the poverty cycle is a crucial part of their mission.

Projects

The projects provided by the Daughters of Charity have helped thousands of people to carve out a better life for themselves. One of the key aspects of the Daughters poverty reduction strategy is about helping others to help themselves, not merely to give short term relief. So whilst the Daughters do provide poverty relief in the form of food or finances for many, particularly homes with vulnerable children, the most important thing is teaching skills and providing support which helps foster a mentality of self-help. Not only does this create long term solutions to long term problems, it also gives the beneficiaries of the projects a sense of purpose and a confidence to take on the challenges faced by poverty. It means they will not fall in to a state of dependence, leading to new ideas and job creation which can help people beyond the immediate beneficiaries.

Bethlehem House in Bonga, for example, provides woodwork training for jobless youngsters to improve job prospects. The beneficiaries learn how to make brooms, mops and other items at a low price. The sisters in this house also visit the poorest households to provide psycho-social support, allowing people to discuss their problems and find a way to positively engage in their own futures. St Mary’s, St Justin de Jacobis House and St Catherine’s House all provide similar job training, particularly for unemployed youth blighted by poverty. Medical treatments, education funding and facilities also help to alleviate poverty in areas all over Ethiopia. These elements are covered in other areas of the report.

Work with the poor

Another important aspect in community development and the reduction of poverty is the provision of housing. Housing support allows people to improve their standard of living, giving a more stable lifestyle as well as psychological benefits to many people. There are also health benefits involved in good quality housing. St Joseph’s Community, Gebre Michael House, Alecu Clinic, St Mary’s, St Justin de Jacobis House and two other services in Tigray provide people with housing services designed to improve the living standards of the beneficiaries.

The Housing Project in Tigray is a fantastic example of the good work being done to alleviate poverty in many areas. Owing to its success, the housing project has expanded to three locations in Tigray: Mekelle, Adigrat and Alitena. The objective of the project is to provide improved access to decent, safe and secure houses and sustainable means of livelihood for the most marginalised and vulnerable families. The project’s main activity is the construction and maintenance of houses. It also helps give partial payments for condominium houses. A very important part of the project is the teaching of building skills to people. This not only ensures a high quality of housing being built, but provides jobs in areas where unemployment can be high. The project helps very vulnerable people, including households headed by the ill and physically disabled, poor women and children and people living with HIV. These people find these projects invaluable to their quality of life and the project has brought excellent, tangible achievements. More than 500 families and an estimated 3000 poor family members have now improved their social status and have ensured ownership of housing assets. The houses they live in are now also better protected from extreme weather and rain, leading to a number of health benefits also. Over 175 targeted beneficiaries accessed a total of 525,000 birr and are engaged in various Income Generating Activities for sustainable means of livelihood.