10/18/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Caritas Manila launches "Community of hope" program against hunger

by Santosh Digal
The 55th anniversary of Caritas Manila is being commemorated with celebrations and with a new program to aid those in need. Collection of things "no longer useful" to raise funds for aid. Tomorrow, 5,000 volunteers will clean the streets, as a sign of concern for society and solidarity.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Caritas Manila yesterday launched the program "Community of hope," a campaign to fight hunger. For the 55th anniversary of Caritas Manila, celebrations and concrete and symbolic initiatives are planned to show solidarity with the needy.

Choy Gagalac, a Caritas official, explains that "anyone can donate items that are no longer needed, like obsolete computers, old shoes and clothing, books. We are asking everyone to give us these things, instead of throwing them away." The useful objects will be recovered and sold to support initiatives on behalf of the poor, including medical and educational services.

Deogracias Iniguez, bishop of Caloocan, in presenting the initiative, recalled that "the situation is now tough," and that "through Caritas, we try to see why there is such a financial crisis and to what extent we are affected and how we can contribute to help the poor."

According to the national statistics office, in the Philippines there are about 27.6 million poor (living on less than a dollar a day), while the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology says that eight out of ten families do not have enough to eat.

Fr. Anton Pascual, president of Caritas Manila (in the photo), has invited more well-to-do families to recall the less fortunate, even if only by helping them to find jobs.

Today, Caritas Manila began celebrations for the 55th anniversary of its founding, with a Mass presided over by its president and the archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales. over time, it has preserved the spirit with which it was instituted by Santos Rufino, the first Filipino cardinal, in order to "organize social welfare for the unfortunate members of our community," with starting "capital" of 50,000 pesos for buying food, clothing, and medicine for poor children, and to provide for their education.

Today, the budget of Caritas Manila surpasses 100 million pesos per year (about 1.55 million euros), and provides for more than 6,000 poor students. It also provides paralegal assistance for the poor accused of crimes. It has initiatives for those in prison, and a program of microfinancing.

Tomorrow, October 19, Caritas "will clean the streets," with at least 5,000 volunteers cleaning entire neighborhoods in the dioceses of Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, and Pasay, especially near the parishes.

Pascual explains that "we hope to be significant in reviving the consciousness for community cleanliness. This is very much a part of our poverty alleviation movement – the main thrust of Caritas Manila. Cleanliness and community involvement have been key points of our holistic approach as well as of our flagship programs of education and health. We are also emphasizing Caritas Manila’s solidarity with the global ecological concern in a very symbolic social perspective."

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