By Anne Marie Amacher
Lenten reflections, recipes, principles of Catholic social teaching and personal stories from people around the world help educate and inspire families about Operation Rice Bowl.
The annual fundraising and awareness project of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) begins next week with the start of Lent.
“This is such a good cause,” says Kathy McCoy, Operation Rice Bowl volunteer coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport.
Of the total funds collected, 25 percent remains in the diocese. Diocesan grants are distributed to non-profit organizations in the diocese that do not receive major funding from the government and that work to alleviate hunger and poverty.
Last year, $12,000 was donated to organizations in Riverside, Columbus Junction, Lone Tree/Nichols, Muscatine, Eldridge, Knoxville, Davenport and a group that serves the Quad-City region from Rock Island, Ill.
McCoy said Operation Rice Bowl materials are available in most parishes in the diocese. In addition to the bowl in which financial contributions are placed, a home calendar provides a wealth of information about CRS and its Operation Rice Bowl program.
The goal of CRS is “to have parishes involved mentally and spiritually, not just monetarily in the Operation Rice Bowl Program,” said John Taylor, of the CRS Midwest regional office.
Hunger is increasing at an alarming rate, he noted. Every single overseas program funded by Operation Rice Bowl fights hunger and poverty in underdeveloped nations, he said.
The Rice Bowl program offers suggested prayers for each day of Lent and profiles six countries and personal stories from people who have benefited from the collection.
Amal of Egypt tells how she benefited from a microfinance project to start a bakery to help support her family; Ruben Halasan of the Philippines learned techniques to improve his farm through a small farm and marketing program; Sophia Nyoni of Tanzania, orphaned at age 16, benefited from the orphans and vulnerable children project that provides food, educational opportunities, counseling services, life skills training and more; Martin Reyes Granados of Honduras attended a country school for small farmers to learn how to improve his operation; Al Hassan Harouna of Ghana took the quality education improvement program that provides teachers with formal training and helps increase community involvement in schools.
From the “local” portion of the funding, a U.S. family shared how it benefited from a Catholic Charities program when times got tough.
A simple, non-meat recipe from each country is featured on the calendar as well.
McCoy said that throughout Lent families can learn to make lifestyle changes so that others can have a better share of resources in the world.
Donating money and living in a simpler style during Lent can continue throughout the year, McCoy said. “We want to build solidarity with people around the world. We want them to build and be able to live on their own.”