A volunteer from the Canossian Lay Missionaries shares about the group’s mission with the evening’s attendees. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – The Archdiocesan Crisis Coordination Team (ACCT) has distributed $250,000 for aid efforts towards Haiti, whose capital city Port-au-Prince was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January.

Caritas Singapore Community Council (CSCC) announced Mar 26 that ACCT, its affiliate, has disbursed $150,000 to Caritas Internationalis, and $50,000 each to the Franciscan Order and MaterCare International.

The ACCT-managed Disaster Aid Fund contributed $150,000 to Caritas Internationalis to fund Catholic Relief Services which was operating at ground zero.

Responding to an appeal from the Haitian Franciscan community made through the Singapore Franciscan community, ACCT donated $50,000 towards their relief efforts in Port-au-Prince.

The remaining $50,000 was given to MaterCare International, an organisation of Catholic health professionals providing medicine and support for mothers and babies in Haiti.

Donations from the Singapore Catholic community to the Disaster Aid Fund for Haiti relief efforts has amounted to $90,000 so far, ACCT Chairman Jerry Ow told CatholicNews. This amount was included in the total sum disbursed.

The announcement was made by Raymond Yong, in charge of CSCC member services at a CSCC event titled “Typhoon Ketsana – What’s Next?” held at the ninth floor of Catholic Welfare Services Building, where CSCC is headquartered.

Other recent relief efforts

The evening saw 18 people, comprising mainly volunteers from the Canossian Lay Missionaries and a few people interested in social-mission work.

Sherlyn Khong, a pioneer member of youth mission team, acts29, gave a sharing of her early October visit to Manila, just days after Typhoon Ketsana pummelled the Philippines in September 2009.

On hearing the news directly from their Philippines-based members, acts29 acted immediately to organise and deliver relief aid to Erap City in the Rizal province, where the team conducts regular mission outreach. Ms Khong and another Singaporean member were on-site to assess the situation first-hand.

Subsequently, in cooperation with their Philippines-based volunteers, acts29 organised a medical mission there. They also interviewed the flood victims who shared their stories and scar-filled memories of the disaster.

Ms Khong also gave a situation update of the families affected. Most have moved to higher ground following the flood, and will remain there until the Philippine government has carried out their relocation efforts which Ms Khong hopes will be soon. She has observed some construction taking place at what is to be the new site for housing for the flood victims.

Canossian Lay Missionaries member Georgina Sng then shared about her group’s mission outreach efforts to places such as a run-down orphanage in Tanjung Pinang, a trading port on Bintan Island, 40 kilometres away from Singapore.

The lay missionaries have also befriended people in the slums of Tondo, a Manila district, and have reached out to people as far away as Africa.

With aid from the Canossian Sisters here, the group has packed and delivered two 40-foot containers filled with relief aid to the Canossian Sisters in Manila, for distribution among those affected by Typhoon Ketsana.

Ms Sng also highlighted the need for new blood among its 12 members aged between 50 and 80 years. With not many members under 60 years joining, the senior members are reluctant to retire as they fear that the group will break up if they leave.

“We have the experience,” said Ms Sng, “and [young people] have the strength to help us out”.

The third group to share their mission experience was Gawad Kalinga (GK), an initiative of Couples For Christ. The Philippines-based movement aims to eliminate poverty and turn around the lives of slum-dwellers.

According to GK Singapore’s Gary Argulla, the movement partners foundations and gets families to help build homes, rather than simply giving houses to the poor. At the same time GK helps families to remain self-sustainable with a food-sufficiency programme.

Student Geri Low, 23, who came for the evening’s session, found the input inspiring. She shared that missionary work does not necessarily mean involvement in massive projects. Some projects may be small, but when added up they can mean something more, she said.

Ms Low has hopes for her recently retired mother to be involved in volunteer work.

As for herself, Ms Low said, “I’m hoping to find like-minded people who are interested in alleviating poverty, so I guess for now it’s about meeting people, getting ideas and deciding what to do.”
By Darren Boon
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