by F. C. PRICE
THE retirement of Sir Hugh Ellis-Rees as administrator of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD) means that his former deputy, Mr. Noel Charles, takes on an enormously challenging job directing an organisation which currently handles a quarter of a million pounds in overseas aid every year.
This is a far cry from the £50,000 being raised only five years ago, and all the signs are that further growth lies ahead.
Mr. Charles told me: "The response of Catholic people in England and Wales is slowly growing. The needs of those living in poverty in other parts of the world are only on the periphery of people's awareness.
"This is certainly due to an overwhelming preoccupation with personal and local prob terns and concerns, but it is also due to a lack of Christian awareness that a lively and receptive charity towards the needs of others is part of the mainspring of Christian living."
Mans to alter this state of affairs by means of increased publicity and lectures are already in hand "Ito change these mental attitudes". According to Mr. Charles "it is obvious that, in however small a degree, they are succeeding."
CAFOD was Iborn in 1962 as a result of a decision by the Hierarchy of England and Wales. The bishops felt that all Catholic initiatives for giving aid overseas should be concentrated in one organisation. This would administer all such funds and be capable of responding to appeals from all over the world.
Many of these were expected from Catholic dioceses and missions in •newly-independent countries — especially where there are strong British associ ations — where the Church was to play an ever-increasing role in the social and economic development of the people.
Recently CAFOD 'has had its mandate extended to cover
certain pastoral and other
needs arising from the mission of the Church overseas,
previously covered by the Hierarchy Charity Fund. Depite this, most of the money has 'been sent on furthering numerous self-help projects.
In the financial year ending last October £10,500 was paid out in emergency relief in areas stricken by natural disasters and in sending desperately needed supplies to Nigeria and Biafra.
The greatest proportion of the money is used, in the words of Noel Charles "to provide the grants for projects that will effectively change, in however small a way, the conditions that cause poverty and hunger", rather than on merely alleviating them.
Because its resources are not large CAFOD has found that it must restrict its help to those projects which will produce a high return for the outlay. It does not undertake to construct hospitals or schools, for instance. because these are considered to fall within the public sector.
But there are often small capital needs which, if not met, prevent the implementation of large projects and it is possible to achieve worthwhile results for a modest expenditure.
Every project must "be of direct interest to the Church, which means that it must be initiated by or implemented under the auspicies of a Catholic diocese or mission, although people of all creeds •may benefit." says "Value for Money", a publicity pamphlet on the work of CAFOD.
First priority is given to schemes designed to increase food production and to the diversification of crops. Irrigation schemes have been financed in large areas of India, Pakistan and South-East Asia where the monsoons are unreliable and the droughts frequent. Last year these absorbed 100,200.
Typical of such help was the £550 spent on supplying three pumps for the inhabitants of a barren part of Thailand, near the Cambodian border. The request came from the Vicar Apostolic of Thare because rainfall was irregular and supplies of rice uncertain.
The pumps sent water from a nearby lake into the paddy fields, so enabling farmers to obtain two crops a year. Previously there had been three harvest failures in succession.
£9,000 was spent, along with a grant from OXFAM, on launching a farming project at Hayang in Korea. This aimed at cultivating 200 acres of land and increasing the supply of meat and dairy products of Which there is a great scarcity in the area.
It is hoped that the project will •be self-supporting within four years, the profits being used to help to finance welfare work in the Archdiocese of Taegu and assisting local farmers to raise their own livestock. CAFOD's grant covered the purchase of livestock, bottling plant and other dairying equipment
CAFOD's main function is to supply the necessary capital, the work being undertaken either by local voluntary labour or under the auspices of the Food for Work scheme organised by the Catholic Relief Services of the United States.
Another outlet for CAFOD cash is in the establishment of social training centres, particularly in Africa, where women are given training and instruction in nutrition, cooking, hygiene and Child-care. £2,500 helped the Medical Missionaries of Mary to open a homecraft and childcare centre at Masaka in Uganda.
CAFOD achievements are made possible only through the money which can be raised in this country — f258,680 in 1969. The chief source is the Family Fast Days — one in Lent and the other in Autumn — and numerous events organised at parish level or by Catholic socie.:zs Funds have been helped since the abolition of compulsory Friday abstinence, many individuals sending regular donation's as an alternative form of self-denial.