First Sunday of Lent ~ 22 February 2015

2EricandMa-thumb WEEK 1: FIJI ERIC AND MA’S STORY – GROWING FOOD FOR LIFE

When Eric and Margaret (Ma) enrolled in a Married Couples Course at the Tutu Rural Training Centre 25 years ago, they couldn't anticipate how it would change the direction of their lives, and set them on a path of growth for life.

Eric and Ma radiate joy. Their smiles are infectious, their unbreakable bond is plain to see. There's no mistaking it: this happy, healthy couple are in love – after over 30 years of marriage.

Their homeland of Fiji is spectacularly beautiful, but it is not trouble-free. Comprised of more than 300 islands, Fiji has many isolated rural communities, and throughout the country youth unemployment is high, nutritious foods are in short supply, and life expectancy is much lower than in Australia. Yet Eric (53) and Ma (51) are thriving.

Eric and Ma agree that the Married Couples Course they took at the Tutu Rural Training Centre (Tutu) changed the direction of their lives. The centre, which runs courses for people living on the remote northern islands of Fiji, empowered the couple to participate fully in making decisions about their future, so they could find personal fulfilment and grow a sustainable source of food for life.

"The program at Tutu has truly enriched us and opened a new pathway for us where we have been able to prosper safely in life," says Eric.

Project Compassion 2015: Put your compassion into action

On 15 February, Caritas Australia, the international aid and development organization of the Catholic Church, will launch its annual Project Compassion appeal – one of Australia's largest humanitarian fundraising and awareness-raising campaigns

Each year Project Compassion, which runs through the six weeks of Lent, brings hundreds of thousands of Australians together in solidarity with the world's poor. Caritas Australia CEO, Paul O'Callaghan, said Project Compassion was an extraordinary, ongoing demonstration of the faith, love and generosity of caring supporters, all in the name of justice and peace.

Last year, supporters, schools and parishes across Australia raised nearly $11 million to help the world's poorest communities.

"Project Compassion has transformed the lives of many of the most marginalised people around the world," Mr O'Callaghan said.

"It's thanks to the generosity of the Australian supporters, that Caritas has been able to work alongside communities over the long-term in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Latin America and with First Australians."

The theme for this year's Project Compassion is "Food for Life," this aligns closely with the Caritas Internationalis global initiative "One human family, food for all," aimed at ending hunger by 2025.

Pope Francis has said: "It is a well-known fact that current levels of production are sufficient yet, millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This is truly scandalous."

"Food is essential for all life, and while we may take it for granted in Australia, many of the world's poorest people do not have a reliable food source, or enough money to buy food everyday," Mr O'Callaghan said.

This year Project Compassion focuses on the ways in which Caritas Australia is working with partners around the world to empower vulnerable people to establish sustainable food sources and develop income streams for life.

In 2015, our six feature stories from Fiji, Niger, Australia, Nepal, Peru and Indonesia show what can happen when faith, commitment and hard-work combine.

"Without food, the rest of life is impossible to contemplate. How can you plan for the future or educate your children when you fear you will be hungry?" Mr O'Callaghan said.

"I encourage you to be a part of Project Compassion this year. Every individual, school, parish or community that embraces Project Compassion makes an enormous difference."

During Lent, Australians are invited to raise funds for Project Compassion in a variety of ways. This can be by direct donation, raising money through a range of events such as Caritas Ks which raises money by walking, running, cycling or swimming kilometres for compassion.or by hosting a Fish Friday event where people eat small fish meals and make a donation.

To donate to Project Compassion, or for fundraising ideas go to www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion or phone 1800 024 413.

Media contact: Nicole Clements on 0408 869 833 or media@caritas.org.au


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