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Report on SAIF Meeting of January 24th 2017

A talk by Guy Sharrock of the Catholic Relief Service

Mr Guy Sharrock, of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), told us that CRS employs people from many faiths and backgrounds, including himself as an Anglican, Muslims and Hindus.  The organisation was founded during World War II in New York City to assist refugees, and is part of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican relief body which includes the British CAFOD.

Their aim is to work with the poorest of the poor, at the invitation of the local Catholic bishop, and this they do in 101 countries, employing 5,000 staff (300 in the UK).  A third of their work is humanitarian relief as in times of natural disaster, and they also have significant input into agriculture and health as well as education. 

 Their working principles are drawn from Catholic Social Teaching (much admired by Archbishop Justin Welby), namely:

  • Dignity of the human person
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • The social nature of humanity
  • The common good
  • Subsidiarity
  • Solidarity
  • The option for the poor
  • Stewardship

They are concerned for Integral Human Development, not separating issues into component parts.  They ask:

  • What assets (of any sort) do people have?
  • What structures exist?
  • Who are the key decision-makers?
  • Who are most at risk?
  • How do people cope?
  • Then, after their own intervention, ‘What have we achieved?’

We heard about seed voucher fairs, lending clubs, and the complications brought by climate change.  Progress is rarely without setbacks, and some rewards of change are not evident or available for years.  This can make it difficult to enthuse donors who look for straightforward results and instant improvement from their gifts.  ‘Selling complexity is not easy’. 

A six-year programme asking aid-recipients for their views produced the conviction that it was ‘Time to Listen’ rather than continue to act in the old ways. 

A lucid and thought-provoking presentation.

Christopher Lamb

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