By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 3, 2011
In a recent visit, the vice president of overseas operations for Catholic Relief Services, Sean Callahan, gave supporters a view of CRS’ international efforts, providing an update on the organization’s work abroad.
The luncheon, sponsored by the Southeast Regional office of CRS and held at the Catholic Center in midtown Atlanta on Jan. 20, gave Callahan the opportunity to speak with a small group of associates, colleagues and friends of CRS to provide news on the work currently taking place in Haiti, Sudan and other places throughout the world.
“It is exciting to see the reach of the Church and the work we are doing there,” Callahan told the crowd.
In his position with CRS, Callahan is responsible for the oversight of activities in more than 100 countries, with a budget of over $800 million and a staff of over 4,000. He focuses on assistance to the poor, respect for human dignity, justice and peace and partnership with local institutions.
Haiti emerged as a hot topic among those present as many Catholics here in Atlanta remember donating money and resources to aid the Haitian people after the devastating earthquake shook the nation early last year. While the mainstream media provides occasional updates, it seems the struggling nation has slipped out of the focus of many.
“In Haiti it has been a slow process,” said Callahan. “It’s not about building back fast but building back well.”
CRS raised some $190 million for the Haiti disaster, most of which came from diocesan parishes, and continues to work with the local bishops and organizations to make sure the money is used effectively and appropriately.
“The Haiti situation will continue to be one that will test us,” he added. “Despite that, the people show great humility and great resilience.”
Callahan said that CRS is moving forward “with integrity” in Haiti and the various other places in the world where aid is needed—though that doesn’t prevent the groups from facing significant challenges when several groups are trying to help one country.
There must be some sort of communication and transparency with disaster relief, said Callahan. All the organizations helping Haiti must keep each other updated on progress and goals so that groups don’t waste time attending to certain needs that are already being met.
However, disaster relief is just one of many programs CRS has in place in the Caribbean country. Haiti is also one of many locations where CRS has active HIV/AIDS programs.
“It is important for Catholic Relief Services to be involved in this effort because there is a substantial need to provide care, outreach and education to those affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Michael Trujillo, Southeast program officer for CRS. “CRS directly supports nearly 5 million people affected by HIV/AIDS.”
He said CRS has more than 280 AIDS programs in 62 countries, primarily to train community members to care for those with HIV/AIDS, to address the needs of orphans and vulnerable children, to provide information on HIV/AIDS prevention and to help people living with HIV/AIDS find a livelihood through a wide range of agricultural programs and other income generating activities.
“We can feel comfortable that we are moving forward,” said Callahan.