Vital help for Syrian mothers and children forced to flee violent extremism is one of nearly 100 new projects announced this month by the UK office of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The ACN projects include help for vulnerable refugee women being looked after by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon at their residential centre in Sehaile, Keserwan.
The Sisters provide education and training classes as well as counselling to traumatised women who have experienced the violence of war and loss of family members.
Sr Marie Aki, project manager at the Sehaile centre said their “objective is to generate projects that will empower, retrieve the dignity, support self-sufficiency, and build esteem in marginalised women, children and their families”.
Young mother Rima is training to become a catechist at the Good Shepherd Sister’s centre in Deir Al Ahmar, Baalbeck, Lebanon.
She currently helps with children’s education and social activities.
Rima said: “I was so happy that someone was helping me with the children’s homework, and now I am happy that I too can help.”
In Syria, the charity is helping 700 Christian families with their electricity costs from January to June of this year at a cost of more than £25,000 (€30,000).
This project responds to Sr Annie Demerjian’s appeal last October to ACN’s benefactors to help the people in Aleppo who, unable to afford electricity, were facing a “winter without heating”.
In other parts of the world, including Pakistan, Sudan and Eritrea, ACN is supporting a number of projects for Sisters and lay women including education, vocational training and catechesis.
ACN’s help also includes pastoral support for the construction of a two-storey community hall-chapel in at De Mazenod Parish in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Up to 3,500 faithful attend Mass there every Sunday, despite fears of a rising number of extremist attacks against Christians.
The parish centre will be used for counselling, offering employment and legal advice as well as lay pastoral projects. The hall’s facilities will also be available for local Muslim youngsters.
The charity also announced that it will be providing transport for 350 catechumens from three different parishes in Iraq’s capital Bagdad.
The charity continues to provide support for Sudan in the latest aid payments, including for the Boy’s Model and Our Lady of Hope Girl’s Schools in Mayo, near the country’s capital city Khartoum.
Also part of this month’s batch are pastoral projects in Eritrea which cannot be disclosed for security reasons.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) National Director said: “From Syria to Pakistan and Eritrea to Sudan, the generosity of ACN benefactors is truly Catholic and universal in its outreach.”
He added: “The help to an array of countries reflects this universal love of Christ – reaching out through the hands and hearts of ACN friends.”