On Tuesday 13 February, Caritas Australia officially launched their 2024 Project Compassion campaign at the Academy of Mary Immaculate College, Fitzroy.

The theme for 2024 is once again ‘For All Future Generations’, this time taking its inspiration from Exodus 3:15 and the story of Moses.

When Moses asks God who he should say is sending him to the Israelites, God replies:

You are to tell the Israelites, The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.This is my name for all time, and this is my title for all generations.

At the launch event, Archbishop of Melbourne Peter A Comensoli reflected on the story of Moses, noting how it reveals a pattern in how God works: he calls, chooses and sends his people on mission.

Project Compassion is a way of saying that we have been called and chosen and sent to love and serve those in need.

‘I want to say to all of you here today, and to myself, to all of us: we are all called, chosen and sent,’ Archbishop Comensoli said. ‘And we can do this by our love that is in service to others. Project Compassion is a way, it’s one way, but a way of saying that we have been called and chosen and sent to love and serve those in need.’

Every year, Project Compassion highlights three stories of people who have been helped by Caritas Australia, their international partners and, more importantly, the generosity of their donors.

This year Caritas tells the story of Ronita, a 22-year-old woman from the Philippines who, in falling pregnant at 17, was at risk of never being able to re-enter the education system. Thanks to Caritas Australia’s local partner, Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ), she was able to do just that. She has now completed her high school studies and works at a call centre to support her family.

They also tell the story of Leaia from Samoa, who lives with her five children, husband, brother and sister-in-law. Their home is made entirely from recycled materials, and until recently, they relied solely on rainwater for drinking. Caritas Samoa organised for a water tank to be installed on the property to harvest rainwater, so now they have clean drinking and bathing water every day.

1 First Week of Lent
From the Project Compassion toolkit.

Finally, Memory is a 26-year-old woman from Malawi. During the launch event, Gwen Michener, Caritas Australia’s Community Engagement Animator for Victoria and Tasmania, particularly highlighted Memory’s story, since she is the first female carpenter in her village. She is also a wonderful example of how the work of Caritas not only helps individuals but helps their communities too.

Despite growing up in a poor farming family, where food was unreliable and they often didn’t have the money to pay for clothes or school fees, Memory ‘realised that education is the key to breaking out of this cycle of poverty’, Gwen explained.

With the support of Caritas Australia and the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM), who paid for her tuition, she was able to undertake a vocational skills training course in carpentry. She now works in a hydroelectric power station away from her village.

Despite growing up in a poor farming family, Memory ‘realised that education is the key to breaking out of this cycle of poverty’.

‘In the future, she wants to come back to her community and teach others how to do carpentry as well,’ Gwen said, explaining that Memory’s ambition is to ‘build a house for her parents so they can see how this program is having a real effect. So not only do we help individuals with these programs; we also help the community.’

During the Q&A portion of the event, Michael McGirr, Mission Facilitator for Caritas Australia, fielded questions from students of the Academy of Mary Immaculate College, who asked about Caritas’ impact worldwide.

Your small contribution makes a big, big difference.

McGirr explained that Caritas Australia alone directly helped about 800,000 people around the world in 2023. But he added that if you include emergency relief, which accounts for half of the money they spent, they end up helping about 1.5 million people every year.

‘We’re talking about an extremely lean and well organised program,’ he said.

Praphulla Shrestha, Caritas Africa Programs Coordinator, also shared how they are helping young people and young families around Africa. He encouraged everyone to get involved and to contribute to Project Compassion. ‘Your small contribution makes a big, big difference,’ he said.