More than 80 volunteers assembled in St. Vincent Academy's gym in Savannah Sept. 22 to pack 10,000 meals for hungry families in Burkino Faso. The Helping Hands event was a joint effort between Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Rise Against Hunger (RAH).

Savannah's 'Helping Hands' feed thousands

Originally Appeared in : 9820-9/27/18

More than 80 volunteers from parishes, schools and ministries throughout the Savannah Deanery lent a “helping hand” to Catholic Relief Services and Rise Against Hunger during their joint meal packaging event Sept. 22.


Held at the St. Vincent’s Academy school gym in Savannah, the Helping Hands event offerred both young and old alike a chance to make a difference in Burkina Faso by packing 10,000 meals –each meal serving up to 6 people–to be distributed in the African nation, which is affected by frequent droughts and flooding and where poverty, hunger and education are closely intertwined.


Referencing a presentation given at the event by Senait Tedla, office coordinator for the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Southeast Regional Office, DeRon Waller explained that often children can’t attend school in Burkina Faso because they need to work to help their families put food on the table. Of those who go to school, many do so primarily in order to eat.


“And this will be the only nutritious meal that they’ll have in the day,” Waller, a community engagement coordinator at Rise Against Hunger (RAH)’s Atlanta office, said. “And that’s important obviously for a myriad of reasons. But one of those reasons being that education is vital to your own economic empowerment and in order to break the cyclical nature of poverty.” 


Among the volunteers in attendance at the event were representatives of the Savannah Deanery Council of Catholic Women (CCW), headed by Alizon McLaughlin. McLaughlin said that CCW members from at least five parishes, including Savannah’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. James, St. Benedict the Moor and St. Frances Cabrini Churches, as well as St. Boniface Church in Springfield, participated in the event out of a desire to fulfill their group’s call to serve other women. 


 “We love to work and we work very much in our local parishes…” McLaughlin said. “But it’s nice to do something that is really part of the diocese and the deanery and that we know is really going to go out into the community but really out to a country that has a real need and women that have real needs.”


Though the task of packing the meals took only one hour to complete, Waller says that “helping doesn’t always have to be backbreaking labor and sweat. It can be fun.” 


“They have the power; they can change things. People don’t have to feel helpless and hopeless. I feel like in our day and age when we’re kind of bombarded with such awful and distracting and terrible news—and you turn on the TV, it looks like the world’s ending,” Waller said. “But to be in this space and to be a part of positive change like I said, it’s contagious. That’s what I want people to take away from this, that you can be a part of the difference, that you can participate in the movement and you can actually make a difference and make an impact, and it’s important that you do.” 


Partners in the global fight against hunger and poverty, CRS and RAH are described as the two hands involved in the coordination of Helping Hands events. With financial support from CRS, RAH is able to purchase the meals—bags of rice, dehydrated soy and vegetables and a vitamin and mineral packet—which weigh approximately 14 oz. each. CRS also maintains relationships with the organizations on the ground who distribute the meals to the needy.

See more pictures from the event here.


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