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Fr Billy Caulfield

Dear friends,               

This year’s Lenten campaign focuses on Malawi in South Africa. Trócaire has been working with partners in Malawi for the last forty-eight years. Malawi is a landlocked country, bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Malawi is often referred to as the warm heart of Africa.  Malawi is a country with extremely high levels of poverty, where life is already a struggle  for many.

This year’s theme is focused on water from The Book of Amos - : ‘Let justice flow like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.’ Water can be a problem in two ways for people in countries like Malawi. Sometimes there is too much water such as  floods which Malawi witnessed recently during Cyclone Freddie when many families lost their homes and livelihoods, and their crops were destroyed. Cyclones which were a once in a lifetime event are now recurring more regularly. The problem also is that there is not enough water, and they experience drought. The wet season or the rainy season is becoming more unpredictable.

Myself and the Trocaire team visited Malawi and some of these communities last November and witnessed for ourselves the poverty and the struggles that these people face on a daily basis. Because of the extended dry spells and the unpredictability of the rainy season due to climate change, it is harder to sow their crops. There is a time factor in which they can sow their crops in order to have food to feed their families and often because they cannot sow their crops at the right time it means that lasts seasons crops run out before the new harvest is ready or they sow their crops thinking the rainy season has come but then they have another dry spell, and their crops are destroyed.  The dry season has become more prolonged in recent years, and droughts are becoming more frequent as each year the rains fail to arrive.

Climate change means flooding, and droughts are becoming both more extreme and unpredictable. People are losing their homes, their livelihoods and even their lives. During our visit  to Malawi, we met the family who are on this year’s Trocaire box  - Malita and her children Patrick and Patrica and their community. We witnessed the challenge that these people have to face - to fetch water but also the many challenges and risks associated with this necessity of having access to water.

In the dry season, Malita and her daughters make an hour-long trip on foot to collect water from a stream, carrying 20 litres of water back to the house in a bucket on their heads; sometimes Malita makes this trip 5 times per day to secure water for the household and crops.  Sometimes it can be 8 trips which equals 8 hours a day. For us that is a full working day. If the wells run dry, they often have to go to the local river for water. They do this out of necessity even though they know this water might make them sick as it is used for may other purposes not just for drinking.

Water is a valuable resource and from our visit it makes you realise how fortunate we are to have an abundance of clean water and secondly how accessible it is to receive water – by just walking into our kitchens and bathrooms and just to turn on a tap and we have an abundance of water.

Trócaire, working with their partners, supports local communities, particularly women like Malita in Malawi, to adapt their livelihoods to cope with the impact of climate change so that families like hers can continue to survive. Trócaire’s programmes create solutions to the water shortages, such as digging bore holes close to villages, helping communities rebuild after extreme weather events and supporting local farmers in sustainable agriculture practices. Our

support gives courage, hope and strength to people like Malita, who are facing poverty and injustice.

We witnessed the great work of Trocaire while on our visit to Malawi and how  it has impacted so many lives for the better. We witnessed the joy and the happiness of the people of Malawi  and how Malawi lived up to its name of being the warm heart of Africa. I have used the phrase – they have nothing but at the same time they have everything. The Bishops of Malawi and South Africa are very appreciative of the work of the Irish Bishops especially those who had the foresight over fifty years ago to start Trocaire to help people like those in Malawi and are very thankful to the Irish people who support Trocaire every year through the Lenten campaign.

I invite you in  this Lenten season to speak about Trocaire and this year’s Lenten campaign and to distribute the Trocaire boxes to your parishioners, community groups and schools and to help support the great work of Trocaire so that we can all be a part of making our common home a better place for all.

I wish all a prayerful and Blessed Lent,

Regards and God Bless,

Fr Billy


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