Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Since then, they have expanded in size to reach more than 100 million people in more than 100 countries on five continents.
Their mission is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. Although their mission is rooted in the Catholic faith, their operations serve people based solely on need, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. Within the United States, CRS engages Catholics to live their faith in solidarity with the poor and suffering of the world.
The fundamental motivating force in all activities of CRS is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it pertains to the alleviation of human suffering, the development of people and the fostering of charity and justice. They are committed to a set of Guiding Principles and hold themselves accountable to each other for them.
As the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community, CRS is governed by a Board of Directors made up of clergy, most of them bishops, religious and Catholic lay men and women.
CRS maintains strict standards of efficiency, accountability and transparency. Last year, more than 94 percent of revenues they spent went directly to programs that benefit the poor overseas.
How They Serve
Their work is about more than helping people survive for the day. Catholic Relief Services approaches emergency relief and long-term development holistically, ensuring that all people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, are able to participate in the very fullness of life — to have access to basic necessities, health care and education — all within peaceful, just communities.
To achieve this, they focus on six key areas of service:
In areas devastated by natural disasters and wars, CRS is often among the first on the ground providing water, food, shelter, protection from abuses and other basic needs. But their work does not stop there, especially during times of war or when disaster strikes in conflict zones. In the course of providing emergency assistance, they also address the root causes of conflict and help communities bring about lasting change and peace.
Millions worldwide are unable to meet their most basic, daily needs for a variety of reasons. CRS takes a multipronged approach to combat chronic hunger and poverty. They address a combination of pressing concerns by mitigating hunger, developing agriculture, improving water and sanitation, developing sustainable work options, providing microfinance to support small businesses, and providing a safety net for those who have no other means of support.
Lasting improvement in the lives of the poor cannot be achieved without education. Access to education for all, particularly girls and women, as well as improved quality of education are key components of CRS’ work around the world. Equally important is community involvement in education, without which long-term, positive change is elusive.
In much of the developing world, people have little access to health care — no clinics, no hospitals, no doctors, no medicine. Focusing on remote and underserved areas, CRS establishes community-based health care systems that give people the tools they need to manage their own health needs. Their community health programs focus on caring for those affected by HIV and AIDS; improving child survival, especially among orphans and vulnerable children; developing proper water and sanitation systems; improving nutrition; and advancing maternal and child health.
The way they provide emergency aid and development assistance can actually prevent or transform conflicts. Peacebuilding, therefore, lies at the heart of all they do. Conflict resolution, education and prevention are integral to their work of development and emergency recovery. Part of peacebuilding also means strengthening civil society through civic organizations that help communities collectively advocate for their own needs. This, in turn, encourages good governance and holds governments accountable to their people. In this way, such tragedies as human trafficking can be halted and the most vulnerable are given the protection they need.
Helping at Home
CRS serves the poor and vulnerable overseas. Here at home, they work to help American Catholics put their faith into action, encouraging them to advocate for changes that uproot the unjust structures that constrain the lives of the poor and perpetuate poverty, conflict and inequality. Programs educate Catholics at home about the causes of hunger, help them foster economic justice through conscientious consumerism, and build peace and justice in the world by raising their voices in the halls of U.S. and international governing bodies.
Catholic Relief Services carries out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. They are motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching as they act to:
Promote Human Development by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, and nurturing peaceful and just societies; and,
Serve Catholivcs in the United States as they live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world.
As part of the universal mission of the Catholic Church, they work with local, national and international Catholic institutions and structures, as well as other organizations, to assist people on the basis of need, not creed, race or nationality.