'To bring hope to the people that we work with,' says Sister Maria Leonor Monteil (‘Sister Len’), 'means walking with them and walking slowly, at their pace. It’s a lifelong process — a journey.'
This spirit of walking alongside the marginalised underpins the work of Caritas Australia and its Maryknoll Seedling of Hope program. As the Director of the program in Cambodia, Sister Len works daily to offer a life with hope and dignity to people affected by HIV and AIDS. The program has been run by the Maryknoll Sisters since 1995 as a holistic response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It supports affected children and adults through healthcare, education and vocational training, life skills, and spiritual and psychosocial support.
Sister Len will inspire others and speak about the depth of the challenges faced by women in developing countries at Women for the World luncheons in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney on May 11, May 18 and May 19 respectively. The annual fundraising event will raise money for the program. It’s organised by Australian women with a passion for social justice and in support of a variety of Caritas’ programs that empowers those most marginalised in 29 countries globally.
Many women, particularly in the developing world, face systematic discrimination that prevents their full participation in community life. For women diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, physical as well as emotional support is crucially important.
'By focusing on their psychological health as much as their physical health, we're able to ensure that they have everything they need to meet their daily needs, including support for their livelihoods,' Sister Len said.
What is Carias Australia?
Caritas Australia is the Catholic agency for international humanitarian relief and development and is part of Caritas Internationalis, the second largest humanitarian network in the world. Through effective relationships with partners such as Seedling of Hope, Caritas aims to end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity. Caritas Australia’s development programs promote and build upon the existing skills and resources of people to help them improve access to food, clean water, education, healthcare and income, regardless of their religious, political and cultural beliefs. Last year, thanks to supporters Caritas reached over 2 million people directly through emergency and development programs.
Find out more about Women for the World and Caritas Australia’s important work with women, by watching this powerful video 'Women for the World 2017'.
Caritas Australia has a number of resources which equip young people with the information they need to learn more about women and development.
Women and Development lesson
Women and Development lesson
View the reflection questions and activities for ‘Online exclusive: Empowering women and communities globally’ here