The annual Catholic Relief Services reception drew more than 200 people to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield on Monday, Sept. 26. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services)

Wilfred Charles is a farmer in Malawi, Africa. He knows the hardships caused by droughts.

When he was 1 year old, his country suffered a famine. There was not enough food, and he was underweight. As he grew, he remembers how women used to fight at the wells for water.

In 2010, Catholic Relief Services workers came to his village. They taught Wilfred and other farmers in his community how irrigation farming could supply water for crops.

As Wilfred and the other farmers built irrigation canals, CRS provided food aid for their community. By 2013, the irrigation system was completed. There was no more soil erosion and rivers were not drying up.

But, Wilfred’s story doesn’t end there. After successfully helping his community to grow more food, he realized his community could help their neighbors to do the same thing. And that is exactly what he did, according to Lori Pearson, CRS senior technical advisor for food security, who spoke at the annual Archbishop’s Reception and Update for friends of Catholic Relief Services held at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield on Monday, Sept. 26.

“He went to a local community development office and obtained a small amount of funding for tools and other things, and mobilized his community to train the community next door to undertake the same activities that CRS had taught his community to do,” Pearson told the audience. “Wilfred’s story inspires me because of his faith in God, in CRS, in his community and in his own ability to bring about change — not only for his family and his community, but for others outside of his community.”

That, in turn, gives hope.

“Now I can see that the future for my kids is bright. This community means a lot to me because at first, we thought we could not do anything. But now, we are confident because we have water,” Wilfred said in a video shown at the reception.

CRS provided more than just food for Wilfred and his community.

“This demonstrates what can happen when people believe in their own ability to solve their own problems. Wilfred’s story is a story of hunger, hard work, faith, overcoming obstacles and service to others. But perhaps most of all, Wilfred’s story is a story of human dignity,” Pearson said. “Addressing hunger is complex, but when we get to root causes, we can lift up dignity, and we have impact not only on hunger but on social relationships and on prosperity.”

The Need

Since 1943, CRS has been a global leader in delivering international humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable families in the world. In 2021, CRS reached more than 190 million people in more than 100 countries.

“For the past 79 years, CRS has been called to save lives, address the root causes and effects of poverty around the world. They promoted the sacredness and dignity of human life, and they helped build more just and peaceful society outside the United States. CRS saves, protects and transforms lives in more than 100 different countries around the globe, and they do this without regard to race, religion or nationality,” said Portia Young, the master of ceremonies at the event. “Last year, 93 percent of CRS expenditures went directly to programming that benefits everyone who is living in poverty overseas. And that makes CRS one of the most effective and efficient global relief organizations in the world.”

Still, the need continues.

“Malnutrition has haunted 149 million children in 2020. Global food prices reached an all-time high in February,” Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki said. “One in three people suffer from some level of malnutrition. Now after a decade of decline, world hunger has been increasing since 2015, and 49 million people in 46 countries face extreme life-threatening hunger.”

As demonstrated by Wilfred’s story, CRS also works to find the root causes of hunger so that real changes can be made to ensure a better future.

“The old adage that is said, ‘Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he is able to supply it the rest of his life.’ Well, realize CRS does both. It does not let the hungry go away unsatisfied. It also, at the same time, empowers people to be able to produce that which is necessary for them to sustain their life,” Archbishop Listecki said.

Nourish The World

About 225 people attended the event, and one thing united everyone there. They saw the need to support CRS.

“Catholic Relief Services is an amazing organization, and I think they do a wonderful job around the world. I am deeply touched and overwhelmed whenever I hear about CRS because I am reminded of what millions and millions of people in the world are dealing with. There are so many things they don’t have that we take for granted, like we can turn on the water or flush a toilet whenever we want.” said Kathy Howell, who attended the program.

“I am impressed that 93 percent of your donation goes to these programs. There are a lot of other organizations that take a lot for administrative costs. So, when you give to CRS, you know it is making a difference. You know it is going to save lives,” Howell added.

To donate to Catholic Relief Services, contact