“The CRS is a voice for marginalized groups,” Tolessa said. “What we do is all about innovation. We look at new technology and try to address the problem.”

The parts of Ethiopia in which Tolessa works generally have limited access to water and use poor sanitation practices. He has a role in assessing each community’s needs by conducting studies, offering technical support and identifying potential water sources.

Tolessa, who joined the CRS Ethiopia water and sanitation team last year, said enhancing water systems is part one of a two-pronged effort. Education, he said, is also key to ensure Ethiopian citizens are experienced in improved quality of life.

“The approach is to bring these issues down to the community,” Tolessa said.

Although there is still much work that needs to be done, Tolessa said CRS’ efforts have been bearing fruit in many of the rural Ethiopian areas.

“I feel proud to be able to work with CRS,” Tolessa said. “People are living good lives with a bright future. There is hope for the poor.”

Because of the plight of most Ethiopian communities, Fr. Berhe said Catholic parishes in his country tend to some of the most basic needs of people of all denominations in an effort to stave off such conditions as the HIV and AIDS epidemic and starvation.

In his role as pastoral office coordinator for the Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat, Fr. Berhe links parishes with CRS to provide relief and enhance water quality.

“We fill a gap where the government cannot reach,” Fr. Berhe said. “What we do is faith-based and is an opportunity to preach the Gospel. But it is out of desperation.”

Because Catholic teachings emphasize the value of human life and dignity, ADCS and CRS work hand-in-hand with parishes to tend to peoples’ needs, Fr. Berhe said.

ADCS, a long-time partner with CRS, is one of 10 Catholic Diocesan Secretariats in Ethiopia that have been charged with initiating, planning, executing and coordinating the socio-pastoral and development interventions of the Ethiopian Catholic Church.

Njiru, who has more than a decade of water management background, coordinates water and sanitarian projects supported by CRS through his role within the Diocese of Garissa. In Kenya, he oversees the design and construction of water systems and tends to a variety of administrative tasks.

His role became critical when a series of flash floods ravished parts of Kenya in 1998. CRS responded because of the severity of the situation. In less than a year, Kenya’s water supply was enhanced with new systems.

“There was discussion about bringing the communities back to normal,” Njiru said. “There was a felt need to serve these communities. We at the Diocese (of Garissa) were talking about long-term development programs.”

Most recently, Njiru has been involved in several CRS-sponsored water and sanitation projects. He also has lent his expertise to a privately funded food crisis project in some of the areas hardest hit by natural disasters.

Njiru also has started focusing his efforts on the nation’s livestock supply, since it is a critical part of the economy. He has hired an animal specialist and veterinary officer in an effort to fight off diseases.

Also present at the luncheon was local donor Mary Cottrell whose gift from her and late husband, Joseph, will provide 20 wells in Ethiopia.