Home Diocesan News CRS official tells Ursuline students of Third World poverty and how to help
CRS official tells Ursuline students of Third World poverty and how to help Print E-mail
Written by John Vargo, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 09 March 2018 14:57

YOUNGSTOWN – When Thomas Awiapo of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) addressed freshmen and sophomores in the auditorium at Ursuline High School here, he held up a small cardboard bowl.

The “Rice Bowl,” is like the ones that countless Catholics fill with spare change each Lent to help CRS, the U.S. bishops’ official overseas relief and development agency, raising money to fight hunger, Awiaop told the students and faculty gathered.

“This little box has saved many lives,” said Awiapo, a native of Ghana who works for CRS. Awiapo knows the plight of the hungry in Third World countries firsthand. He saw his two younger brothers perish from malnutrition and his oldest brother never returned after going out in search of food.

As a boy, he, too, was starving, but found help through that little box and the generosity of others. “It’s a message of gratitude. It’s a message of thanksgiving,” Awiapo said.

While searching for food one day, Awiapo encountered an elementary school run by CRS in Ghana. The school provided a small meal if the students would attend and learn every day. He went there every day, spending time learning and being nourished. What he didn’t realize, he said, was that not only was his belly being filled, but also his soul.

CRS “tricked me into going to school with a little snack,” Awiapo smiled. “That little snack for me was one of the greatest gifts I ever received in my life.”

He recalled a presentation he made recently at an American school with about 2,000 students. They invited him to lunch, and it pained him to see the amount of good food that was thrown away. He contrasted that with how he and others in his village fought for a little bowl of soup. If his younger brothers had just a little more food, Awiapo said, they might have lived.

Awiapo took the Catholic education he received and won a scholarship, going to college in California and earning a master’s degree. Though his first thought was to go back to Ghana to help the residents there, he found himself called to travel and speak on behalf of CRS to inspire others to give to the Rice Bowl Program to feed others in need, as he once was.

Awiapo said that he feels blessed to not only share his story, but also to help provide for others who are still in desperate need.

He distributed the CRS prayer, “Prayers Without Borders” to the Ursuline students. Part of the prayer reads, “Make us mindful of the needs of those who must endure day by day the injustice of hunger and poverty.”

Awiapo noted that his own four children won’t have to struggle for nourishment as he once did. They also won’t have to go through life uneducated, as many people around the world do. “Education is liberating,” Awiapo said.

In a question-answer period following his talk, a student asked Awiapo who it was that raised him, since both his parents had died. He replied that it was a combination of aunts and uncles, with other people helping along the way – even though they had plenty of other responsibilities to their own children. “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” he said.

Anyone interested in donating to the CRS Rice Bowl program or learning more about it and Catholic Relief Services’ other initiatives, can log on to https://www.crsricebowl.org/ or call 1-800-222-0025.


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