Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
In the true spirit of Christmas giving, the community of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and clergy from neighboring parishes gathered together on Saturday, December 22, 2012 with His Grace Bishop Thomas for Vespers followed by a Nativity dinner benefitting the Al-Kafaat Foundation in Lebanon. The cathedral’s parishioners and organizations collaborated and worked together to present a beautiful evening of good food and good fellowship. Full of good cheer, the church hall twinkled with Christmas lights and decorations. The Byzantine choir of the cathedral chanted liturgical hymns of the Nativity and the church school children’s choir sang Christmas carols. His Grace Bishop Thomas spoke of the importance of Al-Kafaat, service, and the blessing it is for each person to have the opportunity to support the Al-Kafaat project. Fr. Demetrios Makoul spoke briefly on the importance of supporting such causes and how they allow us to be a presence of light in the world. The proceeds of the evening were multiplied as parishioner-owned restaurants, as well as philanthropically-minded individuals, completely underwrote the cost of all the expenses for the event.
As reported in a series of recent press releases by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the partnership between the IOCC and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA) continues to minister to people within Syria as well as those displaced by the conflict there. The strife has severely crippled the country's power plants as well as damaged major roads needed to transport heating fuel during the coldest time of year, while instability in the region has led to critical fuel shortages.
"The deteriorating security climate in Syria creates delays in receiving and distributing humanitarian relief items," said IOCC Director of Programs Mark Ohanian. "An added challenge is finding adequate quantities and quality of supplies needed, but IOCC and GOPA are using their longstanding local and regional relationships to ensure uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid."
There is an urgent need to find a bone marrow donor for Karen Takla, who was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and must have a bone marrow transplant within the next 50 days. Karen is the great-granddaughter of Fr. Farid Farkouh and the granddaughter of Sally Farkouh Takla who, for many years, was a very active member of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY and, more recently, a parishioner of St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Karen's mother and father are Kathy and Ronald Takla of Closter, New Jersey.
It has been strongly recommended that the Takla family reach out to the members of the Syrian/Lebanese community to be tested because a person's ethnicity is an important consideration when selecting a donor's bone marrow for transplantation. For those living in New Jersey, the Takla family has planned a bone marrow drive on Sunday, January 27 at the Westwood Community Center, 55 Jefferson Avenue, Westwood, NJ 07675 from 1 to 5 p.m. At the Center, donors will be swabbed and later tested to see whether their bone marrow is a match for Karen.
Additionally, for those unable to participate in the drive, they will still have the opportunity of being tested by following the instructions on the attached flyer. This allows for a national appeal to those living outside the immediate area of metropolitan New York. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip supports a wide-sweeping effort to aid Karen at this most critical time in her life.
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — The conflict that rages on in Syria has severely crippled the country's power plants as well as damaged major roads needed to transport heating fuel during the coldest time of year, while violence, sanctions and instability in the region have led to critical fuel shortages. As thousands of displaced families and elderly throughout Syria struggle to stay warm on nights that dip below freezing, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is responding with winter relief to more than 30,000 Syrian families.
Through your generous support and support from the ACT Alliance, IOCC in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA) distributed diesel stoves and electric heaters to several areas in Syria. Families living in areas with access to fuel but no power received diesel stoves, while families facing fuel shortages but still have electricity received electric heaters.
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — More than 80 representatives of the nation's Orthodox Christian service organizations joined together at the White House on December 14, 2012, to discuss strategic service alliances with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The White House Conference on Orthodox Christian Engagement was hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement in conjunction with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and facilitated by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
Present to discuss the role of Orthodox Christians in social outreach, disaster response, and community development in the United States were Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas and liaison to IOCC from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.
For twenty-five years, the Orthodox ministry Project Mexico has been harnassing the energy of young people by sponsoring home building projects for Mexico's poor. Hundreds of needy families have moved into homes constructed for them with the help of nearly 10,000 volunteers. Sponsored by parishes from around the country including many from the Antiochian Archdiocese, and by Orthodox organizations such as the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), group building weeks for 2013 are already filling up. (Sign up for a summer home building week.)
There are two types of homebuilding groups hosted by Project Mexico each summer: small groups, and Orthodox Basic Training (OBT) groups. During the weeks dedicated to small group participation, teams from one, two, or three parishes construct a single home for a needy family, spend the afternoons interacting with the boys of St. Innocent's, and learn about the local culture through a visit to Rosarito. During Basic Training weeks, Project Mexico hosts larger groups who construct between four to seven homes in one week. Each evening, volunteers listen to inspiration speakers, and on Sunday builders enjoy a day of fellowship and fun at St. Innocent’s.
The Treehouse in Wichita, Kansas was created to fill a unique niche, helping economically challenged moms and children with basic necessities and programs. As an Orthodox Christian-based, not-for-profit organization, the Treehouse offers compassionate physical and emotional support, and positive Christian relationships with other moms. Over the years, vital support for the ministry has been provided by the Antiochian Orthodox community in the greater Wichita area, from His Grace Bishop Basil, the Very Rev. Paul O’Callaghan, the people of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, and many other Orthodox Christians both clergy and lay. It is also one of the many outreach efforts supported by the Order of St. Ignatius.
The Treehouse provides diapers and formula, parenting education, spiritual support and an inexpensive thrift store with books, toys and clothes up to kindergarten size. Women are referred to the ministry by other partner organizations in the Wichita area, and from their first encounter with Treehouse staff, experience support and encouragement. Groups dedicated to the topic of parenting, and one-on-one mentoring relationships, help women with limited resources become capable, nurturing mothers, thus aiding both mother and child.
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Sana was only three weeks away from graduation when a mortar hit her family's home in Homs, Syria. She fled quickly into the night towards Jordan with her mother and four siblings, carrying only a small bag filled with water bottles, bread and homemade jam. Now a refugee, the tears come easily when the girl thinks about the home they had to leave and the schooling she was forced to sacrifice.
"I wish I can continue my studies here in Jordan, but I have no certificates, no money, no documents or IDs," said Sana. "All we have is a paper given to us at the border that gives us permission to be in Jordan," added her mother.
Dust from blowing desert sand covers a growing sea of tents at the Za'atari camp that are now home to Sana and thousands of Syrian children and families are basic, with no electricity and no sanitation. There is little left of the comforts of home and the rhythms of the life they knew in Syria.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the global ACT Alliance, recently provided new school uniforms to 6,000 school-aged refugee girls living in the camp and in Jordanian host communities. The uniforms provide a measure of comfort to the children like Sana who have had to endure exhausting journeys to arrive at the camp and many who have been witness to the horrors of war.
St. Athanasius Academy was founded in 1976, and serves the Antiochian Archdiocese through providing research, education, and outreach. The Academy offers a unique correspondence study program which not only serves students-at-large, but also reaches those behind bars in a prisoner education program.
Notes Paul Goetz, Director of the The Prisoner Education Project/Correspondence Studies Program for prisoner-students, "We maintain about 85 students with a waiting list, and we offer the program as a free scholarship program. Since 1996, we have studied with over 1,000 students. A prisoner-student in good standing needs to submit one lessons every other month, and our current pace is over 120 lessons per month. Our questions are not true/false, but we require essay answers to probing questions...and then we provide detailed responses to correct or complement their efforts."
In another outstanding project, the Academy provided the impetus and scholarship for The Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms. Additionally, St. Athanasius also publishes booklets in the "Timely Topics" series, as well as the "Booklets for Children" series.
Read an interview with Paul Goetz, Director of the St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) has announced that registration is now open for their Real Break program. Explains the OCF website, "The Real Break program provides an alternative to the 'traditional' Spring Break. It exists to provide the most authentic experience possible, modeled as a full Christian lifestyle, which includes fellowship, prayer within community, witness and service. OCF organizes both domestic and international trips to give college students the opportunity to serve those less fortunate and to do something 'real' for themselves and for God. OCF’s Real Break has been running since 2000 with over a thousand students participating in these life-changing trips. Past trips have included: Mexico, Guatemala, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Raphael House, St. Basil Academy, Greece, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Romania, Buenos Aires, Alaska, and more."
Seven Real Break trips are planned for March, 2013, serving communities in Guatemala, New Orleans, Toronto, LA Skid Row, Honduras, Constantinople (Istanbul), and Mexico. Students can register online, and view both an introductory video and a short fundraising tutorial.