Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent Series -- Part Two

Waiting and Advent
By Jeff Peck

This is part one of an Advent series prepared by the Commission on Peace and Justice, which was printed in The Evangelist.

Scripture reminds us that something is happening and we must make ourselves ready. We are not very good at waiting, even if we are waiting for things we want, for good stuff. New brakes to stop our car safely, birthday presents, even a dentist’s examination. How fortunate we are that even most of the unpleasant things we wait for can bring us goodness.

People in other places are often more patient than we are. They are good at waiting. When you have little, there is little to become impatient about. Your expectations are not great, but the results of waiting are often a matter of life and death. In Haiti, life expectancy is 57 ½ years. Waiting is a lot more costly for them than us in terms of life span. In a country where a majority of the population has difficulty obtaining water fit to drink, waiting for water trucks to deliver drinking water when available is an accepted part of life. For us, it is bothersome to deal with boil orders when our water systems have problems and we easily get impatient waiting for the order to be lifted but we have the assurance of pure water returning.

We wait in dread for the coming of winter storms because the snow will make driving difficult, cleaning up a nuisance, and potentially cause a change in our plans. We do not live in the hurricane belt waiting for the next hurricane to wash away our crops or blow away our homes. In less than a month’s time, the people of Haiti have been subjected to the devastation of four major storms, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike. One million people became homeless and food has become more difficult to obtain.

As we wait for Christmas and prepare for our customary gift giving, family gatherings, and communal liturgies, it’s important to remember that John the baptizer’s charge to prepare the way of the Lord is our vocation as well. We can extend our waiting and preparation to those in Haiti, where 80% of the population live in dire poverty.

Fonkoze is a multifacted organization that prepares those in abject poverty to enter a micro-lending program. When they are ready, they become part of a solidarity group that qualifies for a loan and then for a larger loan each time they pay off their earlier one. Ultimately the program provides its participants with loans large enough to start businesses and create employment for others. Ninety-nine percent of the participants are women who use the increased income first of all to feed their families and send their children to school.

Melanie Mertyle entered the Fonkoze program for those in extreme poverty. She and her three children had no tangible assets, were unable to earn a living, and experienced great difficulty obtaining food. Nine months after entering the program, the family has a place to live with a cement floor and a tin roof, their first ever latrine, access to clean water, and some health care. Melanie and 149 others were able to enter this program as a result of an investment of only $1,000.00. Now Melanie owns goats and runs a small store in her community. Additional information about Fonkoze is available at the organization’s web site Its literacy and business skills are limited only by the resources available.

Would you consider making a donation to Fonkoze to pay for a woman to learn to read and write ($25) or to learn arithmetic and business skills ($50); to receive a small loan to increase the stock of her vending business ($25-75) or allow her to improve her home with a tin roof, cement floor and latrine ($350)? Given in honor of a loved one or friend, or in memory of a dear one, these relatively small amounts can lift a family from misery to poverty. Tax-deductible donations made out to Fonkoze USA may be sent to the Commission on Peace and Justice, 40 N. Main Ave., Albany NY 12203-1481.

Jeff Peck, a member of the diocesan Commission on Peace and Justice, is a member of St. Joseph’s Parish in Greenwich and an emeritus professor of political science.

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