CRS Rice Bowl – Building a ‘culture of encounter’

For each week of Lent, The Visitor will highlight CRS’ work with a story and a simple, meatless recipe from a country the agency serves. Place the money saved from preparing the simple meal into your CRS Rice Bowl to assist our brothers and sisters in need around the world. At the end of Lent, individuals can give their money to their parish or send donations directly to the St. Cloud Mission Office, 11 8th Ave., S., St. Cloud, MN 56301.


Evelina Banda, 35 years old, with her son, Steven, 16 months old, in Ndombi Village, Zambia. (Photo by Jim Stipe/Catholic Relief Services)

Week 2: March 12-18
Meet Evelina

Evelina Banda, like generations of Zambians before her, used to survive on meals made from corn flour, usually a porridge called “nshima.”

“Growing up, I’d eat porridge in the morning, at lunchtime and again in the evening,” she says. After all, it was cheap and easy to make.

Unfortunately, nshima has very little nutritional value — and relying too heavily on it has led to high rates of malnutrition. Many in Zambia have full bellies, but little nourishment. And this is particularly dangerous for children under the age of two, who need high levels of vitamins and minerals to grow up healthy and strong. That means mothers who are nursing — as well as their children — need nutritious meals.

So, CRS is teaching women like Evelina how to prepare healthier meals and grow new, vitamin-rich crops like peanuts, pumpkins and sugar cane. In many cases, these crops were already being grown in the village. Now, Evelina and others are adding more nutritious food to their children’s nshima: ground peanuts or eggs, for example. And, what the women learn, they share with their community — especially expectant mothers.

“We sing and dance during the cooking lessons because we are happy to learn how to cook different types of food,” says Evelina. Evelina is healthier, and so is her son, Steven. “I know I am taking good care of him, because he’s full of energy, he’s strong and never sick,” she says, with a smile.

Watch a video about the Evelina at:




Portrait of Santos Fernando Sánchez García, 22, a member of the Youths Builders “Jóvenes Constructores” program supported by Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador.  (Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services)

Week 3: March 19-25
Meet Fernando

Fernando dreams of becoming a businessman. He also dreams of a better future for his family, and this motivates him to sell cookbooks on San Salvador’s buses. It’s dangerous work for $10 a day — gangs frequently stop and harass drivers and passengers — but he keeps going, determined to achieve his dreams.

It was his dreams that led him to YouthBuild, a six-month, CRS-sponsored program that trains young people in business. There, he found a positive community to help him pursue his passion, despite the challenges of life in El Salvador. “When I tell my classmates that I want to do something, they tell me to try it and to not hold back.”

Training for six months with YouthBuild wasn’t easy on Fernando or his family. Without his wife to support him and care for their two young daughters, the early mornings and long days might have been impossible. “YouthBuild is a family because families help you realize your dreams,” Fernando says. It’s a fact he knows well.

Fernando is putting his newfound skills to work. After graduating from YouthBuild in 2016, he took part in a series of entrepreneur workshops organized by CRS and is currently working on a new business plan. He is also a part of the YouthBuild network of graduates, youth leaders who mentor other young people and look for new opportunities for employment and growth.

“We have a saying,” says Fernando. “Once a YouthBuilder, always a YouthBuilder.

Watch a video about the Fernando at:


Day-by-day reflections and activities for Lent

About The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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