I’ve been executive director of nonprofit Cáritas de Puerto Rico for longer than I’ve been a priest. Thirteen years, one devastating hurricane, countless tremors, one pandemic and counting.
But of all the misery, need and challenges that I’ve witnessed through my chosen career, one is more despiteful than any: indifference. I’ve seen it, at some point or another, from the government, from neighbors or family members of our thousands of participants, also from communities at large.
It seems that the fate and rescue of the unfortunate, underprivileged, and marginalized is largely dependent on the third sector, both nonprofit and faith-based organizations like ours. It is our duty, responsibility, and commitment to do so, but the load should not be only in our hands.
As members of one big community, neighbors, and Christians we are called to recognize, support and lift those in need — one another.
We’ll never grow as a group if, individually, we’re unable to show sympathy and act upon it. Because charity is more than giving away money. That’s the easy part.
We’ve been blessed with individual and corporate supporters that allowed us to channel millions of dollars in food, supplies, services, materials and equipment to attend the needs of the 78 municipalities after Hurricane María, our peers from the south after the earthquakes and, now, more than 75,000 people during the pandemic and counting.
Backed by dozens of unspoken heroes, our local parishes Cáritas volunteers serving unconditionally with face masks and gloves as their only armor.
But that’s not enough. Our goal is to support the whole person, understanding all of their needs to provide for their human development from within. Supporting their lacks and challenges, and offering the tools to grow, provide for themselves and succeed based on their own talents and desires. We all have the right to feel important, needed, and valuable.
The third sector should not be viewed as the rescuing team, as the one and only one responsible for supporting those left out by the challenging economy, lack of resources, and unfairness.
We’re a contributing workforce, an important player in our society, and a supporter of the local economy. What we do directly impacts our daily growth as a country and is often taken for granted.
We all can do our part in supporting local charities, nonprofit and faith-based organizations knowing that their unwavering will, tireless work and results, despite often not being seeing/valued, are the roots currently sustaining the fiber of our society.
My hope is that we can do better tomorrow, than today in being more just, fair, and equitable with one another.