Most of us will never travel to the West African country of Burkina Faso. Most of us will never see the plots of land where farmers struggle to grow enough food to feed their families during prolonged droughts and severe floods. Many of us may not know that “Burkina Faso” means “land of the upright people.”
But almost 3,000 people experienced a connection with Burkina Faso by packaging 255,848 meals at September’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. As part of Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands, people from all over the world gathered over 3 days in hour-long shifts to feed a nation where an ongoing drought has created a hunger emergency for orphans, widows and people living in poverty.
Held every 3 years, the World Meeting of Families is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. Richard and Angelique Lopez made the trip from Miami, Florida, to Pennsylvania with their five children. They thought the Helping Hands event would be a time for their children to experience spiritual growth.
“Coming here is just such an incredible experience. It’s like a foreshadowing of heaven. There’s people from all over the world. We are all going to work together,” says Angelique Lopez. “I feel like collaborating together for such an important project makes it come alive for our children, what we teach them and what we hope to instill in them in terms of our Catholic faith. We hope for them it was an opportunity to see that if we work together we can make a difference.”
The Lopez family enjoyed packaging the meals, which contain a special mixture of fortified food for Burkina Faso. Their children asked if they could do it again soon.
“It’s also our calling. How are people going to see God’s love if it’s not through us?” asks Richard Lopez. “We were here for an hour or so and we made 40,000 meals just banding together. How much more can we do on a daily basis to help those around us? If we can live out our faith, we can show that love to people all across the world.”
Helping Hands is a partnership between CRS and Stop Hunger Now to eradicate world hunger. Meal-packaging events like the one at the World Meeting of Families provide more than just a nutritious meal. They help CRS change lives.
For nearly 70 years, CRS has worked in Burkina Faso, developing extensive programs that not only feed hungry people, but provide resources and training to help them rise from poverty and escape hunger for good.
For those who volunteer to package the meals, the feeling is like no other, and is probably summed up best by 9-year-old Emmanuel Lopez.
“To help people is nice,” he says.