Did you know that more than 46 million people in the United States are living in poverty? That’s one out of every seven Americans, and almost one in four children.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the Catholic Church’s response to poverty in the United States, and it is a concrete example of how the Church can be a vehicle for positive change. CCHD is the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops, working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ “…to bring good news to the poor, release to captives…sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18).

CCHD believes that those who are directly affected by unjust systems and structures know best how to change them and offers low-income people the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities. “This program is unique in that it gives a hand up, not a hand out,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. “CCHD empowers people living in poverty to make real, lasting change.”

CCHD offers two grant programs: a community development grant program and an economic development grant program. Community development grants fund organizations led by people in poverty that organize low-income community members to change structures and policies that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Economic development grants support community-based organizations and businesses that create just workplaces, provide quality jobs and develop assets for low-income people. Both grant programs fulfill CCHD’s mission of empowering low-income individuals living on the margins of society to end poverty in their communities.

Funding for these grants comes almost entirely from the CCHD collection. This year, the collection will take place the weekend of Nov. 18. Twenty-five percent of funds collected remain in the Diocese to support local anti-poverty efforts. The remaining 75 percent is sent to the national CCHD office to fund organizations that empower low-income individuals to eliminate the cycle of poverty. “Although CCHD is a national collection, it benefits organizations and neighbors right here in our local communities,” Pinard said.

In Vermont, two organizations recently have received CCHD grants. Vermont Interfaith Action is a faith-based, grassroots coalition of congregations that aims to rectify social injustices identified by those in impoverished communities, focusing particularly on economic justice, criminal justice system reform and education. Board President Bill Thompson commented, “VIA could not have made such a strong impact on social justice without the support of CCHD over the years. We are tremendously grateful.”

CCHD also funds the Center for an Agricultural Economy. CCHD support has allowed CAE to work with low-income people in the Northeast Kingdom to identify key issues that are barriers to success and to create solutions that end the cycle of poverty. Next weekend is the second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Please consider contributing any amount that you can, and thank you in advance for your generosity.

—Marina Jerry, CCHD intern, Diocese of Burlington

—Originally published in the Nov.10-16, 2018, issue of The Inland See