Project Compassion 2017 - Love Thy Neighbour


In support of the world’s poor, including millions in our immediate region, thousands of school children, teachers, churches and community leaders across Australia, are putting their compassion into action, during Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion.

The World Bank estimates that 90 million people live in extreme poverty in Australia’s neighbouring region. Another 300 million are vulnerable to falling back into poverty due to natural disasters, climate change, disease and economic shocks.

Semiti Qalowasa, National Director of Fiji’s People’s Community Network (PCN), a Caritas partner agency which supports families who face poverty and live in Fiji’s ‘squatter’ settlements, visited Sydney schools and communities in February to promote Project Compassion.

On February 28, Semiti joined dozens of students at De Le Salle College, Ashfield in an opportunity for Australian school students to learn more about the challenges of poverty and landlessness faced by the people of Semiti’s native Fiji.

More than a quarter of Fiji’s people live in these settlements, with little hope of finding permanent housing and land. Their situation is precarious and vulnerable – many live in unstable shelters, and there is a constant threat of extreme climate events.

Semiti himself grew up in an informal settlement and knows personally the toll that these squatter settlements take on one’s sense of self-worth and value.

“People in informal settlements have been living there for quite some time. So they start to believe that they are nobody, that they have no rights,” says Semiti.

But now their voices are linked through the powerful chorus of the People’s Community Network. Supported by Caritas Australia since 2009, PCN brings together informal settlements, enabling them to advocate to improve their access to education, housing and employment.

“One thing that my past taught me is to give back to the community what I have learned and to try and lift them up from their impoverished situation,” Semiti said.

“I always tell them: I was once in your shoes. I was once a squatter, like you. I was once someone who had nothing.”

The program develops the understanding of shared goals by community members, and helps them stand up with more confidence for their rights as citizens. For Savu, a PCN staff member, the work of the settlements is to carry out workshops on community empowerment, social analysis and economic literacy.

“These three workshops are the big changers. They change mindset – they change relationships, and build relationships for people to become change agents in their communities,” Savu says.

The organisation has also empowered community members to better manage their finances.

“PCN has established savings groups across Fiji, with women in leadership roles,” Savu said.

“These groups encourage people in the community to make weekly savings so they can access education, healthcare and housing.”

Project Compassion raises money for the empowerment of entire communities through organisations like PCN. It is held annually for six weeks in the lead up to Easter. In 2016 Caritas Australia raised over $11 million dollars. Money raised goes towards humanitarian and long-term development programs in more than 29 countries across Asia, Africa, the Pacific and Australian Indigenous communities.

Throughout Project Compassion 2017, inspiring stories from the Philippines, Timor - Leste, Australia, Vietnam and Fiji will be shared, highlighting the importance of working hand in hand with communities around the world.

“Caritas Australia has worked with partner agencies overseas and in First Australian communities to assist those communities lift themselves out of poverty. We have transformed millions of lives in the process, including over 2 million people directly last year through our emergency and development programs,” said Paul O’Callaghan, Caritas Australia’s CEO.

“I encourage you to be a part of Project Compassion because your donations make a big difference to our capacity to help impoverished communities become stronger and more resilient. This can only lead to a better future for our world.”

To donate to Project Compassion, or for fundraising ideas, visit or call 1800 024 413. 

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