Anthony Thang of the Portland Zomi Catholic community shakes Archbishop Alexander Sample’s hand while Zomi leader Francis Khampi holds a Catholic Campaign for Human Development certificate. The refugee community received $5,000 from the campaign to help train men for jobs so families can afford Catholic schools. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Anthony Thang of the Portland Zomi Catholic community shakes Archbishop Alexander Sample’s hand while Zomi leader Francis Khampi holds a Catholic Campaign for Human Development certificate. The refugee community received $5,000 from the campaign to help train men for jobs so families can afford Catholic schools. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

A group of Portland Catholic refugees from Myanmar will use a $5,000 grant to train men as truck drivers, from learning English to abiding by the rules of the road. Those jobs will boost family income and allow the families to fulfill a fervent wish — sending their children to Catholic schools.

That was one of 10 Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants announced July 12 at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center.

“This will help Catholics who are looking for a better life,” said a grateful Francis Khampi, leader of the Zomi Catholic Community, which is based at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland.

The grants come from money collected in Catholic parishes each fall for the campaign, which is the U.S. Catholic bishops’ longtime anti-poverty effort.

Other recipients included Community LendingWorks, which earned a $60,000 national grant. The Springfield agency offers small loans to low-income people to begin business enterprises. The national campaign office gave $40,000 to Northwest HUB, a Salem bicycle rehab organization that provides transportation and job skills training.

A mixed grant — $10,000 from the national office and $1,500 from the local collection — went to Bienestar, which develops housing for low-income Latinos in Washington County. Bienestar already operates more than 500 units and will train leaders to advocate for immigrant rights and more housing.

“We are so grateful to partner with you, to be part of the great work that you do,” Archbishop Alexander Sample told grant recipients, who were treated to a meal at the pastoral center. “Whatever your personal motivations may be, know that our motivation comes from our faith and our desire to see in those you serve and work with the face of Christ.”

The archbishop lauded the workers and organizers — many of whom are low-income people themselves — for being in the front lines and getting to know those on the peripheries of life. He urged critics of immigrants and refugees to follow the example and listen to the stories of people before speaking.

Another grant winner was the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, which is convening Latino families and developing leaders in Washington County, starting at St. Pius X Parish.

“We’ll be listening to them about the needs they see locally and more broadly in the state and we’ll follow their lead,” said Mary Nemmers, a MACG leader from St. Andrew Parish in Northeast Portland. “We’ll support them in advocating for themselves and their community.”

Matt Cato — director of the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace — oversees the Catholic Campaign grant process in Oregon with the help of a committee. Cato told the gathering that charity is vital, but we ought not lean on it alone to address needs in the world.

“Jesus did say they we will always have the poor among us. He did not say we need to be resigned to this state,” Cato said.

For Catholics, he added, charity and social justice are a both-and, since both are founded on the life and teaching of Jesus. 

“Social justice is correcting the laws, the organizations, and the cultures that perpetuate the need,” Cato said. “As we mature, our hearts lead us to advocate to feed the hungry through safety nets and food policies; to give to the thirsty drink that is clean and universally accessible; to welcome the stranger through immigration reform and immigrant rights; to shelter the homeless by ending homelessness through policies that create affordable housing and treat mental health; to ensure that our government does not pay for elective abortions and that society funds systems that support our financially-challenged mothers.”

Organizations that win grants must be led in large part by low-income people. Campaign organizers say that develops leadership to create change.

“Whatever our Oregon looks like today, we can be better,” said Cato. “We will be better.”

 

Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant recipients

Larger grants came from the national CCHD office. Smaller grants were given by a local committee.

• Unete Center for Farm Worker Advocacy in Medford — $6,000 for helping parents of Latinos advocate more effectively for their children in schools. 

• Huerto de la Familia in Eugene — $5,000 to develop organic farming businesses.   

• Zomi Catholic Community in Portland — $5,000 to train immigrant men for jobs as truck drivers with the aim of raising income of families so they can send children to Catholic schools.

• Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good in Washington County — $5,000 to identify needs and develop Latino leaders via Catholic parishes.

• PHOENIX Rising Transitions in Gresham — $5,000 to increase support for transition of inmates released from prison.

• Bienestar in Hillsboro — $11,500 for training leaders to advocate for immigrant rights and lower cost housing.

• Outgrowing Hunger in Portland — $5,000 for training and support for Burmese refugee farmers in East Portland.

• Creative Kitchen in Portland — $4,000 for market viability exploration for a restaurant run by low income people in the Catholic Charities office building in Southeast Portland. 

• Community LendingWorks in Springfield — $60,000 for small loans to low-income people who want to start businesses.

• The Northwest Hub in Salem — $40,000 to expand a bicycle rehab project that provides transportation and job skills to low income people.