In 1943, during World War II, the Catholic Bishops of the United States founded Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to help war-torn Europe and its refugees recover from this great conflict. In the 1950s, as Europe regained its balance, the agency began to look to other parts of the world, seeking out those who could benefit from the assistance of Catholics in the United States. Over the next two decades, Catholic Relief Services expanded its operations and opened offices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. During this time of expansion, CRS built on its tradition of providing relief in emergency situations and began to seek ways to help people in the developing world break the cycle of poverty through community-based, sustainable development initiatives. 74 years later, CRS mission continues to focus on helping those most in need, providing assistance to 85 million people in more than 100 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
CRS emphasizes the empowerment of partners and beneficiaries in programming decisions. Over 93 percent of CRS expenditures go directly to programmes that benefit the poor overseas while 35 percent of CRS programmes and campaigns focuses on emergency relief and recovery in the wake of disasters and civil conflict. Long-term development programming focuses on the areas of agriculture, community health, education, health, HIV/AIDS, micro finance and peacebuilding. Once CRS meets the immediate needs for food, water and shelter when supporting survivors of natural disasters and chronic emergencies, they then transition to rebuilding and reconstruction. The innovative approach of CRS, combining healthcare, literacy and microfinance, has allowed them to engage in 164 sustainable agricultural projects in 34 countries.
CRS headquarters is located in Baltimore, MD and has approximately 5000 employees worldwide. The agency is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of 12 bishops, 1 priest and 10 lay people. Domestically, CRS carries out the social mission of the Church with 8.5 million Catholics in 14 337 parishes, dioceses and schools through programmes such as CRS Rice Bowl, CRS Ethical Trade, the Helping Hands volunteer programme, advocacy initiatives and programmes for university students and young people.
As part of the universal mission of the Catholic Church, CRS works with local, national and international Catholic institutions and structures, as well as other organisations, to assist people on the basis of need, not creed, race or nationality. Overseas work is done in partnership with local church agencies, other faith-based partners, non-governmental organisations and local governments.
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