(Vatican Radio) Its name, in Gaelic, means ‘friend of the missions’. Its work provides life-saving support for vulnerable communities in over 50 countries worldwide. And its members are hoping that Pope Francis may be able to see this vital outreach to the margins firsthand during his expected visit to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families in August 2018.
This week the Irish faith-based missionary movement Misean Cara is launching its new five year plan, focused on key areas of education, healthcare, sustainable development and human rights. The new strategy is based on a global consultation with over a thousand beneficiaries in more than ten countries and highlights a particular concern for women and children, refugees or displaced people, and the disabled.
The CEO of Misean Cara, Heydi Foster, embodies many of the goals and values that the organisation seeks seeks to promote. Born in Guatemala to parents educated by missionaries, her family suffered under the military dictatorship and she was forced to flee, first to Mexico, then to the United States. She puts her own “faith, resilience and hope” down to that experience which profoundly affects her work with the Dublin-based Misean Cara today…
Listen to Heydi Foster talking to Philippa Hitchen:
Heydi explains that the organisation is a thriving missionary movement, which works closely with its 90 members to deliver emergency and development aid to the most needy communities, largely in developing countries.
Schools in South Sudan
She gives an example of an education project, supported by Misean Cara and run by the Loreto sisters for girls in South Sudan, where “the economy has collapsed and war and famine are stifling development”. She cites shocking statistics, showing that a teenage girl in South Sudan is “seven times more likely to die in childbirth, than to complete secondary school”.
Advocating for girls' rights
Alongside running primary and secondary schools for girls in Rumbek, the Loreto sisters are also training teachers and advocating for girls’ rights to education – at “great personal risk” in such an unstable situation. Missionaries are best placed to respond to emergencies and conflicts, she says, because they stay in countries for decades and are there before, during and after, as communities begin to rebuild.
Transparency and sustainability
Among the main challenges that Misean Cara faces today, the CEO highlights the need to ensure that the organisation continues to fund projects that support those most in need, as well as responding to new emergencies. She stresses Misean Cara’s commitment to transparency, guaranteeing that all money donated to emergency projects, goes “100% to our members”.
Heydi Foster also notes that all the members of her organisation take child safeguarding very seriously and are “seen as leaders across Europe in this area”
Invitation to Pope Francis
Finally she issues a special invitation to Pope Francis, saying “I would love it if, next year when he comes to Ireland, he would visit Misean Cara!”
Find out more about how to become a change-maker with Misean Cara at www.miseancara.ie