The impact of a simple cardboard box

This Lenten season Catholic Charities is partnering with Catholic Relief Services along with parishes and schools across the archdiocese through the Lenten tradition of Rice Bowl. Rice Bowl is a CRS faith-in-action program for families and faith communities and 56,000 Rice Bowls have been distributed across the archdiocese as this year's Lenten journey begins. As always, 75 percent of Rice Bowl contributions are used to support CRS programs worldwide, with 25 percent of rice bowl donations staying here in the Archdiocese of Boston to support local food pantry programs.Created in 1943 as the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, Catholic Relief Services work is motivated by the example of Jesus Christ to assist poor and suffering people everywhere. CRS programs are established in 93 countries on the basis of need, without regard to race, religion or nationality, and touch more than 100 million lives annually.

Many of us know that CRS responds at times of weather-related emergencies across the world, but they are also is on the ground whenever there are man-made tragedies. Today, CRS is actively serving thousands of women and children who have fled war-torn regions for refugee camps. In an effort to meet children's educational and psychological needs while living in the camps CRS has established centers for children to both learn and play. Professionals are available to help children deal with the trauma of war.

Through our work at Catholic Charites, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need throughout our community on a daily basis. Through our Rice Bowl partnership with CRS, we are able to hear about those in need world-wide. In response to those needs CRS sponsors a variety of efforts, including water and sanitation projects that bring clean water to communities; microfinance projects that support small businesses; mother and child health projects that offer health and nutrition services and education projects that provide resources and training.

One example of an agriculture project that helps farmers is told through the eyes of the Singh family in East India.

When the Malaguni River in East India floods, Megha and Raj Singh, their two children and their extended family cannot get to the nearest market, which is nearly five miles from their home, to buy and sell food.

If the flood waters do not recede quickly enough, their rice patties will fail, and their animals will become sick from diseases spread through the flood water. The family faces financial danger.

That's where CRS steps in. CRS is helping the Singh family prepare for flooding with new farming tools and techniques. Now Raj Singh, patriarch of the family, can plant a special type of rice that can survive flooding in his fields. He can collect and save his seeds for future use, and he now has the resources he needs to vaccinate his cows, ensuring that they too, survive the floods.

His wife, Megha Singh now grows vegetables in a kitchen garden, so her family has healthy meals even when she can't visit the market. During past floods, the Singh family had to survive solely on what little rice they were able to save from their flooded fields. But now, she can raise the vegetables above flood lines, ensuring her family has reliable access to nutritious food.

Just as important, Megha has learned new ways of growing food, so that the entire family gets the most nutrition out of every meal. Now, the whole Singh family is healthier, and with these new ways of farming, they can continue to thrive, even in the face of extreme environmental conditions.

Theirs is just one story of many which you can learn about at, there, you can access videos and guides that help introduce the ways in which our Catholic faith and the Catholic Church in the U.S. is making a difference all over the world.

To learn more about the impact of this simple cardboard box -- a CRS Rice Bowl -- which inspires prayers, fasting and almsgiving within Catholic families across the U.S., and delivers hope to millions around the world visit or check in with your local parish Rice Bowl coordinator.

To learn more about the work of Catholic Charities visit

- Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.