Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
The Board of Directors of FOCUS North America announces the appointment of Nicholas J. Chakos as its new Executive Director. Chairman Charles Ajalat said, “The Board of Directors is extremely blessed and excited to have found such a great leader to take FOCUS North America to the next level.”
Nick Chakos has over 15 years of experience and demonstrated success in Orthodox non-profit leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, and program development and evaluation. He is both an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the recipient of the Miron Cross, the highest distinction given by the Romanian Orthodox Church to civilians for outstanding social service to Romania. Nick has been with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) for 13 years, occupying positions such as Interim Director of Development and as a member of the Executive Team. Prior to IOCC, Nick worked for Tanzanian Development Association, a division of the Orthodox Church in Tanzania. Nick is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and is passionate about domestic social action.
Mr. Chakos is expected to join FOCUS on February 16.
The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and International Christian Charities (IOCC)
In the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1–23), Jesus explains to His disciples that the one “who receives the word on good ground is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Each year the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch makes a grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). This annual grant of $25,000 is much like the seed or word which falls on good ground. IOCC uses this “seed money” and leverages it with grants from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and churchbased charities to bear fruit in abundance. Here are some examples:
In the last two years St. John the Evangelist Antiochian Orthodox Church in Orinda, CA has engaged in several new forms of outreach to needy people. In each case we have learned that when we respond to God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by Christ (Rom. 5:5), we receive back both anticipated and unanticipated dividends from the Lord Himself… and those we serve!
1. Project Mexico: For two summers in a row teams of adults and kids from our parish have spent a week at St. Innocent Orphanage and built a simple new home for a poor family.
Syria is in the news a lot these days, but what kind of work is being done by the Church in light of the current circumstances? Listeners may be surprised. In this edition of Ancient Faith Presents, Samer Laham, the Director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development for the Patriarchate of Antioch in Damascus, discusses the ongoing humanitarian work of the IOCC in the country.
Since the devastating hurricanes in 2005, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has provided over 600 volunteers and thousands of man-hours to help surviving families along the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives by constructing new homes or doing critical renovations to existing ones. Working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, IOCC expanded its efforts last year by sending Orthodox Action Teams to build homes in Houston.
For 2012, IOCC will extend its humanitarian reach with more home construction and restoration projects set for Houston and for Minneapolis, which suffered a destructive tornado last summer. IOCC is currently recruiting volunteers for one week of active service in Houston or Minneapolis. You do not need to be skilled – just energetic! Activities vary depending on location and construction schedules, but can include siding, roofing, framing, landscaping, painting and support.
Syria (IOCC) — Nariman fled Iraq three years ago with her four sons after her husband was murdered and she no longer felt safe to remain in her homeland. Nariman and her family share the tragic reality of more than one million Iraqi refugees living in Syria. The huge influx of refugees into a country with a population of 22 million has put an enormous strain on Syria's ability to provide basic services such as access to education and health services. Jobs are scarce and Iraqi refugees must rely on savings. As their savings dry up these vulnerable families face poverty and more hardship. The need to be self-sufficient is critical to their survival.
Throughout Syria many creative, intelligent people like Wafa, a single mother with two boys, are also trapped in poverty because they lack access to capital. She used to do simple hairdressing from home with very few clients—mainly her friends and family, but longed to develop her hairstyling skills into a business.
Since 1998, IOCC has offered an internship program to undergraduates and recent college graduates interested in careers in international relief and development. In 2012 we are investigating the possibility of also placing a student or graduate from an advanced degree program. The IOCC Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain firsthand exposure to the operations of an Orthodox Christian international humanitarian aid and development organization.
IOCC internships typically require a 10 to 12 week full-time commitment during the months of May – September. There is also a possibility of a longer placement for a graduate from an advanced degree program. IOCC anticipates offering internship opportunities in, but not limited to, the following offices:
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
United States (Baltimore HQ and/or Minneapolis field office)
A detailed plan for each intern will be developed based on the educational objectives of the intern and the needs of each field office prior to placement. However, the typical responsibilities of an intern will include: participating in field visits to project beneficiaries; working with IOCC staff to continually enhance the effectiveness, impact and implementation progress of ongoing projects; assisting in the production of project reports, success stories and other written communications; and conducting research on various projects and new initiatives.
The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) Board, along with Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes, have announced a nationwide search for a new Executive Director, in order to "build upon a strong foundation and expand the ministry," its website explains.
Current Director Fr. Justin Mathewes writes, "I have been humbled and truly count it as one of the greatest responsiblities I have been given to serve as the founding Executive Director of FOCUS North America. As the Board of Directors and I have considered the next stage of growth, we have mutually agreed that in order to build upon a strong foundation different talents and skills are needed in the next phase....I am excited about the good work FOCUS has to do for the sake of the poor and pray that God will continue to bless those who do the Gospel work of loving God by loving our neighbor."
Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) has announced that eight spring break philanthrophy trips are planned for college students this spring. Notes their website, "The Real Break program provides alternatives to the “traditional” Spring Break for college students. It exists to provide students with the most authentic experience possible, and is modeled as a full Christian lifestyle, which includes fellowship, prayer within community, witness and service. Each Spring, over 100 students attend various trips, both domestic and international, to give of themselves to those less fortunate and to do something 'real' for themselves and for God. OCF Real Break has been running since 2000 with over one thousand students participating in these life-changing opportunities. Past and current trips include: Mexico, Guatemala, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Raphael House, St. Basil Academy, Greece, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Romania, Buenos Aires, Alaska, and more."
This year's trips are as follows:
February 18 - 25, 2012, Real Break - Toronto
February 25 - March 3, 2012, Real Break - Houston
March 2/3 - 10, 2012, Real Break - Constantinople and Real Break - Guatemala
March 10 - 17, 2012, Real Break - Guatemala and Real Break - Romania
March 17 - 24, 2012, Real Break - Tijuana
March 24 - 31, 2012, Real Break - TBD
As we prepare for Thanksgiving and anticipate the Nativity of Christ this Advent, our hierarchs have designated this Sunday, November 20, as IOCC Sunday. Their blessing serves as a reminder of the importance of IOCC's pan-Orthodox mission to restore peoples' lives and dignity.
Please join with us by helping to mark IOCC Sunday – A Day of Sharing – this Sunday, November 20 by taking a special collection in your parish and sharing information about the humanitarian mission of this Orthodox Christian ministry. Information to share in your parishmay be downloaded here. Thank you for supporting the mission of IOCC that is helping to give people throughout the world new hope, new opportunities and new life.