Caritas Zimbabwe was founded in 1972 by then Rhodesian Catholic Bishops Conference (RCBC) as the Commission for Social Services and Development (C.S.S.D), to carry out the social work of the Church. The organisation was renamed to Catholic Development Commission (CADEC) in 1984, due to a shift in the emphasis of its work, from social welfare to development.
Today, the agency is known as Caritas Zimbabwe to identify with other Catholic Development agencies and provides a beacon of hope for tens of millions of women, men and children in times of hardship and contributes to the development of social justice in times of peace; working with people to bring about positive changes in some of the poorest provinces in Zimbabwe.
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The agency’s mandate includes integral human development, emergency relief, advocacy, peace building, respect for human rights, and support for proper stewardship of the planet’s environment and resources.
What makes Caritas Zimbabwe’s work unique is its ongoing presence in communities, before, during and after crisis situations as it empowers people to participate more fully in all matters affecting their lives, as well as advocates on their behalf at national and international forums.
Vital to the success of their programmes are partnerships with the global Caritas network and 8 dioceses as the pool of expertise and resources enables the agency to fully identify issues at the grassroots level, analyze them and take action locally, regionally and globally.
Among the agency’s activities are water and sanitation projects that have increased access to clean water and hygiene practices to an average of 70 percent of the community; ensuring secure, safe and healthy living conditions for families.
Caritas Zimbabwe’s agriculture and food security programmes improves families livelihoods and increases their incomes through initiatives such as setting up community gardens, supplying seeds and equipment, and improving adaptation techniques to increase food crop yields.
Caritas Zimbabwe emergency and humanitarian assistance provides lifesaving aid to the lives of those affected by natural disasters and who are suffering from poverty and hunger. During a severe drought in the early 1990s, the agency helped avert large-scale hunger through supplying food to those in most urgent need.
Caritas Zimbabwe’s work focuses on HIV/AIDs prevention and awareness campaigns to address orphans and the two million people living with HIV and their families.
Caritas Zimbabwe implements their activities through the National Office in Harare and eight diocesan offices, namely the Archdioceses of Harare and Bulawayo, and the dioceses of Gweru, Masvingo, Gokwe, Chinhoyi, Mutare and Hwange.
At the National level, the policy and decision making body is the National Executive Committee composed of the president who is a bishop and ex officio, the officers of the National Office, diocesan ex officios and diocesan coordinators.
At the diocesan level there is a similar body composed of the local ordinary and ex officio, the diocesan coordinator and the development team of field officers and elected representatives from communities with whom the commission is working in development work.
The agency’s staff and volunteers carry out the initiatives in the 8 Caritas Dioceses and 97 Caritas parishes so local people are in control of the implementation process, and in turn, their own development.
Caritas Zimbabwe works in partnership with other Caritas agencies to implement emergency and development programmes; such as Caritas England and Wales-CAFOD, Catholic Relief Services USA, Caritas Ireland-Trócaire, Caritas Australia and Caritas Denmark.