John Paul II's Sahel Foundation Turns 25

Works to Help World's "Poorest Region"

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OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, FEB. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel is marking its 25th anniversary as a Church charity dedicated to helping the peoples of the "poorest region of the planet."



The foundation's anniversary was marked Tuesday in Ouagadougou with a meeting of the management board. A celebratory Mass will also be held there Sunday.

The foundation was instituted by Pope John Paul II after his first trip to Africa in 1980 in which the nation of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) appealed on behalf of populations that struggle daily to survive in the face of the encroachment of the Sahara desert.
 
The foundation's administrative council is made up of bishops representing the episcopates of nine countries of the Sahel.

The custody of funds, generated primarily by the Church in Germany, as well as the participation of the Italian Episcopal Conference, is entrusted to the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," which coordinates the charitable work of Catholic institutions worldwide.

A communiqué issued today by the foundation expressed its objective that people who benefit from its activity "feel as though it's their own."
 
"We delight in the fact that the beneficiaries, in addition to the material aid, appreciate in a particular way the spiritual closeness of the Universal Pastor of the Church," the noted added. "The Foundation hopes to progress in the next few years with this objective."
 
The statement said the foundation "works actively in the gestation and protection of the natural resources, in the fight against drought and desertification, in rural development and in the struggle against poverty," above all through the strategy of "involving the local population" through formation.
 
"A beautiful characteristic of the foundation is its openness to the different religions of the inhabitants, thus becoming an instrument of interreligious dialogue," added the communiqué.
 
The foundation explained it works to aid "one of the poorest regions of the planet," which includes the countries of Burkina Fasso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Last year alone, over 200 projects were carried out through the foundation.
 
In Burkina Fasso and Niger the priority is the fight against drought and desertification through reforestation and the channeling of waters for their best possible use, the note reported.
 
Nevertheless, in the greater part of the countries the priority is formation, both of children as well as adults, especially technicians, both in the field of agriculture as well as that of health.