Caritas is the largest charity organisation in Poland. It consists of 44 diocesan Caritas organisations, which act at the regional level and Caritas Poland, which is responsible for national campaigns and providing international aid – supporting, in particular, victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world.
Caritas Poland has been carrying out its activities on behalf of the Polish Bishops’ Conference since 1990. At the country level, Caritas Poland conducts various campaigns, such as: Christmas candles distribution to collect money for supporting children; the ecumenical Lent campaign when, by giving up some pleasures, children raise money to so-called piggy-banks of mercy; scholarship programmes aimed to increase educational opportunities of students from poor families; collection of funds for food aid for the poorest to raise awareness to the problem of homelessness and marginalisation of the most vulnerable people; fundraising campaigns to collect money for the purchase of medical equipment.
Caritas Poland has also implemented numerous humanitarian and development aid projects in 46 countries affected by conflicts, wars and natural disasters. Recently, Caritas Poland has been particularly supporting the needy in the Middle East: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq as well as in Ukraine, Nepal, South Sudan, and in many countries in Africa and South Asia. Caritas Poland implements its projects in cooperation with Caritas organisations from beneficiary countries, it also cooperates with other NGOs and provides support for charitable activities of Polish missionaries around the world.
Diocesan Caritas organisations are appointed by diocesan bishops as autonomous charities. They provide help in all areas of human misery and focus their activities on the following: supporting families, children and youth; life protection; helping the poor, the homeless, the sick, the elderly and the disabled as well as migrants, refugees and victims of emergency situations.
Diocesan Caritas organisations in Poland manage about 1,000 centres specialised in social assistance, medical and educational care. They are as follows: 180 day care centres for children, 150 medical care centres, 134 medical equipment rentals, 91 soup kitchens, 69 dosshouses and shelters for the homeless, 66 stationary rehabilitation centres, 61 baby boxes, 36 clubrooms for the elderly, 32 single-mother centres, 31 nursing homes, 30 home hospices, 14 stationary hospices and 6 refugee and migrant centres.
There are approximately 100,000 Caritas volunteers who provide support in various centres on a daily basis. They serve in hospices, nursing homes for elderly, ill and disabled people. The support of volunteers is also crucial in organising holidays for children and youth as well as in helping in day care centres for children.
Moreover, there are 5,000 Parish Caritas Teams operating in over half of Polish parishes. The members help the needy in the field of social support, counselling and intervention. PCT volunteers also participate in diocesan and national Caritas campaigns.
Children and young people can also help those in need by engaging in various activities of Caritas School Clubs. There are 2,700 Clubs across Poland. Young volunteers take part in a special formative and educational programme and thus, shape their sense of responsibility and social sensitivity.
There are also Caritas Volunteer Centres, which operate in 20 diocesan Caritas organisations. These are the places where voluntary activities are centrally coordinated, based on the needs of a given diocese. Caritas Volunteer Centres also engage in activities outside the framework of Caritas, at the local, national and international levels.
Rev. Marcin Iżycki
Rev. Marek Dec