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Caritas Bangladesh raises money for poor during Lent

Church's charity arm targets US$60,000 this year as annual campaign goes from strength to strength

Caritas Bangladesh raises money for poor during Lent

A Caritas staffer donates blood during a special Lenten campaign in Dhaka, Bangladesh in this 2016 file photo. (Provided by Caritas Bangladesh)

Caritas Bangladesh, the social service agency of the Catholic Church, is collecting money from people across the country to help the poor and marginalized during the ongoing Lenten season.

Caritas has carried out the three-month-long campaign every year since 1980 to help those in need.

Known locally as Teg O Seba Abhijan, it also goes by the abbreviation TOSA — the Sacrifice and Service Campaign — it has seen thousands of dollars collected from Christians and non-Christians alike.

Caritas officials say it is growing in popularity with about 500,000 people participating last year.

"Even though the campaign spans Lent and the regular season of the church's liturgical calendar, it is specifically designed to help people realize the meaning of sacrifice and service during Lent," Joseph Rozario, who serves as a national coordinator for the campaign, told ucanews.com.

"Our intention is to raise awareness of a 'giving mentality' among people through means of sacrifice."

Rozario said Caritas prints and distributes special envelopes and sets up donation boxes in Catholic parishes and church institutes so people can easily make donations to the cause.

It also produces campaign-themed banners, posters, leaflets, magazines and calendars to distribute widely among schools and religious formation houses.

Some 3,000 Caritas staffers also donate the equivalent of a day's pay and give blood to support the program.

The TOSA campaign earned 4 million Bangladeshi taka in 2016 and 4.06 million last year. This year it is targeting 5 million taka, Rozario said (1 million taka = US$12,050).

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"The money goes to poor people — the sick, or refugees fleeing the effects of climate change. It pays tuition fees for poor students, some goes to help teachers and some is used to rebuild houses for victims of natural disasters," Rozario added.

Founded after Bangladesh gained its independence from Pakistan in 1971, Caritas ranks as one of the country's largest voluntary organizations. It has eight regional offices in as many Catholic dioceses.

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