Caritas India, the Catholic Church’s leading charity in the country, is seeking to draw Indians from different religions to help it work for social change. Some NGOs only offer short-term support in times of necessity, like natural calamities, in the form of food and relief aid which does not empower people for long-term change, said Father Frederick D'Souza, Executive Director of Caritas India. Father D'Souza was speaking Nov. 9-10 at a national conference on "volunteering for change" that Caritas India organized to stress the importance of volunteering for social change. Some 300 volunteers from different NGOs attended the program in New Delhi. Hindu and Muslim leaders were part of the conference. Charity work may temporarily satisfy the needs of the people
but it will end up making them dependent. "What we need is social change and not people’s dependency," he said. Caritas India has initiated a special plan to widen its volunteer base, Amrit Sangma, its public relations officer told ucanews.com. The agency currently has some 20,000 volunteers
helping in the fields of health, education, the environment and fighting human trafficking. In the next five years, Caritas plans to widen this base to one million, Sangma said. "Service should be based on need and not based on religion," said Hindu leader Swami Chidananda Saraswati, co-founder at the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance. "We need to move "from temples to build more toilets," he said, stressing the need for proper sanitation in India. Muslim leader Mohammed Salim Engineer, secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said Islam stands for peace and exhorts its followers to work for peace. A true Muslim will join hands with others in society to help those in need, he said. Caritas India chairman Bishop Lumen Monteiro of Agartala said volunteerism exits in all religions. "As a Christian it is also our vocation to give back to society," he said. Nigel Wallace, Director of Income Development at Caritas Internationalis said not everyone will have money to donate for charity "but we all can give time. Even a small gesture of help can change the world," he said.