“Caritas means love. The heartbeat of your work lies in the lives, stories, and faces of the people Caritas serves. Endeavour to put those women, men, and children at the centre of your communications efforts, and you will move others to action and service”
[Caritas Internationalis Communication Manual, p.9]
Caritas Asia, in collaboration with Caritas Austria, organized a webinar on Communication and Resource Mobilization in Emergency, as an opportunity to share experiences and learning among participants about how a well-integrated communication in emergency preparedness and response can better support the Member Organizations (MOs) in mobilizing resources in emergencies, especially at these times of the new normal.
The webinar attracted 67 registrants, consisting of 53 people from 19 Caritas Members in Asia, as well as from the CA Regional Secretariat, and the CI General Secretariat. Participants also included 11 representatives from six Caritas Global Partners and theRegional Secretariat of Caritas Europa. The event was the first of a list of forums, trainings, or conferences lined up for the SHAPE, a 3-year regional humanitarian capacity building program under Caritas Asia Strategic Priority 1: Emergency Response and Disaster Risk Reduction.
The current travel restriction makes it impossible for Caritas Global Partners to fly directly to the affected areas and obtain sufficient pictures, information and stories to produce quality and engaging fundraising materials. At the same time, the National Caritas organizations are highly occupied with the actual relief work and, most of the time, are faced with other challenges, such as human resources and internet connection, which everyone is now currently heavily reliant on. The webinar offered perspectives from both sides of the story and explored possible ways to tackle the challenges and adapt new ways of doing things.
At the Opening Session, Mr. Zar Gomez, Regional Coordinator of Caritas Asia, expressed his aspirations that whatever learnings, stories and new insights that the participants can obtain from the webinar would be able to help them in further integrating communication and resource mobilization into their respective disaster management mechanism, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were four invited resource speakers at the webinar, including Fr. Paul Moonjely, Executive Director of Caritas India; Mr. Linus Ng, Executive Director of CHARIS Singapore; Ms. Astrid Radner, Corporate Media Editor of Caritas Austria; and Ms. Marta Petrosillo, Head of Fundraising, PR and Communications of Caritas Internationalis.
In his presentation, Fr. Paul Moonjelly offered his perspective from an implementing organization. He said that communication is a dynamic process because every disaster brings new situation and learning. He reminded the participants that the content and messaging in communication are crucial in capturing the real problems and needs of the community. Other important points he highlighted were the importance of partnering with local community, intermediary organizations and government agencies, making an appeal and using various channels to communicate the needs.
The intervention of Mr. Linus Ng highlighted on the experience of his organization in mobilizing resources in Singapore, in order to support Caritas MOs in Asia, such as Caritas India, in their current COVID-19 response. He emphasized that timeliness is a key success factor to mobilize resources, but at the same time there is also a challenge of balancing the time between doing the relief work and raising funds.
From the perspective of a Caritas Global partner, Ms. Astrid Radner of Caritas Austria shared the recent efforts of her organization in innovating new ways to cope with all the COVID-19 travel restriction. She shared the experience of Caritas Austria in doing a Digital Press Trip, instead of doing the actual visit. She particularly shared their Digital Press Trip in Beirut, where they were able to collect stories, video footage, photos and other social media of the Beirut blast response, without having to go physically to Beirut. She also reminded the participants to never forget the ethical ways in getting good pictures and fruitful stories.
Grounding all the presentation and discussions, Ms. Marta Petrosillo of Caritas Internationalis invited participants to understand the challenges of resource mobilization in pandemic time from the confederation point of view in general. She also encouraged participants and all MOs to see and use the updated CI Communication Manual as one of the references, particularly in the Emergency Communications section. Apart from sharing her reflections on communications, she also shared a general update about CI to the participants, expecially on the plans and future of the CI Fundraising, PR and Communications Unit.
Ms. Jing Rey Henderson, Head of Research and Advocacy of Caritas Philippines, moderated the entire webinar and successfully weaved different perspectives addressed by the keynote speakers.