The National Council of Churches (NCC) has its its hands full, digging around in the grime of poverty, uncovering people with dreams not so different from ours.
NCC's Office for Global Education, located in Charles Village, transferred here from Indiana over a decade ago. The office reaches all over the world, making connections with like-minded organizations, teaching children and leaders both at home and abroad.
It provides information, monetary help, and organizational training to a variety of peace and justice organizations. They get people involved and support those who are already involved, including more than 100 organizations worldwide. The office is especially attentive to people who need help but, for polictical reasons, do not receive aid from other potential providers.
"In order to be a good American," explains Tom Hampson, 48, associate director of The Office on Global Education, "you have to be a good citizen, and sometimes that means you have to be critical towards your country's actions. For instance, we have been shipping medical supplies into Cuba and Iraq for humanitarian purposes." Nearly half of the blankets shipped to Iraq came from a supply warehouse in New Windsor, Maryland.
Church World Service (CWS), the division of NCC to which the Office of Global Education belongs, is probably best known for its CROPWALKS, described by Mr. Hampson as "walk-a-thons organized by member churches and citizen groups, the proceeds of which go to fight hunger world-wide." The OGE teaches techniques for hosting a sucessful CROPWALK and gives talks for any interested organization on hunger, international development and refugee resettlement issues.
The OGE also publishes a series of fact sheets, crammed with statistics, personal stories, poetry, art, photographs and phone numbers. This popular series, entitled "Facts Have Faces," is one of the ways CWS raises awareness for its causes. Touching on the personal lives of the affected, "Facts Have Faces" discusses child prostitution, victims of abandoned landmines, hunger, and the hidden costs of tourism in developing countries.
"Those who love peace must be stronger and tougher than those who love war," said the NCC regional representative in the Balkans, Peter Mikuliak, "We cannot surrender to the temptation to return violence for violence, lest we ourselves become that which we hate."
Last year the NCC responded to a "rash" of arsons of black churches in the south. Working in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, the Council has raised over $12 million in donations to help rebuild the ruined churches. "I see us challenging the U.S. government in terms of a more humane policy for the poor in America and in other countries," Hampson says.
The number of member churches has been declining over the years, spreading the burden of peacekeeping thin amoung remaining affiliates. Through a mixture of faith and experience, the NCC remains strong, continuing to provide aid where aid is desperatly needed.