Catholic Church and World Vision reach out to 15,000 displaced in Azerbaijan's capital

In May 2002, Pope John Paul II made an historic visit to Azerbaijan. His visit fulfilled the promise he made several years ago to the people of the predominantly Muslim country. Touched by the hardships of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the capital city Baku, the Pope donated US$100,000 to Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Baku. Discussion began on how to best use the funds in order to bring hope to children and families in Baku.
World Vision's success in mobilising communities to work together, identify their needs and take steps forward towards solutions themselves, drew the attention of the Catholic Church, resulting in a sound local partnership with the Vatican. World Vision, with its eight-year presence in Azerbaijan, has implemented the Urban Community Development Program in Baku since August 2000.

IDPs, refugees, and local populations are now working closely together in Community Development Committees (CDC) to identify community needs and to start micro projects. The micro projects are designed to have a very practical and sustainable output: to improve the infrastructure, education, health, and recreational services for children. These committees are clustered in 3 main geographical areas of Baku. The groups recently started to access the funds provided by the Catholic Church through World Vision. Around 15,000 IDP children and adults will benefit directly from these initiatives.

The first micro project implemented in Baku assists families in purchasing school books for children. Each of the three 'Baku Clusters' received US$ 2,000 to purchase the textbooks needed by the children. As sustainability is key, the parents are required to pay a small amount every month to the CCDC fund. When the school year is over, the textbooks will be returned to the CCDCs for safekeeping, and the money in the fund will be used for more textbooks or other community needs.

The next project put forward and developed by the communities is about to be launched: the building of three centres of vocational training for children and youngsters. A budget of US$ 8,000 is put aside for each of the three 'Resource Centers'. The renovation of the public buildings has begun and equipment for training has been purchased. Soon sewing machines, computers, and other tools will enable children and young adults to learn the technical skills to improve the quality of their lives and further develop their communities.

With the Catholic Church's contribution to the poorest of the poor and World Vision's commitment to the development of healthy communities, Baku will see more projects implemented in the near future.