Maria Isabel (Mari) Barboza is the CRS/Northeast- Mid-Atlantic Program Officer for Global Partnerships and Hispanic Outreach. Mari works with Catholic organizations in the region to raise awareness about the realities of the poor and marginalized around the world and to invite groups to join CRS’ efforts. She takes the lead in reaching out to the Hispanic Catholics and other ethically diverse communities. She began her career with CRS in 2000, as a Project Manager in Kenya and then in Zambia and worked in projects ranging from peace building to HIV-AIDS and gender responsiveness. She then served as the Regional Technical Advisor for Human Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean for three years. In 2005, she joined the Global Solidarity Partnerships Unit in Baltimore where she facilitated relationships between U.S. and overseas dioceses.
Before joining CRS Mari worked for the Inter-American Foundation, an organization that supports community development in Latin America and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. Mari received her B.A. in Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and her M.A. in International Relations from the John’s Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C.
I am very delight to have an interview with Mrs Maria Isabel ( Marie ) Barboza for the readers of the weekly bulletin of The National Center of the Haitian Apostolate
Good Morning Maria Isabel
Good Morning Brother Tob
Could you tell us about your childhood and the influences that led you into being a program officer CRS?
I grew up in Peru where I saw the difference between those that have resources and those that do not and I asked myself why. This motivated me to help the poor around the world through organizations like the Peace Corps, the Inter-American Foundation and now Catholic Relief Services.
Please tell us of your work as program officer CRS.
I work in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States establishing local partners and raising awareness about the work CRS does to help the poor around the world.
Could you give us a brief description of the Peruvian community in the United States; its problems and its challenges?
The Peruvian community in the US is large in certain areas like Miami, New Jersey and New York. Many Peruvians left the country after the years of insecurity in the 80s and 90s. It is a hard-working community and we pride ourselves in our cuisine, which is a fusion of native, European and more recently Asian influences.
Please tell us of the culture of Peru.
Peru is a beautiful and diverse country. We are one of the most diverse countries in terms of microclimates, since we have three distinct geographic areas: the Pacific Coast, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. We have people of indigenous, European, African and Asian descent which bring their, culture, music and cuisine. Even though we have made some progress in our economy, we still have a large disparity between the rich and the poor and development has not reached some of the more remote areas. Economic activity is very centralized in the capital city with 8 million people, one third of the country’s total population.
You went to Haiti several times. Please tell us of your vivid experience with the population of Haiti.
Haiti is a very special place. I have a tremendous love and respect for the Haitian people. They have had so many trials over the years with political turmoil, natural disasters and economic problems. However, the people are resilient and work hard to overcome these obstacles. I was in Haiti after three days of violence had kept everyone at home, but even then, people were going to the market, trying to resume their lives as best as they could. Haitian people are very artistic and love beauty. I love to see the painted vehicles and even humble homes that are decorated in colors. There are great handicraft makers and musicians from Haiti. Whenever I have been to Haiti, I have felt a warm welcome and witnessed the strong faith of the people.
What the Haitian community can expect of the Conference of CRS on June in Washington?
This will be an important opportunity for the Haitian Diaspora community in the United States to dialogue with the Church in Haiti. Also, it will be a time to get to know many of the U.S. parishes and religious congregations doing work in Haiti. They will be able to listen, share dreams and best practices and network with each other. They will hear about projects in education, health and many other topics that are going well. We can no longer afford to do our own little projects, we must work together and communicate with each other to make a difference in the lives of Haitians.
Maria, 40,000 children die every day of hunger, As a Christian, what are your views on this issue?
This is a sin in the world of today that generates so much wealth. It is not a problem of lack of resources, but a lack of distribution of those resources. It is a responsibility of the world’s richest countries to understand and address these inequalities. It is also a responsibility of the leaders of the developing countries to address the inequalities within their countries and create the necessary protections for the poorest of the poor. We must hold our leaders and each other accountable.
Please tell us of your experience in Africa
Africa is also a continent with many resources but also many struggles. There are some similarities to the situation in Haiti, where people are creative and hard-working, but the structural conditions are oppressive. The Church through Caritas and CRS provides help for people, such as a significant percentage of health, education and potable water services and lends them a hand to improve their lives.
What are the joys and challenges of your life as a Peruvian woman?
I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and live in many countries. I has been a privilege to have met people who are doing God’s work every day. One of the joys from my work is to see when people are given the opportunity and improve their lives. Also, it is rewarding when young people in the U.S. become aware of the difficulties that many of our brother and sisters around the world face and become passionate advocates.
Thank you Mrs Maria for agreeing to answer my questions.
Frère Buteau (Brother Tob)
For The National center