Fighting Poverty in Developing Nations With Community Transformation

While the world has changed so much over the centuries, it can feel like time stands still in developing nations. There, families suffer from tremendous poverty that disconnects them from our modern times. Conveniences like electricity and running water often are out of reach, and in many places, families struggle with the most basic necessities, including clean water, food and safe shelter.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Cross Catholic Outreach is empowering missions of the Catholic Church to systematically address global poverty using a strategy called integral human development.

Related: Global Ministries of Mercy to At-Risk Children

What Is Integral Human Development?

Integral human development is a Christ-centered approach that addresses the complex causes of poverty by promoting the good of every person. This approach empowers children, adults and families to flourish economically, intellectually, physically and spiritually — vastly improving the quality of life while leading souls to heaven.

Cross Catholic Outreach’s community transformation projects are rooted in integral human development. Projects are tailored to meet the needs identified by each community — including food, education, water, medical, housing and income generation. One of the key elements of integral human development is spiritual formation. As Catholics, we know that material wealth is not enough to create a just society. Lasting change is possible only through Jesus Christ and his Church.

The Catholic Church’s Role in Integral Human Development

Solidarity with the poor has been a priority of the Catholic Church throughout its entire history — beginning with early Christians who followed Christ’s example to support orphans, widows and the vulnerable. On Easter in 1967, Pope Saint Paul VI took this a step further, issuing his Encyclical . This important pastoral letter explained integral human development as “foster[ing] the development of each man and the whole man.”

Cross Catholic Outreach continues this rich tradition through its relationship with the Dicastery for Promoting Human Integral Development, a department of the Vatican curia. This relationship empowers Cross Catholic Outreach to work hand in hand with Catholic bishops in developing nations to help make their visions a reality.

Help Now: Join the fight against global poverty

The Four Stages of Community Transformation

Community transformation is not a one-size-fits-all plan. It involves thorough research to understand each community’s unique challenges — and partnerships with trusted Catholic leaders already on the ground.

At Cross Catholic Outreach, we follow a four-step, multiyear approach to address the challenges of poverty.


Select ministry partners ready to identify areas of need and make a difference.


Test and build our partners’ capacity with small projects and formalize plans to address needs.


Launch extensive projects to achieve integral human development.


Implement a sustainability plan to grow and maintain community transformation.

Community Transformation in the Dominican Republic

Over the past quarter century, the Dominican Republic has experienced strong economic growth, but in many parts of this Caribbean nation, little has changed. One in six Dominicans lives in poverty, with the highest concentration in rural communities. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly erased years of economic gains, and families that pray to escape poverty’s clutches are slowly losing hope.

Cross Catholic Outreach is addressing this urgent need with our trusted partner, FUNDASEP, the social outreach arm of the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana. Together, we are meeting a wide range of needs including:

  • ●  Clean water
  • ●  Housing
  • ●  Education
  • ●  Food
  • ●  Income generation
  • ●  Agriculture

Cross Catholic Outreach is committed to providing relief and empowering poor families with the material, educational and spiritual resources to transform lives within the poorest communities. For example, in the community of Pan de Azúcar, thanks to their new clean water supply, 885 people no longer have to rely on a lagoon shared with farm animals for drinking water.

Related: Safe Water Changes Everything in the Dominican Republic

Community Transformation in Ghana

Ghana was one of the first sub-Saharan countries in Africa to gain its independence from Great Britain. Poverty has declined in recent years, but challenges persist in the northern regions, which are susceptible to floods and droughts. In the Diocese of Wa, Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr tells us the needs are great — there is a lack of physical structures, sanitation, and security and poor access to education.

Cross Catholic Outreach is working with Bishop Baawobr to enact the diocese’s community transformation plan, beginning with the most severe problems: the lack of clean water and insufficient sanitation. Future projects will build schools, address income generation and may include possible test shipments of material aid.

Related: Empowering African Communities Through Water and Workshops

Community Transformation in Guatemala

According to the World Bank, Latin America is the region hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a collapse in tourism and high unemployment leading to a worsening economic crisis. Poverty is especially pronounced in Guatemala, where nearly half of all children under age 5 are chronically malnourished.

Our Catholic partners are taking a stand against poverty while defending and growing the faith through spiritual outreach. In the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu, Bishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado is building a permanent social pastoral center that will point families to the love of God. Spiritual enrichment is one of the priorities in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima, where Father Raul Monterroso is expanding the lay ecclesiastical ministry. Other projects address needs for water systems, housing, food, education and agriculture.

Related: Manifesting Christ’s Presence in Guatemala

Community Transformation in Nicaragua

In the 1980s, civil war devastated Nicaragua. Decades later, families are plagued with the long-term effects, including a persistent wealth gap, low wages and a lack of access to quality schools. These troubling conditions trap parents and children in a seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty.

In Nicaragua, community transformation projects are designed to break this cycle. Our partners built community water systems and modern bathrooms in the community of Espavel and provided daily nutritious meals to more than 1,000 hungry children and adults in La Paz Centro. With your help, we can continue these life-saving efforts as the country recovers from devastating back-to-back major hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Help Now: Fight Poverty in Latin America

Community Transformation in Tanzania

Tanzania is a land rich in natural beauty, with the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and the wildlife-rich Serengeti. Tragically, it’s also home to widespread human suffering. Tanzania has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV and AIDS, which has virtually wiped out an entire generation. Nearly a third of Tanzanians lack access to clean drinking water, and more than half don’t have modern sanitation facilities.

Cross Catholic Outreach is currently in the early stages of a community transformation partnership with the Diocese of Geita in northwestern Tanzania. There, the Catholic bishop has a bold plan to expand access to education and clean, safe water. Current projects include hiring a diocesan water specialist and education specialist to improve health while sharing the Gospel. We’re also supporting efforts to build housing for teachers and young adults who have aged out of traditional orphanages.

Related: Global Ministries of Mercy to At-Risk Children

little girl with food

Help Fight Poverty With Community Transformation

Community transformation is rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ, who calls us to take care of our brothers and sisters through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The need is great — but we know that God’s plan is greater. Community transformation projects give families a pathway out of poverty and restore their dignity.

Join Cross Catholic Outreach to stand in solidarity with the poor and transform lives forever.

Donations from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.