Justice For All Dinner to benefit work of Catholic Charities

By Joanna Gardner

Cinh Hoih Nuam, her husband Tu Za Sing, and their three children had just arrived in the United States as refugees. Political and religious persecution had forced them to flee their native Burma to Malaysia and then to the U.S.

They stepped off the plane and Cinh Hoih Nuam was rushed immediately to the hospital.

Cinh Hoi Nuam suffers from a kidney condition that requires dialysis three times a week, but during their travel she had not had treatment for days. They were greeted at the airport in their own language by Francis A Pau, a native of Burma and their case manager from Catholic Charities refugee and immigration services program. Catholic Charities had arranged for Medicare and transportation to Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden.

Cinh Hoi Nuam’s first weeks in the United States were spent in daily hospital visits for dialysis. Doctors finally decided that the only option was surgery. Needing permission to perform the emergency operation, hospital staff made a midnight call to Kaitlyn Muller, director of Catholic Charities’ refugee program. Muller worked through the night on behalf of Tu Za Sing and his family.

The next morning she visited Cinh Hoi Nuam and her husband, and Muller saw a woman physically transformed.

“We see a lot of resurrection stories in our program,” Muller said. “This client physically shows how much the opportunity to receive good care, to live life to the fullest extent possible, helps change people’s lives for the better.”

Catholic Charities assisted in over 43,000 cases last year through programs that serve immigrants and refugees like Cinh Hoih Nuam and her family, individuals making the transition from welfare to work, victims of natural disasters like Super Storm Sandy, children in need of school counseling, families learning to manage their finances, and many others.

Services are administered at 12 sites in the six counties of South Jersey.

Funding for programs comes from the Diocese of Camden and various grants and donations. One such channel for donations is the upcoming Justice For All award dinner, which will be held this year on Sept. 25. The annual dinner serves the dual purpose of honoring the volunteerism and social service performed by the recipients of the Justice in ACTION awards presented at the dinner, and raising funds for Catholic Charities programs in the diocese.

“The beauty of this particular fundraiser is that every penny of the money raised goes toward direct assistance for our clients throughout the diocese,” said Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Camden. “We can help people pay rent, buy clothing for an interview, fill a tank of gas, pay for funeral or adoption expenses — whatever our case managers, counselors and therapists think their clients need to help them be successful.”

When Cinh Hoih Nuam and her family arrived in the United States, they, like many refugee families, needed help meeting all of life’s basic needs. Catholic Charities found the family a place to live before they arrived and helped them pay their first three months of deposits. The refugee program helped the family pay for groceries and assisted them in applying for food stamps, helped Tu Za Sing find a job at a local international supermarket, provided transportation to and from the hospital, and helped the family’s three children begin school, in addition to obtaining their asylum status in the country and helping them navigate the immigration process.

The awards being presented at the 11th annual dinner will honor both individuals and organizations who have done work toward the advancement of social justice and equality.

Honored as individuals this year are three women who have been volunteers with Catholic Charities for decades. Patricia Bivins, Virginia Brannigan and Kathryn Noble have served at Catholic Charities’ Atlantic City family and community services center for about 30 years each.

“They never take time off,” said Nancy Hickman, coordinator of the center. “Without their dedication we wouldn’t have a thrift store, we wouldn’t be able to serve the homeless the way we do, we wouldn’t have the Christmas program that we have. They never say no and they never look tired. They inspire me.”

This year’s Organizational ACTION award will be given to Andy Lipenta, State Deputy of the Knights of Columbus for the state of New Jersey, and honors the work of the knights, particularly those in the Diocese of Camden.

“I accept congratulations only on behalf of the Knights of Columbus and all the work they do,” Lipenta said.

It will be exactly one year on Sept. 23 since Cinh Hoi Nuam and her family stepped off the plane and into a new life in the United States. Tu Za Sing participates in English as a Second Language classes offered by Catholic Charities and enjoys his job, the family’s three children are doing well in school, and Cinh Hoih Nuam does dialysis treatments three times a week with transportation arranged by the refugee program.

“We feel like we’re in our hometown. Before I came to the U.S. I thought, who will assist us? But Catholic Charities did the best thing for us,” said Tu Za Sing. “It’s like having our mom and dad here. Everything they’ve done is good for us.”

If you go

This year’s Justice For All award dinner, benefiting the work of Catholic Charities, will be held on Thursday, Sept. 25, 5:30-9 p.m., at the Adelphia Grand Ballroom in Deptford. For more information and to register, visit www.CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/jfa.

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