Refugee Work

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Rural village, Korat Plateau, Thailand

In 1978 Craig went to work for an agricultural development project in Northeast Thailand.  The purpose of the work was to establish holistic agricultural cooperatives in remote rural villages.  In an area made economically and ecologically uninhabitable by deforestation fish ponds were dug deep enough to last the dry season, farrow-to-finish units for hogs made of local materials were placed on the dikes, manure fed the fish or stimulated plankton for other fish species, and ducks, grass, fruit, and vegetables all fed into this integrated system that produced local food and income in the then most impoverished region of Southeast Asia.  Seven families each spent one day a week caring for the facility.  Everyone shared the work; everyone benefitted.  This experience gave Craig direction in every respect for the rest of his life.

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Refugee camp – homemade forge

But his life was changed when he met a British doctor at a social function.  After some time of getting to know one another Craig was informed by the doctor that he thought he would make a good assistant during his rounds at the refugee camp thirty miles north of where they lived.  When Craig entered the camp that first morning he was simply a willing assistant answering a request for help from a respected friend with no particular goal in life.  He assisted the doctor, walking the camp, meeting and talking with the refugees.  But when he left the camp at the end of the day he was a completely different person.  There were thousands of people there living like animals.  They all told the same story of having been bombed….by the United States.  These were non-combatant men, women, and children.  They were a primitive, stone-age people.  They treated amputations, shrapnel, phosphorus burns, napalm, blindness, deafness, and disease.  Some people were clearly mentally disturbed by their having been attacked.  All of this was secret at the time; it became documented later. These people had experienced the greatest bombing campaign in history, with more ordnance dropped on them than on Germany and Japan combined during WW II.  Bombing averaged every eight minutes, twenty-four hours a day for a period of nine years.  Rising to the situation Craig worked there as needed undeterred.  But later as he returned home flying over the Pacific Ocean he was suddenly completely overwhelmed and realized that he did not have a rational framework that allowed this to make any sense to him.  Carol joined him in returning to work in Southeast Asia years later during the 1980’s where he again was employed in development work, drawn to compassionately understanding and responding to the real needs of the poor.  This work clearly foreshadowed both their future employment and the education that they sought in the 1990’s when they returned home as they tried to compassionately understand those who have been abused, the larger social causes for this, and how to respond with action as people of faith.  They see now that their becoming Catholic Workers was an eventuality.