The Catholic Church is the second biggest charity organisation in Poland, following only the state. There are over 800 charities running 5,000 different projects benefiting nearly 3 million people – individuals, families and social groups. At parish level support is offered to over 600 000 people annually.
Church charity projects in Poland occur at two levels: diocesan and religious institutions as well as local and parish communities. Dioceses as well as religious orders and congregations manage a total of 835 charities. 54% of projects are run by women religious, 30 % by men religious, and the remaining 18% by diocesan institutions. Out of 5,158 projects, assistance is mostly assigned to children and young people, the indigent and homeless, persons with disabilities and seniors.
The Church offers her assistance to more than 2.9 million people. The number of people offered assistance is in fact grater as the beneficiaries may be included in one category a few times or may be included in a few categories. Over 11,000 parishes in Poland run in excess of 60,000 organisations; charity accounts for 12% of their work. The many and varied activities engage 665,000 people. The main beneficiaries include children and young people, the poor, pensioners, people who cannot manage on their own, and the terminally sick.
The work of parish charities is twofold and includes emergency aid and support groups. The former is provided by Parish Caritas Groups and School Caritas Circles. They are active in 4,900 parishes and gather 63,000 people. The former offer charity in particular parishes, while the latter gather children and school students. Parishes moreover raise funds and collect different items for the needy, visit the elderly and sick at home, run care centres (for children from families in need), provide free legal aid, work as volunteers in hospices and care homes.
Major support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, family counselling, counselling for persons with substance abuse, the Amazons, Support Groups for Parents of Unborn Babies, and the Prison Fraternity. Furthermore, different Church institutions run social therapy centres for children and young people, vacation homes, windows of life, nurseries, children’s homes, adoption centres, and homes for women at the perinatal stage.
The sick and the elderly can use the aid of social assistance homes, seniors’ clubs, health care institutions, community self-help centres, assistance stations, home and permanent hospices. Persons with disabilities can rent rehabilitation equipment, enrol in occupational therapy workshops and spend time in retraining centres, day care centres, rehab facilities, and other institutions.
The homeless will be able to get support e.g. in emergency care centres, clothes donation facilities, shelters for women and men, as well as places where they can warm up during the winter season and stay the night. There are retraining centres for the homeless, clubs of social integration, day care centres and social cooperatives. Furthermore, the Church runs assistance shelters for refugees and migrants as well as homes for repatriated Poles.