Country Representative for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza
Catholic Relief Services
While a college study abroad program first introduced Matt McGarry to
living overseas, two years in Nicaragua with Jesuit Volunteers International
provided the compass for his life of service abroad.
McGarry, currently the country representative for Catholic Relief Services’
Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza program, worked at Proyecto Generando
Vida as a Jesuit Volunteer from 2000 to 2002, starting off as a “jack of all
trades” at the agency. He taught elementary school students, supported a
youth group and served lunch in a school cafeteria.
Working under the blessing of the Sisters of Zion, the nuns who founded
the program, McGarry then developed and ran a microlending program for
the women of Barrio el Recreo during the end of his first year and his entire
second year as a volunteer.
The loans went to women living in Barrio el Recreo for microbusinesses that
included selling small convenience store items out of their homes, selling
food door to door, buying bulk clothing to sell at markets and a small
“In just a year and a half we had quite a bit of success,” he said. “These
were incredible, incredible ladies and Proyecto Generando Vida was
just a fantastic opportunity for me.”
McGarry returned to the United States for graduate school at Fordham
University and then joined Catholic Relief Services after graduation.
He has lived and served in Zimbabwe, the Darfur region of Sudan,
Pakistan, Afghanistan and, for the last three years, Jerusalem. He lives
there with his wife, whom he met while both were working in Kashmir,
Afghanistan, following a devastating 2005 earthquake. The couple has
a three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.
McGarry is based in Jerusalem but regularly travels to Catholic Relief
Services offices in Gaza and Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank.
The organization started in the Middle East in the 1940s by providing
humanitarian assistance to displaced communities following World
War II. Today, McGarry oversees a variety of services from food
distribution programs in the West Bank to peace building efforts
between Israeli and Palestinian students.
The experiences of Jesuit Volunteer Corps guided him through his
journeys all over the globe, he said.
“JVC was one of the most formative experiences of my life,” McGarry
said. “Particularly the lessons learned about subsidiary grassroots
approaches, cross-country dialogue, approaching the work with
humility and patience and a genuine interest in the dignity and
the inherent value of the people we are trying to serve. It’s been
foundational in my work, certainly, and in my human relations.”