EL SALVADOR: Restaurant Provides Meals to the Elderly Who are Homeless or Living in Poverty
(MissionNewsire) Salesian missionaries in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, operate a restaurant named Mamma Margaret, which feeds the elderly who live in public housing or on the street. Many of the people who come to the restaurant have no one to take care of them or ensure their needs are met. The Salesian-run restaurant, which is part of the Mary Help of Christian’s parish, operates from donations and offers both breakfast and lunch.
The elderly attending the program are provided a meal and are able to interact with Salesian staff and access other services as needed. The restaurant often acts as a first entrance into other programs and services that either the Salesian missionaries provide directly or are able to connect them to with community partners. In addition, the restaurant provides a communal atmosphere, where people are able to talk to each other and access community support, often decreasing the feelings of loneliness and isolation many of the elderly in El Salvador feel. Salesian missionaries have noticed that since the elderly are able to access health nutrition, their health as well as their mood has improved.
“Many of those participating in Salesian programs in El Salvador are malnourished,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Meals that the restaurant provides help to improve the health and overall well-being of those who access this service. The program is also operated in a way that ensures the dignity of those who attend.”
Salesian missionaries in San Salvador also operate a feeding program at the Salesian Education and Work Foundation schools, which provides meals to students during the school day as part of a free lunch program. The foundation serves more than 700 at-risk youth in primary and secondary school. Meals are provided to students in school to ensure they receive proper nutrition and a balanced diet in order for them to focus on their studies as well as extracurricular activities such as art, sports and the Salesian Education and Work Foundation’s internationally known orchestra program. Salesian missionaries began the school feeding program to meet the needs of the many area families with limited resources to feed their children.
“Meals children receive at Salesian schools may be their only meals,” says Fr. Hyde. “This food not only encourages them to attend school, it allows them to focus on getting the education they need without worrying about where their next meal will come from. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach.”
Close to 35 percent of El Salvador’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. Youth in El Salvador are confronted not only with poverty, but with instability, high levels of violence and inadequate access to educational opportunities. Despite ranking high for economic indicators, the need for practical education in the country is more important than ever with 12 percent of youth ages 15-24 unemployed and 41 percent underemployed.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in Central America, along with Honduras and Guatemala. The murder rate in El Salvador rose more than 44 percent in the beginning months of 2014 when compared to the same time last year. Gang violence is a leading cause of violence in the country and it’s estimated that some 60,000 young people have gang affiliation. Gang involvement often offers a sense of family and belonging that counters the lack of education and employment opportunities offered in the country.
World Bank – El Salvador
Salesian Missions – El Salvador