GUATEMALA: Migrants find support and relief
Casa Betania welcomes thousands of people every year, most of them migrants in search of a better life
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian-run Casa Betania, located in San Benito Petén, Guatemala, welcomes thousands of people every year, most of them migrants in search of a better life. Children, youth, adults, pregnant women, families, and the elderly find support and relief thanks to a group of volunteers.
One of these volunteers, Rosa Forlán, said that in the three weeks she worked at the Salesian facility she witnessed the tragedy experienced by thousands of people. She said, “Esteban arrived with his feet seriously injured by the long walk. Matias was picked up at the door, dehydrated, almost dying, and it was necessary to call for medical assistance. Hours later, Maribel arrived, a single mother with two children under 8, and Julia, with her three daughters. The eldest, aged 11, had a hand injured from a fall on the way across the border. I also met Luis, who appeared alongside Oscar, Lucas and William, who said they were unemployed, but with a desire to work and improve despite their poor education.”
Every day, Salesian volunteers listen to stories of migrants who arrive exhausted and tired, due to the high temperatures, hunger and thirst. At Casa Betania, they receive accommodation, food, rest, psychological assistance and other services.
“Collaborating in the restaurant, laundry, reception and cleaning service allowed me to get to know a reality that is sometimes little told,” said Forlán. “Migrants are not looking for a dream, they are going through an ordeal, asking for justice and understanding. But understanding is only possible ‘walking with them’ in a silent and supportive accompaniment, making oneself available to listen without judgment because each person brings a heavy burden that only he or she knows.”
Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. While 70 percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line, the number is as high as 91 percent for its Indigenous population. Many rural residents in Guatemala have only completed a 6th-grade education. This is largely due to the expenses required to send children to schools which are often located far from their homes.
Salesian missionaries working and living in the country have been providing for the basic needs of Guatemala’s youth while helping to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They work extensively with poor youth and their families at youth centers, orphanages, parishes, and primary and secondary schools as well as operate technical schools, vocational training workshops and two universities in the country.
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Salesian Missions – Guatemala
World Bank – Guatemala