GUATEMALA: Salesian missionaries in San Benito Petén providing support for migrants from Honduras
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in San Benito Petén, Guatemala, have been providing support for migrants from Honduras who are trying to reach Mexico. Central American migrants, mostly Hondurans, are part of a new caravan and have been looking for alternative ways to enter Mexico. They are passing through the Petén department in northern Guatemala with the intent to go through the Mayan forest and enter the Mexican state of Tabasco.
“It is an extraordinary influx,” said Father Giampiero De Nardi, an Italian Salesian missionary active in San Benito Petén. “We are offering services at the local migrant house in the municipality of Santa Elena. The structure has a capacity of about 50 people, but we’ve had to cope with the arrival of 300 migrants. We are doing everything possible to guarantee them a bed and hot meals. At a certain moment, there was nearly almost no food left.”
Fr. De Nardi added, “Fortunately, a container arrived from Canada, which was needed for my mission and we diverted it for this humanitarian emergency.”
The Salesian mission in San Benito Petén was started at the end of 2011 to provide education and social development programs for at-risk youth. Salesian missionaries operate a youth program that offers classes in Spanish and English, mathematics, computers, arts and crafts, music, and dance, as well as provides organized games for participants. Youth in the program are able to get away from difficult home situations or playing on the streets to engage in productive activities in a family atmosphere that fosters peace and stability.
Salesian missionaries have also started several new projects including the construction of a new youth center and distribution of ecological filters for water purification. Now missionaries are in the position to be able to help migrants traveling through the community.
Msgr. Jaime Calderón, Bishop of Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas close to the border with Guatemala, made an appeal to priests, religious people and laypeople after hearing the news regarding a new caravan. He said, “All those who are part of this diocesan family, each according to his or her possibilities and responsibilities, ensure that these migrant brothers do not lack a piece of bread, are not raped or attacked in passing through our diocese, do not receive manifestations of refusal. God will reward everyone’s effort to see them, hear them and treat them like brothers.”
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