PERU: Salesian missionaries provide housing and support to Venezuelan refugees in Peru
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries are utilizing an unused wing of the Salesian College in Lima, Peru, as a reception center for Venezuelan youth who have fled their country in search of a better life. The center current accommodates 52 young men aged 18-25 years old.
Father José Valdivia, the provincial economer of Peru, is in charge of the center. After working a long day on accounting activities, he joins these young men who are all returning from working 10-12 hours of labor and are sitting down to dinner. Fr. Valdivia stays with them after their meal and encourages them, and counsels those who are having a difficult time.
Fr. Valdivia is assisted by Father Marino Del Prà, an 88-year-old missionary, who currently resides in a home for the elderly. He was invited once to speak to the young men but has continued meeting with them to provide support and be another stable presence to listen and encourage them.
In addition to the two Salesian missionaries, the center also employs a cook, Roxana, who provides dinner each night when they come home from work. More than just serving dinner, Roxana is also an indispensable reference point for these young men who are far from their families.
“Salesian missionaries have been able to provide shelter for youth who have fled Venezuela in search of opportunity and a better life,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The Salesian reception center enables these young men to live in a comfortable and safe atmosphere where they have the support of their peers and adults as they learn to navigate their new country and restart their lives far away from home.”
Salesian missionaries first arrived in Peru in 1891. There are currently 16 Salesian centers across the country that provide schools, parishes, missionary chapels, oratories, youth centers and many projects to help aid the most vulnerable youth.
Peru faces high levels of income inequality and has more than a quarter of its population living in poverty, according to the World Bank. Poverty levels are significantly higher in rural areas but urban areas struggle most with inequality, most notably metropolitan Lima. Poverty in the country is made worse by a shortage of productive farmland and a lack of job skills among women entering the workforce, as well as a lack of adequate housing, nutrition and education.
Peru has also been plagued by hunger and disaster. According to the World Bank, close to 25 percent of children in the country are chronically malnourished. Communities continue to rebuild after an 8.0 earthquake in August 2007 which killed more than 500 people in the central coastal cities of Chincha, Pisco and Ica and injured hundreds more. The quake destroyed close to 60,000 residential and commercial buildings, leveled hundreds of acres of farmland and left countless Peruvians without means of livelihood.
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Salesian Missions – Peru
World Bank – Peru