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PERU: Salesian Programs Provide Healthy Nutrition to the Sick, Elderly and Disadvantaged Youth in Need

(MissionNewsire) Salesian missionaries in Breña, a district within the capital city of Lima, Peru, have a provincial house, Salesian College, Superior Institute and Technical Vocational Center, and a house for homeless youth. Missionaries also operate the Mary Help of Christian’s parish, which provides communal meals for the elderly and sick residents of Breña. Every day, from Monday to Friday, tens of people come to enjoy the afternoon meal at the Salesian parish. For some it’s the only meal they have each day.

There are 18 different groups of women that prepare the meal each day. The groups take turns finding the food, often collecting donations door to door, and then preparing and serving the meal. Others come to talk and interact with those who have come to rely on the parish workers for their nutrition. For some volunteers, it’s a chance to give back to their community and to stay busy and connected. Fernando Soto used to accompany his wife, Esther Arce, from house to house to collect food. After she passed away, he continues his mission, with the task of running the refectory.

“We are grateful that, among so many problems, God has not forgotten us,” says Emilio Loo, who feels he is still useful, even though at 75 years of age he cannot find a job.

Meals provided to the sick and the elderly improve their health, mood and overall well-being. In addition, people are able to speak with Salesian staff and access other services as well as stay connected within their community.

Across the city, at the Don Bosco Young People’s Home youth are practicing their cooking and baking skills by making breads, sweets and traditional panettone, a sweet bread loaf, which benefits other Salesian programs like the one operating at the Mary Help of Christian’s parish. All of the youth are from disadvantaged backgrounds, so the students reside and learn at the Salesian-run home. They are provided shelter and nutritious meals and have access to education, employment and life skills training. The programs offered at the home aim to help youth break the cycle of poverty by providing them the skills to find and retain meaningful employment upon graduation.

Taking the skills learned in the classroom, students utilize a kitchen available at the home to practice their skills and become employment ready. They make the breads and sweets which are provided to staff and students at the home while also selling their baked goods in the community in order to raise funds to support other program activities.

“Education is a path out of poverty for many youth,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development art of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Programs like the one at the Don Bosco Young People’s Home in Lima allow students to take what they learn in the classroom and put those skills into practice with real world experience, which helps them develop both personally and professionally.”

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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Sources:

ANS – Peru – Refectory of Mary Help of Christians: the Miracle of Charity

Salesian Missions – Feeding the Hungry in Lima: A Miracle of Mercy

World Bank – Peru

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