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PERU: The Salesian-run Operation Mato Grosso launches new Total School to provide primary education in Chimbote

(MissionNewswire) Volunteers with the Salesian-run Operation Mato Grosso, led by Father Ugo de Censi, have recently dedicated their time to help the poor in Chimbote, a port city in the Ancash Department of northern Peru. The organization launched the Total School which serves as a primary school for poor youth. Operation Mato Grosso is active in Peru through 70 Salesian programs and centers thanks to the support of Italian and Peruvian volunteers and benefactors. The Total School is its latest project.

Father de Censi visited Chimbote frequently because he was concerned with the high levels of poverty among the children and families in the area. In Chimbote, Operation Mato Grosso now works with the Total School in addition to eight Salesian kindergartens and the Mamma Mia refectory which is attended by close to 1,000 people every day. The new Total School serves as a place where students can learn and receive free study materials, uniforms and lunch.

“Father Ugo taught us that we must welcome children for free. The most important thing is charity. If someone gives you something, it’s because he loves you, and that’s what we did with these children,” says Erica Lazzari, director of the Total School.

The Total School also provides moral, spiritual and artistic education in order to fully develop its students. Featuring spaces for carpentry, masonry, weaving, wood and ceramics, the school was built thanks to young volunteers from the Salesian oratory of the Andes who worked hard to obtain the necessary funds and built the structure for free during their school holidays.

“Given the struggles in many communities across Peru, many families turn to Salesian programs for safety, education and social programs,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth need opportunities for education as well as access to safe places to play and connect with adults and peers. They need to have all of their basic needs met as well as the support required to allow them to focus on their studies and learn new skills.”

Peru faces high levels of income inequality and has more than 21 percent 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, 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.

Salesian missionaries working in Peru have provided life-saving support and education to poor youth and their families for many years. They have also helped with rebuilding efforts after the 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.

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Sources:

ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Peru – “Total School”, the last work left by Fr Ugo de Censi for the benefit of the poorest

World Bank – Peru