From Hunger to Hope
“I remember the first time I met Vianny,” recalls Father Elie Nyandwi. “I greeted him but he did not answer.” This reticent young boy, from a deeply impoverished family in rural Butambala, Uganda, was so desperately hungry that he couldn’t even muster the energy to smile. Today, he lights up every room with the joy borne of having his basic needs met, thanks to our Salesian missionaries, our international partnerships, and our many compassionate friends.
Fr. Elie directs the Don Bosco Children and Life Missions (Don Bosco CALM) orphanage, and the Don Bosco Primary School, in Namugongo, Uganda. Despite financial challenges, these programs serve more than 300 children, many of whom have struggled with poverty, abandonment, homelessness and HIV-related illnesses. Vianny came to the Don Bosco Primary School a year ago after his parents—wanting their son to have the opportunities afforded by an education—pleaded for our missionaries’ assistance.
“Our financial, human and logistic resources are scarce,” Fr. Elie explains. “We face difficulty in feeding children, paying for their school fees, scholastic materials, medical assistance and paying monthly salaries for our workers.” Still, Fr. Elie is hard-pressed to turn away children like Vianny—which is why the partnership Salesian Missions has with Rise Against Hunger is so critical.
Each year, Rise Against Hunger donates tons of fortified meals to Salesian-run programs in some of the world’s poorest communities. During the third and fourth quarters of 2018, the organization provided nearly 77,500 meals for children at Don Bosco CALM and the Don Bosco Primary School alone. Donors who give to our Loaves and Fishes Appeal provide some of the funding required to prepare, transport and serve this food. In addition to alleviating students’ hunger, Rise Against Hunger’s meals free up resources for other crucial programs and services.
“Because we started receiving these meals, our organization can now breathe and save money for solving some of the children’s concurrent problems,” says Fr. Elie.
As for Vianny? “He is the first one to come to greet me everywhere he finds me,” Fr. Elie reports. “His gorgeous smile reveals his internal joy caused by being loved, well fed and having many of his basic needs met. And he is always among the five best performing pupils in his class.”
“Students cannot concentrate or learn when they’re distracted by gnawing hunger,” explains Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “This why feeding programs are so crucial to our efforts around the world—because breaking the chains of poverty requires the ability to succeed in school.”
The program is clearly succeeding for Vianny. Once forced by circumstance to survive on one shared meal of cassava bread and beans each day, he is now fully nourished and dreams of becoming a police officer when he grows up.
Our mission feeds hungry children so that education, and a pathway out of poverty, becomes possible. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in Uganda.