Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: April 06, 2022

Nourishing Hungry Youth in Colombia

Roleidys is just 11 years old, yet she’s already experienced hardships no child should endure. Today, she and dozens of other vulnerable kids in Bogotá, Colombia can finally enjoy regular, nutritious meals thanks to compassionate friends like you.

In the Los Mártires neighborhood where Roleidys lives, extreme poverty touches every corner. Wedged among downtown Bogotá’s informal settlements which were created by an influx of rural migrants too overwhelming for the city to absorb, Los Mártires once served as a hub for the illegal drug trade—a legacy it still grapples with today. Many residents are generationally homeless with few opportunities to reverse their circumstances. Unsupervised youth face heightened risk of forced labor, exploitation, food insecurity and substance abuse. Roleidys spent most of her time on the streets—a way to escape the violence she suffered at home.

“Since 1965, Salesian missionaries in Colombia have been serving kids like Roleidys,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “During that time, they have developed a unique understanding of the despair that damages families and challenges communities. And every day across the country, they work to address the root causes.”

At the Salesian-run Youth Services Organization (YSO) in Bogotá, Roleidys now finds comfort in the form of safe shelter and nutritious meals. In partnership with the city’s Archdiocesan Food Bank, missionaries and staff provide these meals to at-risk youth ages 5-18. Every day, outreach workers from YSO fan the streets to identify those who need food and housing assistance, and invite them to participate in this program. As a result, more than 60 youth now live among a team of trained professionals who provide good nutrition, protection and a home environment where they are cared for and feel loved. This program was funded by generous friends of Salesian Missions, like you.

“Every child deserves a warm meal and a safe place to sleep at night,” says Fr. Gus. “We are grateful to our donors for ensuring that children who are living in extreme poverty have access to these basic needs.”

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