Safeguarding Communities with Basic Necessities
The global pandemic has brought increased challenges to those living in poverty. In many countries, economic shutdowns and government restrictions have deprived migrant workers and many others of the means to earn a living, while homeless children left to beg on the streets are more vulnerable than ever to starvation and abuse. Without a safety net or access to basic necessities such as clean water, populations like these are at greater risk for COVID-19.
Thankfully Salesian missionaries throughout the world have risen to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. For example, in Burundi and Mali, Salesian missionaries have helped address the need for clean water and hygiene by installing handwashing stations in their local communities.
“Having access to a local source of safe water is critical to individual and community health even in ‘normal’ times,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Now, when one of the most effective ways to prevent COVID-19 is through frequent handwashing, we are even more concerned with, and committed to, making clean water available to as many people as we can. This is why I’m so grateful for our dedicated Clean Water Initiative, which helps us rapidly address emerging needs like this.”
With support from Salesian Missions donors, missionaries in Rukago, Burundi were able to install such stations at locations throughout their parish, including eight churches, 15 schools and the Don Bosco Oratory. “Installing [these] stations in front of churches, offices, schools and playgrounds is an effective means of fighting the coronavirus pandemic while giving the local population a sense of hope,” says Father Raphaël Katanga, of the Rukago Salesian community. These handwashing stations will provide access to clean water and soap for 65,000 parishioners and community members.
In addition to this project, Salesians in Burundi are supporting local indigenous families who are experiencing pandemic-related food insecurity with basic staples, supplies and meals.
In Mali, following months of closure due to the coronavirus, missionaries have successfully reopened vocational training centers in Bamako, Sikasso and Touba. This was accomplished in part by installing handwashing stations at each center as well as distributing masks and disinfectants to students and the larger educational community. Father Romeo Salami, of the Salesian Planning and Development Office of the West Africa Province, notes that the Salesians were able to comply with government-mandated safety measures in most of their programs required for the educational centers to reopen.
To protect returning students and to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in their communities, the Salesian missionaries in Mali are also striving to create “a culture of personal hygiene and careful handwashing” among those in their outreach programs. Fr. Romeo believes that awareness campaigns like this one, which increases compliance with safety measures, are essential to containing the coronavirus. “We are working very hard to sensitize the population [in Mali] about the risks of contagion and the necessary protective measures,” he says. “It is not easy, in the context of poverty in which we work. But there is no choice, we must all be aware of our personal responsibility to stop the pandemic.”
Our mission provides basic necessities to the most vulnerable during times of crisis and beyond. What’s your mission?