INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FAMILIES: Programs provide aid to families in need
Salesian Missions highlights programs that help provide food and other aid to families in need.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (May 15, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian and other international organizations in honoring International Day of Families celebrated each year on May 15. The day is organized by the International Federation for Family Development in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages International and in collaboration with UNICEF and the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Families have had a challenging year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations has noted that family homelessness is on the rise, including in some European countries, where it has consistently been above 20 percent of the total homeless population.
On its website regarding the day, the U.N. has said, “Families have become the hub of intergenerational interactions that support us in this crisis. Under economic duress poverty deepens. In times of uncertainty stress increases—often resulting in growing violence against women and children. That is why the support for vulnerable families—those who have lost their income, those in inadequate housing, those with young children, older persons and persons with disabilities—is imperative now more than ever.”
Salesian missionaries around the globe provide for youth and their families who are facing challenges related to poverty, lack of education, hunger and homelessness. Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, said, “While our primary focus is on education, we also aim to provide other wrap-around services that help youth and their families lead healthy and productive lives while making a positive impact on their communities.”
In honor of International Day for Families, Salesian Missions is proud to share some of its programs around the globe that provide education and services that support poor youth and their families.
Salesian missionaries are providing food and support to migrants, particularly those from Venezuela, at the Salesian Solidarity Canteen in Quito, Ecuador. Since November 2020, more than 80 families have benefited from the support, which is provided in compliance with all health and safety measures. This initiative has received support from the Salesian Mission Office in Ecuador.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Don Bosco Mission in Quito has helped families in need. Early on, Salesians distributed $60 vouchers to dozens of Ecuadorian families living in poverty and extreme poverty in various parts of the country. The vouchers were granted three times, enabling families to purchase basic necessities from supermarkets close to where they live.
In areas where there are no such supply centers, Salesian missionaries created an alliance with neighborhood stores so that people could buy fresh food at affordable prices and, at the same time, avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus. When the project started, the goal was to support close to 1,000 families. However, given the number of people in need, the Salesian initiative extended to 1,800 families.
Maya Q’eqchi’ Indigenous families in the rural area of San Pedro Carchá, Guatemala, have received support after the devastating effects of Hurricane Eta, thanks to donor support through Salesian Missions. Hundreds of poor Indigenous families lost their gardens, farms and homes due to rising floodwaters caused by the hurricane.
A few people who had mobile phones called Salesian missionaries for help, but it was impossible to reach the community because the roads were blocked by the flood. Later, Salesians were able to reach people by walking through mountainous paths. Families were provided kits of food, clothes, blankets and personal hygiene items. Some who had lost their homes sought shelter with relatives and friends while others improvised shelter with only a piece of nylon for the roof.
Salesians provided funding for prefabricated houses on land safer from floodwaters. There was also donor funding to help these families start their family farms and vegetable gardens. Through donor funding from Salesian Missions, Salesians have been able to assist 48 families with small farmhouses and vegetable gardens, but hundreds more families are in need.
More than 70 families in Sampierdarena, a major port and industrial area of Genoa in northwest Italy, have received a shopping card from the local Salesian parish for 35 euros a week for the next three months. This is a concrete measure to help many people facing financial hardship and food shortages because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding for this initiative comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through Salesians for Social and the Salesian International Volunteer Service for Development (VIS).
Those who received the financial help are originally from Senegal, Tunisia, Ecuador, Eastern Europe and Italy. They have lived in Sampierdarena for years. Many had stable jobs and were able to care for their families before the pandemic.
Father Pierdante Giordano, the local Salesian parish priest, committed himself to this initiative with the help of volunteers from the parish Caritas group, the local VIS group and Salesians for Social. Families were evaluated by need and number of children as well as other economic factors.
“For now, we are supporting 180 families, with 72 families the most in need,” said Fr. Giordano. “Many of the families are already relying on the local food banks for their daily food. The shopping card will enable them to have additional support.”
Don Bosco Pasil, in Cebu City, Philippines, launched the Mamma Margaret’s Garden last year. Pasil is one of the villages in Cebu City that is highly populated and the houses are densely packed. Availability of land for planting is very limited so the project used recycled plastic bottles to plant fruits and vegetables.
Salesian Brother Julius Ysulan and Brother Raffy Besonia run the garden and provide weekly educational sessions on environmental issues. With the harvest, families have fruits and vegetables without having to use their limited money to buy them at the store.
This garden is one of many initiatives launched during the pandemic. Several Salesian organizations in the Philippines started farming and gardening projects to help provide food relief to families in need. An 8,000-square-meter soccer field at St. John Bosco Parish, located in Tondo, Manila, had its first harvest festival where anyone could pay and harvest vegetables. The initiative launched in October 2020 and was spearheaded by the Department of Agrarian Reform, along with the Department of Agriculture, St. John Bosco Parish and the Manila local government. The project resulted in the first urban farm in Manila.
Contact: [email protected]