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Salesians in Bogota aid poor families hard hit by COVID lockdown

CNA Friday, 29 May 2020
Bogotá, Colombia, May 28, 2020 / 08:21 pm (CNA).- Salesian ministries in Bogota, Colombia, have joined forces to feed the families of the children and young people they serve at the Saint Francis de Sales Oratory youth center, which they run in the poor, crime ridden Las Cruces neighborhood.

In late March, the government ordered a lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown left many street vendors, recyclers, cleaning staff and other laborers out of work.

With the lockdown extended into June, many poor families are finding themselves running out of food and funds for other necessities.

While the government has offered some support to those in need, many people are still in serious need of assistance.

To respond to this need, especially for food, the Salesian Leo XIII School community has partnered with the Salesian Ladies’ Divine Child Center, the Order of Malta and a local food bank to offer care packages with basic necessities and food to families in need.

Leading the Salesian effort is Marcos Chero, a Peruvian teacher at the Leo XIII School.  Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Cheo said he was motivated to take on the project after successfully working with the school in 2017 to deliver 700 care packages to the victims of devastating flash floods and landslides that took place in the town of Mocoa in the country’s southwest.

“If we were able to put together care packages three years ago, with this situation we’re going through, why can’t we do it again?” Chero said.

In the initial effort, school parents, alumni, teachers and other members of the Salesian community were able to deliver 200 care packages to needy families in the area. They were then joined by the Salesian Ladies’ Divine Child Center. Several additional food distributions for 80-120 families have taken place in the weeks that followed, with the next one scheduled for June 6.

The National Police have been making the deliveries, taking all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Chero said the plan going forward is to make deliveries every three weeks “because we know that the coronavirus situation is going to last a long time. And so we’re always looking for help, we’re knocking on doors, seeking out institutions and businesses to collaborate with us.”

Chero himself received training as a boy at a Salesian oratory in Peru and admired the spirit of the congregation founded by St. Don Bosco “to work for the very poor and abandoned.”

“There’s a very beautiful saying of Don Bosco that has marked me, and I take it as a motto, an insignia, which is, ‘The Lord has put us in this world to serve others’,” he shared.

The teacher said he is also planning a project to raise funds to buy the technology so students can participate in distance learning, which is currently limited.

The Divine Child Center, founded by the Salesian Ladies Association, is staffed by lay women volunteers who put on sporting and cultural activities and provide formation in values, helping children and young people living in the poor areas of Bogota become good citizens and avoid the dangers of the street.

The Salesian Ladies is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 in Caracas, Venezuela, by Salesian priest Fr. Miguel Gonzalez. Through Christian education and evangelization, these Catholic women help low income people especially women, young people and children who are abandoned, in dangerous situations, or in jail.

They currently run 33 centers in Colombia, in addition to another 145 centers in 27 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
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