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Salesians in Bogota aid poor families hard hit by COVID lockdown

Food delivery to families of Salesian oratory children. Credit: Marcos Chero.

Bogotá, Colombia, – 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.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/salesians-in-bogota-aid-poor-families-hard-hit-by-covid-lockdown-85277

Electric motorbike gives women in rural Zimbabwe a path out of poverty

Employees charge lithium ion batteries for a Hamba electric motorcycle at a solar-powered recharging station in Wedza, Zimbabwe, 22 May 2020. REUTERS/MacDonald Dzirutwe

WEDZA, Zimbabwe, – In the rural Zimbabwe district of Wedza, a new electric-powered motorcycle is helping bring income to poor women and easing the burden of looking after families.

The three-wheeler, known as Hamba (Go), powered by a solar-charged lithium ion battery, is being piloted by start-up Mobility for Africa, which leases the motorcycle to women in groups of up to five.

The women can now carry farm produce to markets further away from home, offer transportation services to villagers and use the motorcycle for domestic chores.

Mary Mhuka, a 58-year-old mother-of-six who is leasing the Hamba with her daughter-in-law and a neighbour, said the motorcycle had eased the strain of domestic work.

She could now sell her vegetables at a business centre 15 km away for more money than she would get locally.

“We used to carry firewood on our heads for very long distances … but now it’s much easier as this motorcycle has taken away that burden,” she told Reuters after a trip to the community water borehole.

Fadzai Mavhuna, the Hamba pilot coordinator since February 2019, said women paid an equivalent of $15 a month as a group to lease the Hamba, which has a maximum range of 100 km.

It costs between $0.50 and $1 to change the motorcycle batteries, which are charged at a solar-powered station.

Mobility for Africa is now in the second phase of the pilot project before it can go commercial. The Hamba is assembled in Harare with kits made in China and will be sold for $1,500.

“Some of the women have increased their income because they have embarked on … projects like baking, tailoring and horticulture,” said Mavhuna.

Pamhidzai Mutunya, a farm health worker, said before the arrival of Hamba, many women gave birth at home while others had to walk 12 km to the nearest clinic because there was no transport.

“We now have fewer cases of pregnant women giving birth at home,” the 35-year-old mother-of-three said.

She ferries an average of four people to the clinic a day and also collects medicines for patients.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200527101732-38x7z/

Catholic aid groups provide relief to those affected by Cyclone Amphan

Residents survey damage left by Cyclone Amphan in Gobardanga, West Bengal, India, May 21, 2020. Credit: Boby Ortain/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, – Catholic Relief Services is among the agencies providing aid to those impacted by Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and eastern India. The storm killed at least 96, millions were evacuated, and Kolkata was devastated.

The cyclone made landfall in India May 20, and it dissipated the following day. It brought winds of as much at 160 mph, and waves up to 15 feet.

Kolkata, a city of 4.5 million, was without power for at least 14 hours, and its roads were flooded.

“Initially they were not willing to evacuate, because they were weighing between the risk of the cyclone and the invisible risk of Covid-19,” Snigdha Chakroborty, CRS’ Bangladesh country director, told PBS NewsHour May 20 of local residents.

“They do not have income, they do not have homes, they also lost their crops in the field. So basically it a devastating and painful situation that they will have to live with now.”

CRS and Caritas have indicated there are immediate needs for shelter, potable water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Ahead of the storm, the groups indicated they had “pre-positioned emergency supplies” and were “supporting efforts to clean evacuation centers and procure critically needed supplies in local markets.”

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta has asked Church officials to open their facilities to those rendered homeless by the cyclone, according to UCA News. The “top priority is to arrange food for so many people who have lost everything,” he told the independent Catholic news source.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-aid-groups-provide-relief-to-those-affected-by-cyclone-amphan-78538

Five years ago, Pope Francis asked us to care for Earth. Have we listened?

single tree CROP
An aerial view shows a single tree seen on land that was previously jungle in Mato Grosso, one of the Brazilian states suffering from deforestation. (Reuters/Bruno Domingos)

There was a time when Br. Jaazeal Jakosalem had little success when he asked bishops in the Philippines to join campaigns against mining or coal-fired power plants endangering communities as well as the land.

It wasn’t that the bishops were ignoring the issues facing the environment — they’d written a half-dozen statements on the topic since the late 1980s. They just weren’t as visible in the struggle to do something about them, said Jakosalem, a lifelong environmental activist and a member of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.

The Philippines is one of the world’s front lines on climate change. Last week, Typhoon Vongfong slammed into the Eastern Samar province, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in a region that seven years earlier was decimated by Typhoon Haiyan. Climate scientists expect such tropical storms to become more powerful and more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Things have changed in the post-Laudato Si’ world.

Today, the Catholic Church of the Philippines is seen as one of the leaders in answering the call that Pope Francis issued to the entire world in his 2015 social encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

Since the encyclical’s release, Jakosalem, better known as Brother Tagoy, says more bishops have joined him and other religious in speaking out against the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the damaging effects of mining on both communities and the land. Last July, the Philippine bishops conference issued a pastoral letter on the “climate emergency,” calling the full church on the islands to an ecological conversion and to “activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet.”

“They are emboldened to act more for the caring of our environment,” Jakosalem told EarthBeat in a phone interview.

Five years after the publication of Laudato Si’, you can easily find such examples across the world of individual Catholics, parishes and institutions responding to the pope’s own repeated appeal for ecological conversion with prayer and reflection over the encyclical but also with concrete actions in living it out.

Even with those examples, the consensus among Catholic ecological leaders is those responses have been not nearly as widespread as Francis sought with his universal call “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” Count the pope among them.

“Sadly, the urgency of this ecological conversion seems not to have been grasped by international politics, where the response to the problems raised by global issues such as climate change remains very weak and a source of grave concern,” Francis said in January in remarks to the Vatican diplomatic corps.

The call for increasingly urgent action from a historically slow-moving institution is driven by awareness of the numerous crises facing the planet.

The coronavirus pandemic struck at the start of a decade that climate scientists say is critical to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so would prevent the most severe consequences of climate change, which threatens to exacerbate poverty, hunger, lack of water access, and migration, all impacting first and fiercest the world’s already most vulnerable communities.

Already, global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s. The planet is on pace to warm another 2 degrees C by the end of the century, and to reach the critical 1.5-degree mark as soon as 2030. Roughly 20% of the planet already has, according to a Pulitzer-winning report by The Washington Post.

“When we pass that 1.5 degrees threshold, climate change will move into all of our living rooms,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. “You don’t have to turn on TV to find out about climate change.”

The pandemic has some worried it may slow momentum for addressing climate change. But there is also optimism up to the highest levels of the Catholic Church that how the world responds, economically and otherwise, just may be the multitrillion-dollar stimulus needed to jumpstart the globe to match societal actions with the urgency of the science.

And perhaps Laudato Si’ can play a part.

Laudato Si’ has an immense amount of wisdom to charter that path and just aid us in that journey,” said Tomás Insua, co-founder and executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/five-years-ago-pope-francis-asked-us-care-earth-have-we-listened

Thai clothing factory compensates exploited migrant workers

Screenshot_2020-04-03 Thai clothing factory compensates exploited migrant workers
ARCHIVE PHOTO: A labourer works at a garment factory in Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. Picture taken May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK, – More than 150 Burmese migrants who were illegally charged excessive recruitment fees to secure jobs at a Thai garment factory have won a rare compensation payout, company officials and human rights groups said on Friday.

Sheico Thailand, which makes wetsuits for outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, has made payments totalling more than $100,000 to about 170 Burmese workers, according to Finnwatch, a Finland-based watchdog group.

Between 2018 and 2019, the migrant workers had paid up to 18,500 baht ($559) in recruitment fees to agents and to Sheico in order to secure jobs at the factory, according to Thai charity Migrant Workers Rights Network.

Under Thai law, such fees – that cover visa costs, a health checkup and a work permit – are capped at 2,910 baht.

“We work closely with our suppliers to educate them on the human rights issues that recruitment fees can lead to and offer solutions to mitigate the risks of working with third party labour recruiters,” said Thuy Nguyen, a manager for California-based Patagonia, which confirmed compensation had been paid.

“We value Sheico’s commitment to meeting Patagonia’s migrant worker employment standards and capacity to continuously improve,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

Patagonia, which is known for its environmental activism, began work on eliminating recruitment fees within its supply chain in 2014 and has developed a set of standards for migrant workers hired by its suppliers.

Sheico, which has its headquarters in Taiwan, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Thailand has about 3 million registered migrant workers mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, but the United Nations estimates that at least 2 million more are working informally across the country.

There has been an increased effort to tackle excessive recruitment fees and debt bondage among migrants workers, as more industries and their consumers become aware of the problem.

In December, Cal-Comp Electronics, which supplies to tech giants such as HP Inc – said it would reimburse its workers in Thailand after a report found the Burmese migrants had to pay excessive recruitment fees.

Patagonia quickly identified abuses in the recruitment practices of its suppliers and took swift action to fix the problem, said Finnwatch researcher Anu Kultalahti.

“Patagonia’s response on this case was in many ways exemplary and provides a good model for other companies that face similar situations,” said Kultalahti.

“Such action requires countries to make human rights due diligence mandatory for companies. Voluntary measures have yielded unsatisfactory results, which is why Patagonia’s example is still so rare.”

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200403025723-v7fb1/

 

Women, migrants, minorities to suffer most in Latin America as coronavirus rages -UN agency

Screenshot_2020-05-13 Women, migrants, suffer most in Latin America as coronavirus rages
People line up outside of a pharmacy amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Guayaquil, Ecaudor April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

SANTIAGO, – The coronavirus pandemic will make a bad economic situation worse for women, indigenous people, migrants and people of African descent in Latin America, a region already plagued by deep-rooted inequality, a United Nations agency said in a report issued on Tuesday.

Unequal access to potable water, sanitation, healthcare and housing could also mean higher rates of infection and death among these higher-risk populations, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said in the report.

Women are in a “particularly vulnerable situation,” the report said, because their work is more often informal, with few guarantees, leaving them more exposed to the risk of unemployment.

Domestic workers in Latin America, who account for 11.4% of employed women in the region, will be especially hard hit by the virus and economic downturn, with limited access to an already tenuous social safety net in many countries.

Many domestic workers are migrants, or of indigenous or African descent, compounding the discrimination, the agency said.

Women are also most likely to be saddled with the responsibilities that come with quarantine and the closure of schools, increasing stress at home and the potential for domestic violence.

“The burden of unpaid domestic work assumed by women, adolescents and girls, as well as cases of violence against them, are significantly increased,” the agency warned.

Although the UN report focused partly on women, data from around the world has shown that men are dying at a higher rate than women from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Latin America has more than 369,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and more than 20,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to a Reuters count based on official data.

The region’s economies are set to contract by a record 5.3% in 2020, unleashing the worst social and economic crisis in decades, the agency said in a prior report in April.

The crisis is expected to exacerbate festering social and labor discrimination suffered by the indigenous and African-American populations, who already face greater wage gaps compared to other groups, ECLAC said.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200512171007-8v6yv/

 

DC parish fills pews with food for parishioners in need

Pew
Parish of the Sacred Heart, Washington, DC. Courtesy image.

– Public masses remain suspended in the Archdiocese of Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the pews at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart are not empty.

Priests, parishioners, and staff at Sacred Heart Parish recently assembled 500 boxes of food and other resources to be delivered to families facing hardships like job loss or illness during the pandemic. Fr. Emilio Biosca Agüero, the parish’s pastor, told CNA in an interview that the needs he sees are immediate.

Agüero said Sacred Heart, which serves the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods of Washington D.C., is a primarily Spanish-speaking community, and has many immigrant members.

“When many immigrants arrive to DC, Sacred Heart is one of the first places they visit,” he said.

Agüero said the pandemic hit the parish community hard.

“When the pandemic started, people began losing their jobs, some of them are undocumented so that presents a challenge in finding other work as well, others have been affected by COVID-19,” he said.

Agüero called the boxes “a gesture from the Church,” and added that in addition to food, they include spiritual resources like rosaries and prayer cards, as well as information about local food banks and coronavirus testing sites.

Sacred Heart parishioner Carola Cerezo-Allen said in an interview that she wants her fellow parishioners to know that “the temple doors are closed, but we are with them even though we cannot be together.”

“Sacred Heart is a big church, and so we came together as a community to walk with people in our community facing disease and unemployment,” she said. “It’s what we need in this time of so much anxiety.”

Cerezo-Allen said she hopes a time many Catholics are unable to receive communion will prompt them to think about what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

She stressed that those who assembled the boxes maintained social distancing guidelines and they will also deliver boxes to parishioners rather than having people come to the church.

“I’m a nurse, so I’m very aware of what’s needed,” Cerezo-Allen said.

Monica Zevallos is Sacred Heart’s RCIA coordinator and a member of the parish staff. She helped assemble the boxes and told CNA she is proud of the “teamwork” the parish showed by working to support members of their community in need.

“This is a very strong community, this is not a parish where people come and go,” Zevallos said.

Zevallos said she was moved to see parishioners bringing in small donations for the project because it was what they could offer.

“It’s beautiful seeing people do what they can, that’s how we are building these baskets,” she said.

Agüero, Cerezo-Allen, and Zevallos all stressed that many members of the parish contributed to the project, and mentioned parishioners Juan Melendez and Javier Alvarez as additional leaders of the project.

Being Catholic, Zevallos said, isn’t “just praying, it’s putting our faith in action.”

“This is a way to let them know Christ loves us, is walking with us, and this little thing–these boxes–are a way to say He’s going to take care of us,” Zevallos said.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/dc-parish-fills-pews-with-food-for-parishioners-in-need-62813