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Feeding His sheep in Peru

Updated: Oct 12


Gerard Gough


THE words of Pope Francis, whether written or spoken, are often very passionate, emotional and impactful—like many of his predecessors in the role of Holy Father. One of the themes that is a constant in his writings and speeches, however, is a marked care for people on the margins.

In his 2019 message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Pope spoke of the lack of belonging felt by those with disabilities and stressed the need to ‘care for and accompany people with disabilities in every condition of life.’

“Many people with disabilities feel that they exist without belonging and without participating,” the Pope said. “We must make the world more human by removing everything that prevents them from full citizenship, the obstacles of prejudice and by promoting accessibility to places and a quality of life that take into account all the dimensions of the human.”

“I encourage all those who work with people with disabilities to continue this important service and commitment, which determines the civilisation of a nation,” the Holy Father added. “And I pray that each person may feel God’s paternal gaze, which affirms their full dignity and the unconditional value of their life.”

Playing our part

Missio Scotland hopes to continue to play our part in supporting those with disabilities worldwide via one of our focus projects this year—a feeding programme for disabled children in the Sicuani Prelature in Southern Peru (above top). This is held in a comedor (kitchen) run by APAINE, an organisation sponsored by the Prelature that has cared for around 11,000 children with disabilities since its foundation nearly three decades ago.

To provide some context, approximately 300,000 people live in the Sicuani Prelature and, unfortunately, many of them in situations of poverty. The infant mortality rate in the prelature exceeds 51.7 per thousand, the chronic malnutrition rate affects 8.2 per cent of children under the age of six, only 32.7 per cent of households have water services through a public network at home and only 24.8 per cent of houses are electrified.

Moreover, the Coronavirus has severely affected everyday life in Peru, especially among the poor and marginalised, Bishop Prelate of Sicuani, Pedro Bustamante (above)—the man charged with overseeing our supported projects—explained to Missio Scotland.

“The pandemic is leaving great scars in Peru,” Bishop Bustamante said. “The coronavirus has spread throughout Peru and Latin America—especially in Brazil and Ecuador—and, given the situation of underdevelopment and the high level of poverty that exist in our countries, we must prepare ourselves to face a very important human catastrophe and—as in the rest of the world—a significant economic recession at the end of it all.

“The high number of infected people has collapsed the entire national hospital infrastructure, especially intensive care rooms, where its limited capacity causes the death of many patients due to lack of mechanical respirators.

“The poor and marginalised groups have been greatly affected. The poor represent more than 30 per cent of the total population, of which 10 per cent live in conditions of extreme poverty. The economic effects of the coronavirus will worsen this unfortunate situation. Millions of jobs will be lost and a severe economic recession is expected after the pandemic ends.

“However, in the midst of all this, the Sicuani Prelature has been working hard to look after the most vulnerable—women, children and the elderly, people with disabilities, marginalised people and those from remote areas—who have had to pay higher prices for basic food products. We have provided access to food aid through the distribution of food baskets to them, since they are the ones who face the worst of the crisis due to their scarce economic resources and are those who are at increased risk of devastating losses from Covid-19.”

Dedication

The fact that the prelature is there for its people during a time of crisis is not surprising. Despite working during trying times throughout its history and dealing with difficult situations, for the past 56 years it has been extremely dynamic in terms of its pastoral work and educational formation with those in rural communities. They are in charge of the Andean Pastoral Institute, Radio Sicuani and the Vicarage of Solidarity, dedicated to the defence of human rights.

It is also present in its service to the community through social teams such as the Association for the Comprehensive Care of Exceptional Children (APAINE), a non-profit charitable organisation with more than 27 years serving children with disabilities.

Its day-to-day work involves providing physical therapy, rehabilitation and education for children from the four high Andean provinces of the department of Cusco, who mostly come from very humble homes.

It has cared for more than 11,000 children with different disabilities, who have had and still have access to its rehabilitation services, specialised medical care, surgical interventions, orthopaedic aids and auxiliary treatment examinations for the development or improvement of the physical, mental and sensory functions of children.

Working with and within the prelature, it states that it aims to provide ‘food security as a cost-cutting development model to improve the health and nutrition of children with severe and multi-disabilities in the Sicuani Prelature.’

The Missio Scotland supported project will see APAINE deliver its feeding programme for disabled children (above) at the San Miguel Centro de Educación Básica Especial (St Michael’s Special Basic Education Centre) in Sicuani.

“The students, due to their state of poverty, mobilisation problems and chronic malnutrition, often do not arrive at the centre well-fed,” an APAINE spokesperson said. “That is why the association sees the need to provide these students with breakfasts and lunches to sustain themselves during the time they are in the centre and to be able to perform their rehabilitation and education therapies daily. In cases like this, it is very important that students enjoy good nutrition to carry out all the activities that are essential to their rehabilitation, treatment and education in an optimal and productive way to lessen the state of disability they suffer.”

So the funds provided by Missio Scotland, as a result of the generosity of our supporters, will help to provide—free of charge—130 students with breakfast and lunch and, in doing so, will help, in even a small way, to bridge the economic gap and tackle malnutrition.

Scottish-based support

Upon hearing of Missio Scotland’s support for this project, Fr Pat Hennessy of St Columbkille’s in Rutherglen (above)—who spent nearly 11 years living, working and serving in a mountain parish north of the Peruvian capital, Lima—gave his personal backing to it and spoke of the need for those of us who are part of the universal Church to continue to support those most in need throughout the world, especially at this time.

Comedores are a big thing in Peru,” he said. “They’re big kitchens and what the priest usually does is buy flour, cooking oil, soya and a stove and basic instruments and you’d hand it to the people and say look this is a kitchen and you can now set up a comedor and people will eat much better. That makes community and people’s conditions improve too.”

Please help us to continue to support the universal Church, the communities within it and improve people’s lives in Peru and all over the world.

To learn more about the work of Missio Scotland you can visit: www.missioscotland.com, like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/missioscotland, and follow us on Twitter: @Missio_Scotland

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