Partership between Salesian Missions and stop hunger now feeds school children, improves education
(MissionNewswire) In a country such as East Timor, that has endured a decades-long civil war and is home to 1.1 million people, close to half of whom live in poverty, nutrition and education are essential ingredients for a sustainable society and optimistic future. The World Bank estimates that East Timor has close to 49 percent of its population living in poverty with over one-third of the population regularly experiencing food shortages.
Salesians in the country have been providing programs to help residents recover and rebuild in the wake of the devastating civil war that claimed countless lives, decimated entire communities and resulted in living conditions that are among the worst in the world. Now that the violence has subsided, efforts are focused on helping the needy, restoring hope and providing new opportunities for the future. Recently, a new breakfast program for Salesian-run schools in Fatumaca, East Timor was made possible by an on-going partnership between Salesian Missions and Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization that provides food and life‐saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable.
Many youth in Fatumaca must travel great distances to attend Salesian elementary, secondary and technical schools, some walking more than two hours just to get to class. Students leave home in the early morning hours without any breakfast and often arrive at school exhausted and unable to focus. Thanks to the new breakfast program, youth in Salesian schools are starting their educational experience with a nutritious meal every morning.
“Feeding hungry children is often the first step to providing an education,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Once children have their most basic needs met, they are then able to concentrate on their studies and further their education.”
Since the free breakfast program was implemented, students’ health has significantly improved, including their physical appearance and weight gain. The overall standard of living has improved, academic performance is up 30 percent, enrollment has increased to 35 percent and graduation rates are approaching 100 percent.
Access to nutritious meals allows youth to be better prepared to take part in school activities and focus on their education. Prepared students are more likely to learn valuable skills that will help them gain employment, break the cycle of poverty in their lives and give back to their communities.
“The partnership with Stop Hunger Now allows Salesian Missions to expand the scope of services to youth in need,” says Jessica O’Connor, property and logistics officer at the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs. “Operating feeding programs for youth in Salesian schools whose families cannot afford to feed them is very important and integral to the success of our students and their ability to gain an education.”
Stop Hunger Now’s goals are to provide as food and life-saving aid to support sustainable education and development programs, and to create a movement of educated volunteer advocates that are actively involved with poverty and hunger related issues.
“SalesianMissions is a good match for our mission to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-saving aid while creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources,” says Chessney Barrick, director of marketing and communications at Stop Hunger Now.